Anthony Joshua battles Otto Wallin in Saudi Arabia

Anthony Joshua is set to continue his comeback with his third fight of 2023 and will be keen to get another victory when he faces Swedish heavyweight Otto Wallin on Saturday (today) in the main event of the “Day of Reckoning” card in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

After securing consecutive victories over Jermaine Franklin in April and Robert Helenius with a seventh-round knockout in August, Joshua is now gearing up to face a tough challenge in Wallin, who has proven himself as a formidable opponent, especially with his southpaw stance.

The only defeat on Wallin’s record to date came in 2019 against Tyson Fury, in between the Gypsy King’s first and second meetings with Wilder. Fury won by unanimous decision but the Swedish heavyweight certainly made it a harder night than expected for the lineal champ.

The southpaw opened up a huge cut above the Brit’s right eye in the third round. In the sixth round, a doctor had to inspect it and allowed Fury to carry on.

Joshua holds an impressive record of 26 victories and three losses, two of those defeats coming against unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. The British-Nigerian has proven that he has remarkable strength, technique, and unwavering determination and is the favourite to win this tricky tie.

The fight also holds great significance beyond the clash date as Joshua and Deontay Wilder need to beat Wallin and Joseph Parker respectively this weekend to make their potential clash in 2024 possible.

As for Wilder he will be taking on former WBO heavyweight world champion Parker, having only had one fight, which lasted one round, since October 2021. Meanwhile, Parker has fought three times this year, winning all three and he is determined to spoil the party and upset Wilder.

Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, echoed concerns about the challenges posed by Wallin’s southpaw style but expresses faith in his fighter.

“When we say he has an issue with a southpaw, he had an issue with Oleksandr Usyk, who is a pound-for-pound number one, maybe. But Wallin’s good. They’ve sparred rounds before. AJ beat him in the amateurs, it’s a long time ago, yeah, but really, ideally, you don’t really want to be fighting a southpaw, but you should be dealing with Otto Wallin.

“And we have enough faith in AJ’s ability to take that fight, win that fight, but it will be tricky. And he has to be aggressive in that fight. I believe he will stop him,” he said.

Former undisputed cruiserweight and heavyweight world champion, Evander Holyfield believes that if the fight goes the distance, it’ll go Joshua’s way saying, “Well, (Joshua) got the range. It appears to me that when people don’t pressure him, he gets his shots off then he wins.

“I don’t think he stands pressure real well, but if it’s a distance fight and they keep their measurements, he’s going to outpoint him.”

Wilder weighed in on the impending bout, stressing the importance of Joshua’s mental state.

“I like that fight between those two guys and may the best man win,” Wilder told talkSPORT.

“I see him (Joshua) winning this fight if his mind is in the right place. If he goes in there with self-confidence and the will to win and the motion to go and do what he’s got to do and get the job done then I see him winning that fight. But, if he goes in there thinking about what’s next, especially when it’s pertaining to me or any other thing outside of that then he might be finding himself in some big trouble.”

British heavyweight champion, Fabio Wardley, gives the Swede a strong chance of pulling off an upset telling talkSPORT, “I do give Wallin a strong chance. He is a tricky competitor.

“(But) I expect AJ to deal with him inside six rounds to be honest. If we get the AJ of old, I almost think he will cruise through this performance.”

Joshua addressed Wallin’s strategy of relying on Joshua’s mental state, dismissing the tactic and emphasizing his confidence in his skills.

“He should be banking on his skills. He shouldn’t be banking on whether I’m mentally strong or not.

“What I’m banking on is my confidence, my strength, my durability, my chin, my heart, my fitness, my skills. It’s nothing to do with Otto. Everything I’m banking on is everything to do with me. That’s what’s giving me confidence,” he said.

Speaking in his press conference on Thursday, he said, “I know where I’m going in my life but I’ve got to say this is a checkpoint and if I don’t get past this, there is no future so I’m fully locked in to Otto Wallin and doing the job.

“Pure focus on Saturday, that’s with my heart, soul and every cell in my body is focused on Otto Wallin and knowing what I can do.”

At the presser, Wallin insisted that his talents are being under-appreciated saying, “It’s a big fight and big opportunity I’ve worked hard to be here and now it’s time to enjoy the moment, win the fight and move on.

“I’m going to win the fight and it shouldn’t be an upset, it’s natural and it’s my time, I’m happy to be here. I’m just trying to be myself, people say I talk a lot but I just answer them with what I feel, and I’m not trying to make anything up its the truth if people don’t like it fine, but its true.”

As anticipation builds for the ‘Day of Reckoning’, both fighters are bracing themselves for a momentous clash. Joshua aims to secure his third consecutive victory of 2023, while Wallin seeks to upset the odds and make his mark in the heavyweight division.

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