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How can Anthony Joshua become undisputed heavyweight champion?

It hasn’t been the best three years or so for Anthony Joshua, as he has seen his reputation in the boxing world take a beating. Going into his fight against Andy Ruiz in New York in June 2019, many revered Joshua as the best heavyweight in the world, and victory against the Mexican on that evening would see him finally crack American. 

However, defeat against Ruiz put his career back a number of steps, as he needed a rematch to eventually see off the Mexican. It hasn’t been plain sailing from there either, as there are questions whether Joshua can even reclaim his WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles, let alone before the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. 

Joshua’s Win Over Pulev

Joshua returned back to home soil after reclaiming his titles in Saudi Arabia against Ruiz, and a date against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev was set for December 2020. It was one of Joshua’s better nights over the past three years, as he controlled the pace and never looked to be in danger of losing the belts to a shock contender for the second time. 

It was exactly what AJ needed to rebuild the confidence that was shattered from his defeat in New York, anninth-roundound KO was scored at the SSE Arena. It did not take long for his name to get back into the favorite position in all the famous bookies, including this one: 

However, many still questioned whether he had the determination to step in the ring with one of the very best in the world. There have been critics of Joshua throughout his career that he has avoided the big fights, with the only exception coming against Wladimir Klitschko in 2017, but the Ukrainian was certainly far from his peak at that time. Joshua avoided showdowns with Deontay Wilder on a number of occasions, but he had the opportunity to amend those doubts when agreeing to face Usyk.

Usyk Defeat Leaves Doubts

In September 2021, Joshua faced off against his biggest challenge to date. Oleksandr Usyk had already unified the cruiserweight division before stepping into the heavyweight division, but still, many questioned whether he had the size to become a champion in the higher weight classification. If anything, that night at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium showcased exactly why Usyk is one of the modern greats in the sport. 

The Ukrainian out-boxed Joshua throughout the 12 rounds, with experts praising his performance. Roy Jones Jr even went as far and claimed that ‘he dominated him’. There was no doubt in the final result, and Usyk could have actually gone one better in the closing rounds, as he was potentially seconds away from the stoppage victory as the bell rang to signal the close of the 12th round. Even without the stoppage defeat, Joshua’s back was on the floor and down for the count, and that puts enormous pressure on the former golden boy of British boxing to bounce back.

Can Joshua Defeat Usyk?

The rematch between the two for the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO titles was officially announced earlier this year, and it was announced that the Jeddah Super Dome in Saudi Arabia would host the contest. The key to the fight will likely hinge on Joshua’s approach and tactics. Eddie Hearn has already been vocal about AJ’s performance, and has claimed that he will need to be more aggressive in the rematch. 

In truth, that is the only way that Joshua could possibly get the better of Usyk. He can’t get into a tactical affair with the Ukrainian, as the reigning champion will come out on top once again. Instead, Joshua will need to use his height and reach advantage and try and land bigger shots. He will need to be more assertive and not as passive as he was in the first bout between the two.

Will Fury Come Out Of Retirement For Unification Bout?

The question whether Tyson Fury would come out of retirement have been ripe since the WBC and The Ring heavyweight champion announced his decision. You’d be hard pressed to find any boxing fan that believes that the retirement was anything other than a publicity stunt in order to max out Wembley Stadium for his TKO victory against Dillian Whyte in April. 

Victory for Joshua would almost certainly set up a money-spinning unification fight against Fury, but only a dominant success could actually raise a serious question about AJ coming out on top should that fight eventually happen. The Gypsy King’s promoter, Frank Warren said in a recent interview on TalkSport that he would expect a fight to be made between the two should Joshua pick up the win in the rematch, as fans have demanded a showdown between the two Brits since AJ burst onto the scene. 

However, whether we would see a showdown between Usyk and Fury is more up for debate, as it wouldn’t generate nearly the same amount of money as a battle between the two Brits, which would mean it would likely hinge on whether the Gypsy King has the desire to become the first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis in 1999.