I LOOK at the sport today, my legacy and what the sport was like years ago. The difference between then and now is that a lot of those guys actually fought each other. That’s what made them great. In this day and age, it’s who speaks the most and who generates the most interest through speaking. It’s a different era of boxing.
I just fight these guys, like Oleksandr Usyk, no problem. They get a lot out of it as well. They come into our world, everything we’ve tried to build, and they benefit massively from it. I always say to Eddie Hearn it’s annoying because all these opponents come for a week or two, speak a good game, generate a big social media following, generate prizefighting money, and then disappear and you don’t hear from them again. With boxing, we’re just in a different place now, it’s a different era. But what can I do about it, except continue fighting? That’s all I can do; play my part in this business.
I have the physical advantages in this fight but that’s only one part of it. Being the world’s tallest man, for example, doesn’t also make you the world heavyweight champion. You have to have the mental capacity to do what you do. Usyk is confident, he’s coming to the ring confident, and so am I. In boxing, you have to be aggressive and beat that confidence out of your opponent. He’s confident, his team are confident, but it’s easy to watch on YouTube and be confident, easy to watch from the outside. But when you’re in front of someone, actually in the ring, it’s then a completely different ballgame.
People ask me about my weight. They focus on it more than I do. They make presumptions. I’m going to come in light, run around the ring, I don’t want to get hit. I’m going to be on my bike all night. Listen, I’m as solid as a rock. I’m strong, I’m good at the weight. Honestly, I don’t really focus on my weight. It’s just training. I just put in the work. These are different opponents and I’ve learnt about training for specific opponents. These guys go longer rounds. When you’re knocking out guys in three or four rounds, it’s different. I studied boxing and what works for me and weight is not a priority. Adapting to training is a priority. I just put in work and the shape that I am is just a byproduct of where I’m at due to the training I’ve been doing.
When I looked at Lennox Lewis’ training camp, they used to have a select few sparring partners they’d use every camp. We bring in everyone from across the world – Russians, Germans, Australians. The southpaw stance has become familiar to me during this period because I’ve brought in so many southpaw sparring partners. I’m very comfortable at the moment with the southpaw stance.
When you look at Usyk’s experience in the World Series of Boxing [WSB], when he was fighting some big guys, you have to remember that was all eight years ago. Fighters change over a period time. Their body changes, their training camps change. You can’t take anything from where he was at back then. But it will be interesting to see where he is now, at heavyweight, with a lively opponent like myself. Before me, he fought Derek Chisora. He’s very good, still active, still dangerous. But Usyk implemented the tactics well. When you look at Chisora knocking out Carlos Takam, Takam was right in front of him. Artur Szpilka was backed against the ropes, so was David Price. Usyk knew he needed to move around the ring, not get caught stationary. But this is heavyweight boxing. I don’t play around. I’m here to win.
I study. I do my homework. I look at Dillian Whyte’s fight with Chisora, Joseph Parker’s fight with Chisora then I look at Usyk against Chisora. I look at Tony Bellew against Usyk, then I look at Bellew against Illunga Makabu. Usyk has done well at heavyweight. But look at Evander Holyfield when he moved up. He had six fights before he fought for the heavyweight championship against Buster Douglas. Then you look at Usyk. He’s fought two heavyweights. He’s obviously had the WSB experience but he’s jumping in at the deep end, early on. But good luck to him, he must believe in himself. It’s better to swim deep – get in there and get on with it – rather than tread water. You could still end up drowning anyway. You could still get caught in a current and drown. You might as well jump in and try to survive.
I’ve just got to be dedicated to all my supporters. I’ve been practising to show them how good I am. I know these people don’t just come out in numbers just because they want to. ‘Let’s just buy a ticket for the sake of it.’ No, they think this guy is good – let’s go watch him box. For me, I want to go out there and showcase and give something back to them. I’m going to give them value for money. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got no fear in my eyes, no fear in my heart. I’m just looking forward to competing because I know I’m good enough.
I look at a lot of these Olympians that have just come out of Tokyo and they’re about to embark on their professional career and I feel sorry for them. Honestly, it’s like a gift and a curse. They’ve got so much potential and they’ve done so well but now they have to embark into the world of business. Boxing is an unforgiving world when it comes to making the right decision.
A lot of these guys are now going through what I went through after London 2012. I found the battle as a fighter easier than the battle outside the ring. Early on, I spent a lot of time understanding the climate and the promotion. There was a fighter years ago, Jim Corbett, who understood the power of PR. Fighters today understand you have to be self-promoters. Muhammad Ali showed us the importance of self-promotion. So I understood that. I understood big corporate companies, and the power they have. It’s phenomenal the power of these big brands and what it does for boxing in general. At the start it was so, so difficult. What I’ve done is got a trusted team around me. If they f**k me, they won’t wake up the next morning, so good luck to them. So far so good, they’re still breathing. I’m not in jail. We’re all happy. Everything’s fine.
What I’ve done is I’ve stepped back. I need to focus on boxing and winning. It’s very difficult in boxing to improve by just one or two per cent – you have to spend six to eight months working tirelessly at your craft. To do it at the top level is really difficult. I went through the difficulties early on, put in solid foundations in place, so now I can fully focus on my boxing.
Even though it’s not Tyson Fury I’m fighting, it’s still created big interest and me versus Usyk is still a great fight. I’m taking on an opponent who makes me want to get up in the morning. I’ve wanted to improve and get better. There’s lots of talk about size – a good big guy beats a good little guy – but in that case why am I waking up in the morning to train? Why am I sitting in an ice bath? Why am I passionate about it? Because I’m fighting a good fighter.