Opinion: Anthony Joshua never cemented place at heavyweight top table
Anthony Joshua got defeated by Oleksandr Usyk, proving that his place at the top heavyweight table of boxing has probably been overblown.
Usyk beat AJ as the better boxer, the second time the latter has lost during his professional career.
It’s a loss that comes with a distinct whiff of privilege to hand-pick opponents before facing a mandatory be possibly never wanted on the part of the outgoing champion.
Just like when Joshua won the Olympic gold medal, a debate has since opened up about some of the claims made about his place in history.
Nonetheless, he won it and was subsequently steered to a heavyweight title against some of the least talented opponents possible, like Charles Martin.
Defending against Eric Molina and Dominic Breazeale, both chosen as voluntaries, are further incidents of not facing the best around at that time.
The only live heavyweight he fought was Wladimir Klitschko. But Klitschko was way past his best after getting beaten by Tyson Fury eighteen months earlier.
Those witnessing the fight overblew that victory unbelievably, and “lift-off AJ” was taken to another level – really only to sell UK Pay Per Views.
Since then, Joshua’s list of opponents and his “Stay Humble” mantra seems like a mere money-making exercise and nothing more.
Andy Ruiz Jr. took full advantage of some overconfidence in the summer of 2019 as Joshua began to believe his hype.
The rematch got forced, even when Joshua and his team knew Ruiz was in no position to fight. It was all about becoming a two-time champion, and it will be the same when they get Usyk back in the ring.
Hopefully, Usyk will push for a neutral venue as that’s the least he deserves for his outstanding victory on Saturday night.
Fanboys abusing WBN in the past will no doubt lament the loss. They’ll jump on everyone who disagrees with Joshua being the best in the division.
But his achievements in the ring never matched his talent – it’s a simple as that. Joshua is a brilliant heavyweight, but somewhere along the line, his confidence has waned.
He could go in the ring and dominate any opponent. The fact he isn’t able to do that is a detriment to his legacy.
We know that Deontay Wilder wanted to get him in the ring so badly in 2018 but got told by those around “The Bronze Bomber” that AJ avoided it at all costs.
It didn’t take long, though, until Ruiz did what many believe Wilder would have done too.
Joshua and his team chose Ruiz as they never believed he could do what he did for one second. Those outside the Joshua circle thought Ruiz had a firm shot, though, and so it proved.
Usyk was another example of why Joshua’s place on the UK’s pedestal was overblown. And why Tyson Fury went subsequently went to America for appreciation.
Fury is a superior boxer to Joshua, but he got overlooked for so long due to politics. If they ever fight, it will be years too late.
That could be over for now, anyway. The outstanding Ukrainian Usyk is favored to do similar in the rematch.
When it mattered most, Joshua hasn’t been able to cement that place as the number one heavyweight – not once but twice now.
It must have been tough for him as he’s gotten built up as this all-conquering man who would easily beat anybody in the world. When the truth is, he never really had the superpowers to back up those claims.
Let’s hope he can give Usyk something to think about in the rematch.
The views expressed in this article are opinions of Phil Jay.