British boxer Anthony Joshua weighed in more than 10 kilos (22 pounds) heavier than defending champion Oleksandr Usyk on Friday ahead of their world title rematch in Saudi Arabia.
Two-time heavyweight champion Joshua tipped the scales at 110.9 kilos (244.5 pounds) while Ukraine’s Usyk weighed 100.5 kilos (221.6 pounds), both similar to last year’s fight in London.
Usyk, 19-0 and the bookies’ favourite after his unanimous decision on Joshua’s home turf, confounded predictions that he had packed on several kilos of muscle to counter the towering Joshua.
The fighters came face-to-face in a 90-second stare-down before shaking hands and posing for the cameras.
“All this stuff, weight, face-off, it doesn’t matter to me. It’s all about the fight,” Joshua said. “I’m just ready for 12 rounds, 100 percent. Anything shorter than that, it’s a bonus.”
Many commentators have written off Joshua after a hesitant showing against the quick and skillful Usyk at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last September.
But the 6ft 6ins (1.98m) Watford man, who is striving to become a three-time world champion, has promised to be more “competitive”.
Promoter Eddie Hearn has suggested Joshua will go for the knock-out.
Saturday’s clash will be the 12th consecutive world title fight for Joshua, the 24-2 former Olympic gold-medallist whose other professional defeat was a shock TKO by Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019.
Joshua avenged that loss six months later in the “Clash of the Dunes” in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, the first heavyweight world title fight in the conservative kingdom.
On Saturday’s undercard, Somali-born Briton Ramla Ali will fight the Dominican Republic’s Crystal Garcia Nova in the first women’s professional boxing match in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in sports, including Formula One, Premier League football team Newcastle United and the LIV Golf tour, a controversial rival to the traditional circuits.
The investments are part of a multi-pronged strategy to diversify the oil-reliant economy spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi’s 36-year-old de facto ruler.
The moves have attracted accusations of “sportswashing” from activist groups that say Saudi Arabia is hoping to distract attention from its human rights record.