Former two-time heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua celebrates his 33rd birthday today. Joshua, born in Watford, Hertfordshire on October 15, 1989, is currently assessing his next move, his next ring opponent. Still without a doubt a very big name in the sport, this despite suffering back-to-back defeats at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk, Joshua, 24-3(22) has a number of big-fight options open to him.
For although we saw a fight with Tyson Fury collapse recently, there are other potential thrillers out there for AJ. We need to see Joshua get back to winning ways first, and it is thought he will fight before the year is out; with names such as Otto Wallin, Dillian Whyte, Filip Hrgovic and Zhilei Zhang seemingly in the mix as far as being Joshua’s next dance partner.
If Joshua can get his confidence back, the confidence Usyk and his tough to fight boxing IQ took from him, and if Joshua can string together two, maybe three wins, preferably KO wins (plenty of people have stated how badly Joshua needs to go back to being the heavyweight destroyer he was before he himself was, somewhat ironically, knocked down multiple times and then stopped by “Destroyer” Andy Ruiz Jr), the afore-alluded to big fights will be there for Joshua.
There is, potentially: Deontay Wilder (massive), Ruiz in a third fight (interesting), Dillian Whyte in a rematch (big in the UK, also interesting to most all fans), Joe Joyce (very interesting and also huge in the UK), Daniel Dubois (at the very least somewhat interesting). While the Fury-Joshua fight, though some have said will now “never happen,” can never be completely written off, simply as it would generate so much money.
So Joshua can set himself new goals and he can focus on potential new opponents. But Joshua needs to get that confidence back. Joshua needs to believe again. Joshua needs to go out and flatten his opponents the way he used to when he was a hungry fighter. Back in the years 2014 to 2016, Joshua was wiping out everything in his path, with decent opponent after decent opponent being despatched quickly and impressively (guys like Matt Skelton, KO’d in 2, Michael Sprott, KO’d in 1, Kevin Johnson, gone in 2, Dillian Whyte, violently knocked out in 7, this after an action battle, Charles Martin, wiped out in 2). No, these fighters were not killers, but Joshua was a killer puncher.
Then came the Wladimir Klitschko battle, and Joshua survived his first all-out crisis while at the same time becoming a superstar. Some experts say it was this fight, and the near disaster Joshua survived in that sixth round, that changed AJ; not the Ruiz defeat. Maybe.
So can Joshua, still young for a heavyweight, get back to being an all-powerful, take no prisoners fighter who fully commits to being a puncher? It seems a tough ask, but it could be the only way Joshua redeems himself in the eyes of his many critics. As well as in his own eyes.