Former WBO cruiserweight world champion Johnny Nelson has told William Hill’s new podcast, Up Front with Simon Jordan, that Anthony Joshua asked one of his security team’s advice on how to fight a southpaw fighter while walking to the ring against Oleksandr Usyk.
Featuring on William Hill’s Up Front with Simon Jordan, a brand-new podcast hosted by the former Crystal Palace owner who speaks to sports stars and celebrities and challenges their opinions whilst scrutinising their careers, Nelson and Jordan spoke about a story in the lead up to one of Joshua’s fights against Oleksandr Usyk, with Jordan saying: “I heard from a leading trainer that before Anthony [Joshua] went in to one of the [Oleksandr] Usyk fights, Lawrence Okolie was fighting on the undercard, and Anthony was talking to one of the trainers asking what he should do in his fight against Usyk.”
Nelson responded: “I’ve got one better than that. He was walking to the ring against Usyk, my friend was the head of security walking next to him, Joshua said to him ‘how would you fight a southpaw?’, on the way to the ring! What I’m trying to say is that what he’s displaying to me is that right now a two-time heavyweight world champion is in a fight and he’s looking over at his corner man, and I’m thinking ‘what are you doing?’
“He should be at the point where the muzzle comes off, he goes in and gets the job done, then he comes back out and you put the muzzle back on, but he’s still thinking and acting like a novice. He’s still acting like a kid that doesn’t know what he’s doing and if you don’t know by now, you’re never going to know.”
Joshua will never rediscover his mojo
Speaking more broadly about Joshua’s career, Nelson, who held the WBO cruiserweight title from 1999 to 2006, explained: “I believe Anthony Joshua has now got to the point in his career where he is fighting for the wrong reasons. When he was the world champion, he had that mentality where he thought he was the best in the world. Once you’ve been world champion and you truly believe that you’re the best in the world, anything less isn’t enough.
“The problems don’t start with what happened in the ring or the antics after the bell has gone, the problem is that when he’s by himself he’s got to get into his head why he is doing this? When I saw him in his last fight, which he won, I still saw novice behaviour from a guy that has been two-time world heavyweight champion which told me that he is never going to get that mojo back.
“When he boxed Andy Ruiz, I’d heard a lot of talk about there being issues before the fight with his dad not wanting him to go out. He came back and beat Ruiz and will have thought ‘I’ve righted that wrong’, but then went on to lose to Usyk. I remember speaking to Dillian Whyte and Derek Chisora who were saying ‘he’ll blast this guy, he’s a cruiserweight’, then he got into it with Usyk and lost. He’ll have been thinking ‘I underestimated him, I got it wrong’, he still believed that he was the best in the world, but when he boxed Usyk the second time, he knew he wasn’t the best in the world.”
In boxing if you’re good, you’re good – black or white
Speaking on racism within sport and society, Nelson spoke on how he currently sees racism manifesting itself within boxing and what can be done to eradicate it.
“In our sport of boxing if you’re good, you’re good, black or white,” said Nelson. “Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight champion of the world, they tried everything possible to stop this man from boxing for the world title, but he was the best fighter in the world so eventually that says it all. In the end putting two people in the ring against each other will prove who’s the best. It’s very hard for racism to play a part in modern day boxing now because the best fighter is who people want.
“But then you look at managers and promoters. In America you’ve got PBC and you’ve got Floyd Mayweather’s setup and they’ve got the finance and the structure to set it up – this will happen in the UK. There will be a fighter or an ex-fighter or somebody that’s got the ‘je ne sais quoi’, who’s got that about him to say ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to front this up, that person will turn up.’ It’s not a black or white thing, it’s about somebody coming through and saying, ‘I’m going to kick the doors down and get this done,’ like how Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren kicked the doors down.
“There will be a time where a black promoter comes through, and he will run ragged because all the black fighters will gravitate towards him. As long as he treats them right, and as long as he’s straight with them all the best fighters will run towards him. I’m not saying the best fighters are only black fighters, I’m saying fighters will gravitate towards him because they’ll think ‘I actually get you’ or ‘that’s someone that looks like me.’”
You catch watch the full episode here: