The boxing in last weekend’s heavyweight blockbuster was somewhat overshadowed by the post fight rant by Anthony Joshua. Was he concussed, did he have a mental breakdown or did his media trained persona drop for once to show more of the real character ? I’m afraid I think it was more of the latter, allow me to elaborate.
For the record, my money this time was on a Usyk stoppage. I thought Garcia and his crew would have impressed on Joshua the need to press early and rough up the smaller man. I thought Usyk would ride through an early storm and then Joshua would melt in the heat. Well, there was no early storm and the building looked to be air conditioned, so shows you what I know. Usyk presumably having been on a diet of insects in between cleaning rifles in the trenches, looked to have less faith in his own conditioning this time. He never really put much weight behind his shots, happy to simply outbox and befuddle Joshua where he could, whilst conserving his energy. He did it convincingly enough for a clear verdict albeit with a difficult moment or two.
Usyk’s strategy matched his less than stellar preparatory fight build up. What’s Joshua’s excuse then ? We have to give him some brownie points, he was better that Fight 1. He looked more boxer and slightly less bodybuilder, so maybe he has made some adjustments in the right direction. However, he remained far too cautious against the considerably smaller man. We have heard some strange comments from his direction about Usyk being lucky he was a southpaw otherwise it would have been different. One assumes he and his trainers did get the memo about that and did have adequate time to prepare. At the end of the fight in a scenario that reminded me of Tyson-Holyfield II, the loser seemed to want to fight after the fight, despite having not attempted to fight during the actual fight!
The bit where he confronted Usyk saying ‘you are not strong, how did you beat me?’, was one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen in a ring. Boxing is primarily a skill – to quote his own vernacular – he used said skills and took you to school, bro ! Perhaps Joshua should fight Hafthor Bjornsson next and after Bjornsson loses he should confront Joshua with ‘you are not strong, how did you beat me?’
At the end of round 3 I was somewhat taken aback when Joshua’s corner told him he was doing well and was 3-0 up!!! He barely threw a punch in the first, I gave him the second and he lost the third. He was 2-1 down. Why were his corner blowing smoke up his ass ? Did they know that at least one of the judges was in the pocket ? Were they blind ? Or, were they aware that their fighter had limited confidence in his own abilities and they thought they had to flatter him to get him to perform at his best? If the latter, it seems a rather dangerous game to play. Had they been telling him he was winning throughout, thus sparking his anger at the end ?
That’s not my conclusion. If anything I suspect some discord in the camp. Nobody came to rescue him at the end and take the mic off him when he was making a tit of himself in front of the entire world, after all. However, there were some home truths in his rant. The real truth bomb was when he started going about Dempsey, Tyson, Marciano et al and then said he couldn’t do what they did because he was 18st not 14st (for American readers that’s 252lbs not 196lbs). The killer truth bomb was ‘I’m not a 12 round fighter, bro’.
The first thing that springs to mind was those 15 round fighters must have been amazing (!), but aside from that, he is telling us he can’t fight for 12 rounds at a high level. He’s an anaerobic power athlete. I do have some sympathy, BUT, there is more than one but.
Firstly, if you have conceded that point and you have the much smaller Usyk in front of you, why not fight hard for six rounds and try and knock him the f+++ out ? Given you will always lose on points in this lifetime, if you go for broke you will considerably increase your chances of victory and if it fails at least you gave it your all ? He has the attributes but was clearly terrified to roll the dice (sigh).
Secondly, prepare better !!! Only a couple of weeks ago yet another 400m championship victor had to be carried from the track due to his exertions. Joshua simply hasn’t got this mentality. He should be having to be helped up after his sports specific conditioning sessions. Train murderously, fight easy ! Does he really push himself in training to the degree he needs? Given his desire to fight after the fight and not during it, the answer must be a resounding no.
He is clearly very talented but seems destined never to maximise it due to his attitude. If Marvelous Marvin Hagler had Joshua’s laissez faire attitude to engagement he’d never have beat Hitman Hearns. Sometimes you have to step up and take a risk. If he wants to get some respect back, he should fight Wilder next. Oh and don’t let Hearn over-price himself out of it this time. You are already rich – if you are serious, meet in the middle and just make the fight!