Opinion: Heavyweight rematch overhaul needed as AJ ‘identifies mistakes’
Anthony Joshua says he rewatched his damaging second defeat and knows where he went wrong in losing his heavyweight titles to Oleksandr Usyk.
The Briton, aiming to become a third-time top division champion by executing a return clause, assured his fans that he’s fine after the loss.
Usyk dominated for large portions of the fight and almost stopped Joshua in the final round when the bell sounded six seconds earlier to save the now-former ruler.
Joshua has to go back to the drawing board again after getting knocked out by Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019.
Lauded as the most outstanding UK heavyweight of all time by his team for some time, Joshua takes criticism for not be able to back up those words.
Now he knows he has no choice but to face Usyk in an immediate rematch and go straight for the jugular to create history.
“I’ve watched the fight. [I’ve] analyzed my preparations and identified my mistakes. I’ve learned my lesson,” insisted Joshua.
He added: “Thanks for sending love and checking in. Don’t worry about me. My spirit is strong!”
HEAVYWEIGHT COMFORT ZONE
Before the bout with Usyk, Joshua again looked apprehensive and uncomfortable. Similarly to when walking to the ring for Ruiz.
At that time, three years ago, that got attributed largely to Joshua fighting outside of his comfort zone in America. The surroundings of the formidable Madison Square Garden and all that entails got pushed as a contributing factor.
This time around, the Olympic gold medalist was at home in front of sixty plus thousand of his own fans. AJ cannot use the same excuse for another poor showing.
He’s thoroughly backed into a corner due to the superstar fanfare that goes with Joshua in his home country. It’s the kind of monumental building up that has earned him and his team millions of dollars alongside many, many sponsorship deals.
However, the 31-year-old now has to prove his credentials all over again.
The re-emergence of Tyson Fury hasn’t helped this cause either. Between 2015 and 2018, Joshua was the top UK heavyweight on offer. But as soon as Fury returned, that aura of domination AJ enjoyed melted away as Fury got stronger and stronger.
All that his team could do was link the two together to keep Joshua and Fury at the same level in the eyes of the fans. The trouble is that it gave a false narrative.
Anyone with knowledge of boxing knows their skillset is far different and, in some parts, worlds away. This fact could also be a reason why Joshua is yet to face either Fury or Deontay Wilder – for that matter.
SINK OR SWIM
But with Usyk, it now becomes sink or swim in the rematch. Anthony Joshua can either equal Lennox Lewis as a three-time champion and secure that lasting legacy he wants. Or, on the flipside, Joshua could lose again and be known as the champion who lost his titles whenever he fought anybody in the top five – barring an aged and outdated Wladimir Klitschko.
Alexander Povetkin and Kubrat Pulev were both a few years past their best. In comparison, Joseph Parker never proved himself at the top level. The New Zealander lost to Ruiz if you analyze the fight clearly [WBN scored the contest live for Ruiz].
Dillian Whyte wasn’t ready for AJ, and the rest were mere fodder for a big-puncher like Joshua.
Therefore – in a nutshell, if you take away the Klitschko win, Joshua has no actual track record of victories at the very top level against prime heavyweights.
Toppling Ruiz once came when the Mexican-American was severely out of shape and weighing almost 300 pounds. That and Klitschko cannot be the record Joshua leaves behind.
He has to beat Usyk and win well to keep his name alongside Fury and Usyk as the best two heavyweights of this generation.
Let’s hope the analysis and identification went well.
The views expressed in this article are opinions of Phil Jay.