Where does Anthony Joshua go next? Well, according to him he gets back to training, ready for the next challenge.
And that challenge is a mandatory rematch, isn’t it?
Hold on there, hold on. Business says yes, of course it does. Boxing says it’s not as simple as that. If Anthony Joshua goes back into a fight with Oleksandr Usyk, I believe he will be soundly beaten.
Anthony Joshua is a real athlete. A high level athlete. And he has said he wanted to beat Usyk by boxing. Bad choice. Because on Saturday night, at Tottenham’s ground, 68,000 saw him thoroughly outboxed.
AJ isn’t one dimensional. He’s a great fighter. But Usyk is a great boxer and he showed it.
Joshua possibly won 2 rounds in the middle of the fight, which raised false hopes, but Usyk just went up a gear and AJ couldn’t.
At the end of the fight, Usyk visited Joshua on his stool, because AJ couldn’t get up. Yes, some have said he had an injured right arm and that’s a reason for his tentative attack, but Tony Bellew has apparently said he saw AJ spar a significant number of rounds late on in his camp and didn’t raise any concerns.
And let’s remember, Joshua could do only what Usyk let him do. And that wasn’t much. This wasn’t an overweight Andy Ruiz presenting a more or less sitting target, Usyk had fantastic head movement throughout the match and more than that.
His movement was wonderful, that much was apparent when he danced away from AJ on the back foot early on. The champ stood in the centre of the ring, almost flat-footed whilst the challenger buzzed around him; you don’t need to the centre of the ring when you can control the rest of it.
Usyk thoroughly deserved that win and Joshua seemed to know it; he’s a balanced character who will come again. But on that night, he was out performed by someone with greater ring acumen than him. So what are his next moves?
The easiest option. Usyk will have no reason to dodge AJ, after all, he didn’t win by fluke or hang on to flop over the line. He will want another chance to show his quality.
But Joshua’s trainer, Rob McCracken, will have to train him totally differently. In fact, he will have to make him into a totally different fighter.
Never mind the complaints that McCracken picked the wrong tactics. AJ is a certain type of fighter and Usyk exposed the inadequacies of that on Saturday. Can he become a different fighter?
I don’t believe he can. If he hasn’t got the fast footwork and the constant head movement, he isn’t going to be able to learn it. You are either a real boxer or you are a fighter. AJ is a fighter. He can’t become a brilliant boxer.
Tyson Fury and others have suggested he should get on Usyk early, an all out barrage from the off to get him out of there. It takes balls to do it, it accepts you’re not a fighter which AJ might not accept and one other thing.
It needs a really good engine, stupendous stamina, don’t think Joshua has shown that; he made a concerted effort in the middle of the Usyk fight and after that, when his opponent went through the gears, he was stuck in third.
This will surely be the option chosen, but it isn’t smart.
Tyson Fury is expected to deal with Wilder. If he doesn’t, all bets are off because a rematch will be necessary.
But if he does as is expected, AJ might see this as less of a tricky opponent, someone less troublesome, less of a cruiserweight, more of a big puncher.
Fury will fancy this fight. Why? He has a good chin, whilst AJ is perhaps a little light on and he has more boxing acumen. Balls too. Cohones. Grapefruits.
He’ll decide on a tactical plan, no matter how interesting and stick to it. And he doesn’t conform to what is expected, he does what he wants.
Is this a better fight for AJ? It’s a different fight. He has a puncher’s chance, but that’s harder with someone who comes at you from his own unique angle; that’s part of Fury’s charm.
There’s trouble with this choice too, but a big payday, bigger than a Usyk fight. If that’s what really matters.
The AJ Tour
AJ could go on a fight tour. Take matches against other, perhaps up and coming heavyweights, as a kind of mea culpa for the recent loss or a very public attempt to become a different fighter.
As a sellable fighter, this has great possibilities. Who wouldn’t salivate at a match with Joe Joyce or Daniel Dubois?
A shootout with Dillian Whyte would be a great night out and imagine AJ schooling, avoiding, taking punches from Alen Babic, an inexperienced war machine of a fighter who doesn’t want a fight to go long and who pleases mightily.
AJ has surely made plenty of cash. He can afford to feed his boxing soul. And in the long term, it’s smart, this is him deciding to rebuild himself as a boxer, to step down from the title picture because he wants to, not because he is forced to.
Which is sadly something I see happening if he fights Usyk or Fury.
So What’s Next?
I could be wrong. I often am. And that’s a beauty of boxing. On any given night, one man or woman can turn it on and win against the odds. AJ might. Boxers like Usyk don’t come around too often. Neither do fighters like Fury.
Anthony Joshua has the misfortune to be around when they are both here too.