Anthony Joshua’s camp has gone into damage control to save the former world champion’s standing in the boxing world as the British heavyweight confronts an uncertain future after his split decision loss to Oleksandr Usyk.
The two-time former champion’s meltdown in the ring after defeat was difficult to watch and widely panned but it was a clear representation of a fighter who was spent, left grasping for answers after investing so much emotionally for no pay-off.
In the post-fight press conference, an emotional Joshua said his bizarre behavior, which was criticized for taking the moment away from the Ukrainian champion’s successful title defence, was “from the heart” and came as a result of him being “mad” at himself.
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Joshua said of his decision to leave the ring after the decision and dump two of his belts: “When you’re trying to do things from the heart and everyone is just not understanding. It was just from the heart. I was mad at myself Not anyone else, just myself.
“So I thought, I’ve got to get out of here because I’m mad. Like anyone, when you’re angry, you might do stupid things.
“I was mad and then I realized, ‘Oh shit, this is sport. Let me do the right thing and come back.’
“I just spoke from my heart. It’s been so tough. You see AJ holding it together, yeah, and I’m a hustler so I try put things together. Try work hard and put things together and make sure my team’s good.
Joshua’s cringeworthy post-fight speech
“But it comes at a cost, a big cost. It’ll never break me, but it takes real strength for it not to break me. And tonight, there’s a little crack in the armor when I took a loss.”
For so long Joshua has been the box-office name in the heavyweight division, but will now be on the outside looking in after falling to back-to-back losses to Usyk to add to his defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019.
That’s three losses in five fights, piercing the aura of a British boxer who sold out big stadiums and was once regarded as a knockout machine.
While Joshua is left in a precarious position in the ring, his position outside of it further complicates the situation after he recently signed a long-term deal with DAZN, worth a reported $145 million, for the platform to show his upcoming fights.
“We want to see AJ active,” Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said. “There have been too many gaps between fights.
Usyk lays it on Joshua
“I would like to see him get back to enjoying himself, get back to the pressures of working his way back up to the championship belt. Now he will actually really start to enjoy himself.
“Everybody in the country knows who he is. Everybody’s got an opinion of who he is. He’s in the gym all the time with his team. He’s living up in Loughborough, he’s away from home.
“There isn’t anyone I know that is more dedicated to the sport than him, and sometimes people don’t understand the pressures that are on people’s shoulders. But he’s never ducked a challenge, he’s never shirked the pressure.
“He’s always tried to give his time to people, and he’s always tried to inspire the next generation. He’s been an amazing ambassador.
“And for the first time in boxing, you see all these complete dickheads, many of them tonight on social media, who’ve got too much to say and want to pretend they’re good people. They actually aren’t role models, that aren’t behind ambassadors, that aren’t people I would want my kids to look up to.
Fury uppercut ends Whyte
Dismissing talk of retirement after the fight, the 32-year-old Joshua said he plans to return to the ring in December and work his way back up to being a three-time champion.
That would mean toiling away for now in the division’s second tier, with the likes of Dillian Whyte and Deontay Wilder potential opponents if he chooses to first see off some less dangerous fighters.
“I spoke to Eddie,” Joshua said, “and asked him if it’s possible to get out in November because momentum is important in boxing. Eddie said December.
“If it’s about who I fight, it’s come one, come all. Whoever wants it can get it, I don’t mind.”
As for the champion Usyk, he has the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts. Tyson Fury, for the time being at least, has the WBC title.
In the ring after his second 12-round win over Joshua, Usyk said Fury is the only fighter he wants next.
“Hey, Tyson,” Usyk said in Saudi Arabia. “Back in the ring, please, back in the ring.”
Fury, after all, says he is retired, although that stance is being widely greeted with skepticism.
Indeed, after the Usyk-Joshya rematch, Fury said in a video he would be willing to take on Usyk.
For the right price.
“England has been relieved of its belts, yet again, as usual, but there is a remedy and a solution that I can suggest,” Fury said in the video published by boxing media company iFL TV. “If you want those belts back, then send in the Barbarian Gypsy of England. Come on. Send me in.
“But it’s not going to be cheap. If you want the best, then you’ve got to pay. It’s going to be very expensive. So get your checkbook out.”
Fury hasn’t fought since knocking out Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium in April, after which he said he was retiring as “the best heavyweight there has ever been” because he had given his word to his wife, Paris.
Since then, he has said he’d be returning to boxing in order to set up a trilogy against Derek Chisora, a fellow Brit he’s beaten twice.
Three days later, he said he had had a change of heart and had decided to “walk away.”
It’s clear Fury could be tempted back into the ring, and what better fight to return to than for the opportunity to be the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis, who held all the belts from 1999-2000 before being stripped of the WBA title.
Usyk-Fury would be one of the biggest fights in a generation, with the added intrigue that both boxers are undefeated. Usyk was also undisputed cruiserweight champion from 2018-19.
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