Dillian Whyte has backed Anthony Joshua to reclaim his world heavyweight titles from Oleksandr Usyk this Saturday but insists his former rival must rediscover the bad streak that inspired his initial rise to the top of boxing.
Calls for an aggressive and imposing AJ were a familiar theme throughout the build-up to the fight, with Usyk bracing for a contrasting challenge in a first encounter in which Joshua’s effort to dispatch the Ukrainian failed .
Specifically, the Olympic gold medalist was asked to rediscover the grit and forward-footed assurance he displayed against Whyte in their brutal 2015 grudge match.
“It’s a massive fight, the biggest fight of his career,” said Whyte sky sports. “I expect him to bounce back, he’s a British fighter like me and I only support ours so hopefully he gets the job done.
“It’s good for me if he wins too.
“I can understand that [rediscovering his aggressive side], because I am of the same opinion. In my last fight [against Tyson Fury] I wasn’t as aggressive as usual, I told myself the same thing, I have to find that aggressiveness again.
“I think that’s the right mindset he needs to fight, that’s the only way for him to win the fight.”
Whyte played down the potential influence of a new coach in Robert Garcia and reminded that it would all come down to Joshua overnight.
“Honestly, I don’t think it will make a big difference,” Whyte said. “He’s the one who has to make the decision, be dirty and mean.”
Joshua is no stranger to avenging a setback, but where he used a technical and patient approach to restore his heavyweight crown against Andy Ruiz, it feels like he can’t afford to do the same. against Usyk.
There are, meanwhile, question marks over what kind of Usyk will be on display in light of his swelling seemingly since the first fight.
“When we fought, we fought twice, both fights we had, there was a lot of aggression between me and him in the fight, that’s the difference between fighting me and fighting Usyk, that aggression wasn’t there,” Whyte added. “He was kind of trying to send someone who’s been boxing for 25/30 years.
“I believe if he goes back on that aggression he had for me, he does a much better job and probably beats Usyk and knocks him out this time.
“Me and him are similar in a lot of ways, we come forward and throw a lot of punches, we’re aggressive and push our opponents, I think they’ll try to bring him back to that.”
Whyte considers his own deal with Joshua very unfinished business as he seeks to recover from a title shot following his loss to Tyson Fury earlier this year.
The 34-year-old is eyeing a return to the ring in a “big fight” from mid-to-late November, and is not short of goals.
“I want to fight both, win, lose or draw. I want to fight the best fighters around,” Whyte said. “People want to see me fight Joshua, Usyk, Wilder, all these guys, and that’s what I want.
“We have a lot of deals on the table at the minute, I think this week and next week we should look at the deals and break them down. People are on vacation so it takes time to sift through these things .
“There’s a lot of fights out there, there’s Joshua, Usyk, there’s Wilder, I’d love to fight Wilder, I’d love to try Tyson Fury again.
“Joe Joyce-Joseph Parker is there, there is Daniel Dubois, but my main focus is to get back to Anthony Joshua, I would like to have another fight against him so let’s see. Hope he does the job against Usyk and I get another chance to fight him.”
“I think he will be extremely nervous and extremely alert and cautious, which is not a bad thing because it changes everything for his life, career and history. He also might not feel pressure because now he doesn’t He’s not a champion, he comes in as a challenger so maybe he feels good.”
Whyte on Fury: I would be more aggressive though
As Fury hovers in retirement purgatory, Whyte continues to make no secret of his desire to get another shot at the WBC champion.
Whyte admitted he remains frustrated with the way he suffered his sixth-round knockout loss after feeling he was unfairly pushed to the canvas by Fury, although he is not finding excuses.
“I got caught with a good shot I was definitely dizzy he pushed me and I fell and tore a ligament in my ankle and it was just a mess and he was telling the ref ‘stop the fight, stop the fight’,” he said.
“I’m not a complainer, I’m a worrier. The bell rang after I got knocked down, they should never have stopped the fight, they should give you a chance to go to your corner and the doctor coroner come check out and see if you can keep fighting or not which is annoying.”
As planned with Joshua this weekend, Whyte plans to do things differently if he and Fury cross paths again.
“Yeah, I would be a lot more aggressive,” he explained. “Sometimes in life, you make the wrong decisions at the wrong time.
“I was trying to box and I spent a lot of energy thinking too much instead of being my usual raw, beastly, optimistic aggression. That’s why I can relate to the mindset and approach of ‘Anthony Joshua in this fight.’
As for the final predictions ahead of Saturday’s showpiece event, he expects the belts to come home.
“I supported AJ the first time and will support him again.”
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Anthony Joshua’s huge heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk will take place on Saturday August 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Usyk vs. Joshua 2 now!