Negotiations are ongoing for the April rematch between Anthony Joshua and IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. Promoter Eddie Hearn says his preference is to stage the fight in the UK rather than elsewhere as he did for AJ’s rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr. in December 2019.
Hearn is starting to sign worried about Joshua, and it’s not surprising. Joshua can no longer be counted on to win fights, and there’s this sense of foreboding doom surrounding his matches nowadays.
According to Hearn, the 32-year-old Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) is in a position where he needs a victory. He’s lost two out of his last four fights since 2019, and some boxing fans are saying the big 6’6″ Joshua is past it and should consider calling it a day on his nine-year professional career.
Even if Joshua wins, how much longer before gets beaten again? These defeats are coming too quickly now for the 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Great Britain, and they can’t just be fixed by abandoning his longtime trainer Rob McCracken in favor of a new coach, who will tell him the same exact things.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is whether Joshua has the punch resistance, stamina, and the mentality to perform at the highest levels of the sport. Changing trainers likely won’t fix any of Joshua’s inherent flaws. It’ll just add a different guy that can be the new scapegoat for when things don’t work out for Joshua.
“It’s a must-win for Anthony Joshua. I’d love to see him get victory on UK soil,” Hearn said to 5 Live Boxing Podcast.
A loss for Joshua would be his third in his last five fights and would be a clear sign that his days are numbered in this game. Just how much longer will Joshua let his career limp along after a second defeat at the hands of Usyk?
It would be foolish for Joshua and Hearn to try and coax Usyk to give them another fight, hoping that they can fix the flaws that led to the second defeat.
As it is, it’s crazy for Joshua to be going straight into the rematch with Usyk because he has too many things to work on to improve enough to have a real shot at avenging his loss. But if Joshua loses this time, he really needs to give up on the idea of ever fighting Usyk again, and let Hearn match him carefully against guys that are sure-thing wins for him.
In other words, Joshua should have Hearn match him as he did in the early days of his career when he was being fed limited guys like Charles Martin, Eric Molina, and Kevin Johnson.
You can understand why Hearn feels it’s important that the Joshua vs. Usyk 2 rematch take place in the UK. Unlike the previous time, Joshua was beaten in a shock knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr, there’s less chance of success in the rematch with Usyk.
It was obvious what Joshua could do to avenge his loss against the slow-moving, 283-lb Ruiz. All Joshua had to do to beat him was adopt the Wladimir Klitschko style of jabbing, moving, and holding to stymie his offense.
Against Usyk, Joshua’s chances of success using that style are slim because the Ukrainian is highly mobile, and knows how to deal with the Klitschko style. The only thing Joshua can do differently in the rematch is to impose his size and hope that Usyk falls apart early. If he doesn’t, Joshua could be in trouble.
“April is the likely date for that. I feel it’s a fight that will take place in the UK again,” said Hearn about the Joshua vs. Usyk II rematch. “Spurs [Tottenham Hotspur stadium] would be a great place to revisit. Wembley also,” said Hearn.
“Once you start getting into April, early May the weather gets a bit better. We’ve had a number of international offers.
“I don’t see this as a clear out, getting rid of everybody. I feel it’s a tweak,” Hearn said of Joshua making changes with his training team.
“He knows he must get this right. He’s been doing the work behind the scenes making sure he builds the right environment and team.”