The dust (or even sand) has settled after Anthony Joshua’s defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last weekend. This monumental defeat for Joshua was not only his second loss to Usyk in less than 12 months, but the points decision win for the man from Ukraine meant this was Joshua’s third defeat in his last five fights.
A decade ago, Anthony Joshua wone of the faces of the London 2012 Olympics. After claiming gold in the super heavyweight division, the man who would become known simply as ‘AJ’ was propelled to international super-stardom.
Media friendly, big smile and appearing to have been chiseled out of a piece of granite, Joshua became an instant favourite with the British public. After turning professional and signing with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, the hype around Anthony Joshua could not have been higher. Within just 16 fights, his meteoric rise was capped with a first world title as he knocked out Charles Martin for the IBF crown in London.
Despite the early success, many boxing experts felt that Joshua did not possess the ring craft and boxing IQ to thrust him to that elite level of fighter. After all, Joshua only started boxing at 18 years old, which is considered very late, and had only 51 amateur fights before turning professional. Take his opponent last week Oleksandr Usyk for example – Usyk had 350 amateur bouts before turning pro, meaning he could properly hone his ring savvy, sublime skills and terrifying technique.
Joshua on the other hand was on a mission – two fights after Martin he was pitted against one of the most dominant heavyweights in a generation, Wladimir Klitschko. An epic night at Wembley ensued with both fighters being floored before Joshua managed an 11th round knockout which ended Klitschko’s career and secured the WBA and IBO world titles in the process.
Two fights later and still undefeated, Joshua beat Joseph Parker to take home the WBO heavyweight title but with only the WBC title to grasp, it would be his 23rd fight and debut in America that saw Joshua’s flaws exposed. Beaten convincingly by an out of shape Andy Ruiz Jr., Joshua lost his titles on a shock night in New York.
Six months later and a much better performance in the rematch, Joshua became a two-time world champion with his sights then firmly set on the WBC belt, which was contested in a trilogy of spectacular fights between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. Another win against Kubrat Pulev set Joshua up for a very dangerous first fight with Usyk, the undisputed cruiserweight world champion, who after conquering that division undefeated, was moving up weight category to heavyweight.
On a bad night for Joshua at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Usyk put on a clinic of technical boxing and had Joshua rocked in the 12th. The scorecards were unanimous, Joshua had lost his 2nd professional fight along with his world titles.
After changing his trainer, Joshua was much improved in the Usyk rematch. More technically astute and less risk averse to letting his fists fly, Joshua had Usyk in trouble in the 9th but was not able to capitalise. The Ukrainian then put on a display of boxing that bamboozled Joshua for the final three rounds and despite Joshua’s feelings post-fight, Usyk was the clear winner.
The shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. was a blip, but two consecutive losses against an opponent who outfought, outthought, and ultimately outclassed Joshua on both occasions has left the Watford native somewhat in the heavyweight world title wilderness. The road back to the triumph and titles AJ has enjoyed for much of his professional career could be a long one but one thing that is certain, the landscape of the heavyweight division has shifted and Joshua’s bid to dominate this era of heavyweight boxing is all but over. With Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk already in talks for a colossal unification bout, which could well be one of the highest grossing sporting events of all time, what is next for Anthony Joshua?
It’s not as if Joshua is without options – he is of course a prize fighter of the highest calibre, still capable of packing stadiums and drawing in the highly coveted pay-per-view purchases. However, with his pugilistic prowess in question and attention turned to Fury and Usyk, there are still potentially some big fight nights available depending on what the Joshua camp chooses to do next.
With so many options available to Anthony Joshua, where does he go from here? Former WBC challenger Dillian Whyte, current WBO mandatory challenger Joe Joyce and current WBA mandatory challenger Daniel Dubois have all been mooted as potential opponents and those are just the British fighters lying in wait!
These three British fighters all offer a serious threat to AJ; Whyte had Joshua stunned in their first fight and he’s a far more accomplished fighter now after bouts with the likes of Fury, Povetkin and Parker. Joe Joyce is technically gifted, has fast hands with devastating knockout power and great footwork – he could be an absolute nightmare for Anthony Joshua, with many commentators feeling Joyce is the better fighter. Out of the three, Dubois would probably pose the least threat to Joshua. Still a class fighter with his career on the up, Dubois is far from the finished article and a fight with Joshua could be a highly explosive encounter.
International opponents aren’t short of supply either. ‘The Bronze Bomber’, Deontay Wilder who possesses the deadliest right hand in the sport of boxing is already a favourite to be Joshua’s next opponent. Having lost the epic trilogy with Tyson Fury, Wilder returns to the ring in October against Robert Helenius which could then pave the way for a first meeting with Joshua. Win against Wilder and another title shot would be round the corner, but should AJ lose to Wilder that would spell almost certain retirement.
Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic is a rapidly rising star in the heavyweight division, Cuban veteran Luis Ortiz is still throwing bombs at 43, American Michael Hunter has also risen quietly through the ranks and Finland’s Robert Helenius has also been mentioned as a candidate to be Joshua’s next opponent.
The options for Joshua are plentiful and so long as there is still the chance of a generational fight with Tyson Fury, retirement for AJ is not an option. Although this chance is somewhat diminished on accounts of AJ’s recent defeats and Fury’s supposed retirement, if Fury fights and defeats Usyk to become undisputed champion of the world, the riches a fight with AJ could deliver might be too tempting for ‘The Gypsy King’ to turn down.
Whatever Joshua chooses next, he has left an indelible mark on British boxing and alongside Tyson Fury, propelled the sport to new levels of popularity in the UK. After years in the doldrums, Anthony Joshua helped bring the prestige and glamour back to heavyweight boxing and he has helped inspire a generation of young boxing talent here in the UK.
With so many highly anticipated fights now happening here in Britain, take advantage of the boxing boom and see what all the fuss is about. Huge fights like Connor Benn v Chris Eubank Jr., Savannah Marshall v Clarissa Shields and Joe Joyce v Joseph Parker all take place this Autumn and you can experience all the explosive action live and in person.