I penned a piece over three years ago predicting Joshua’s lack of boxing specific conditioning (essentially misdirected training) would lead to unnecessary defeats. Against Ruiz he certainly seemed to run out of gas suddenly and was accused of bottling it by some. In the rematch he seemed to have made some adjustments and came in ‘less weightlifter’ with increased mobility. He was better but hardly stellar against an even fatter Ruiz.
For Usyk, I placed a £15 bet on Usyk to win between rounds 10-12. At 20-1, the odds were too good! If the fight was 20 seconds longer and I would probably have cashed in. Imagine my irritation when Usyk was asked could he have finished it and he replied in the affirmative but he had been told by his corner not to go for it!
My thought process was again based on Joshua’s lack of sport specific conditioning combined with the problem put in front of him. Usyk’s opponents all comment how his constant movement makes you work every second of every round, with zero respite. This is all wrong for Joshua. I was 60-40 Usyk at the opening bell but by the end of the first round I was pretty much all in for Usyk.
Joshua came in light, presumably cognizant that he could be in for a long night. However, I was somewhat dismayed to hear him respond to a question on this (post fight), that he doesn’t monitor weight and he goes on ‘feel’. This would suggest that he and his team are not keeping detailed metrics on their conditioning sessions. Is it any surprise then that there is no plan B when the chips are down ?
We all know that as the bigger more powerful athlete, Joshua had to come in and impose himself on Usyk, repeatedly lean on him, engage, make it rough and unpleasant. Yet, from the outset, Joshua’s tactic was to stay mid-ring and get comprehensively outboxed by a vastly superior technician. Did he think the judges were on the payroll? After watching Campbell Hatton on the undercard somehow get a win from missing wildly and getting punched in the face, I did wonder!
However, my reading of it was that Joshua was fearful of engaging early because he didn’t trust his own conditioning level to make it through 12 rounds. Was his team’s strategy simply to hope Usyk was going to fold? Have they watched any of his previous work? Are they really that strategically naïve? It appears they might be.
Evander Holyfield once said that he looked forward to the fight because Tim Hallmark’s conditioning sessions were so brutal. That is, make the training hard so the fight seems easy – a sound philosophy in my humble opinion. Joshua is doing too much of the opposite. He apparently is positively amorous when it comes to doing training and can’t wait to get back to the gym. Yet, what kind of training? If everything is done at a relative canter how can he draw on a reservoir of conditioning if he hasn’t dug the hole? Training is where you should suffer. Looking at the posts that emerge of him training, he seems comfortable.
I was watching the Usyk fight with a friend, he turned to me and said he was ‘overdramatising’ his pain at the end of 12th round. My friends is from the camp that says he quit against Ruiz. Certainly, I concede that when the going gets tough he doesn’t seem to have the mentality of other elite sportsmen. When Wayde Van Niekirk won the 400m world title he was taken from the track in an ambulance due to the amount he had just pushed himself. Visit any 400m training group and you’ll see bodies littered everywhere at the end of the session. Perhaps Joshua just doesn’t have the mentality to really step up like that ? As an S&C coach I just thought his preparation for the problem at hand was lacking. Frankly, I was disappointed.
As a Brit who lives just up the road from Joshua’s home town of Watford, I didn’t want to collect on my bet. However, how can any sane, rational thinking boxing fan have concluded his chances were slim going into the fight ? Surely it would be better for Joshua to get his house in order and come back by facing the loser to Fury-Wilder (Wilder) and then face the winner of Fury-Usyk ? If he has to go to Ukraine to face Usyk again, I think he’ll collapse mentally and be overwhelmed. If he prepares properly he could use his considerable assets and regain his crown. Call me a skeptic though. I’m sure some of you commenters will disagree! Do keep up the funny comments.