RIATH AL-SAMARRAI: Witnessing Anthony Joshua trying to catch Oleksandr Usyk was akin to watching a man try to catch an eel between two lumps of butter… He has an awful lot to solve
- Anthony Joshua has a lot to prove if he ever finally takes on Tyson Fury
- Joshua lost the world heavyweight title to Oleksandr Usyk . by unanimous decision
- It will take a lot to get Joshua back together after these most humiliating losses
In the final 15 seconds, trapped between hanging ropes on his back and a haze of hard fists covering his eyes, Anthony Joshua managed to smile. It was a smile of the damned if there ever was one.
He lost the fight, the second of his career, and the bulk of £200m may have just come with it.
It will sting everywhere. There will be the sting from the huge bruise under his right eye and the sting from that busted nose. And there will be the sting of what else is gone, which can be listed in order as his cherished belts for the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO world heavyweight titles, and then the small company of the big fight we’re on. all have given so much time to confer.
Anthony Joshua’s defeat to Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday and the loss of his belts will hurt
Tyson Fury. Will it ever happen? And if so, will it ever become what we wanted it to be?
As for the first, maybe it can. Perhaps it will follow one of those redemptive storylines, the culmination of revenge on Oleksandr Usyk at a distant date.
We’ve seen it before in this sport. Often actually. There will always be a market for Joshua and Fury, just like there was a market for Manny Pacquiao and a market for Mike Tyson. They had their falls and they, we, still had their fights with Floyd Mayweather and Lennox Lewis.
Will Joshua’s fight with Tyson Fury happen? He has a lot to solve before we ever find out
But it wasn’t the same. And if Joshua dusts himself enough, a fight with Fury won’t be the same either. It was meant to go for £100m a pop, two fights. But it will take much to get Joshua back together after this most humiliating defeat to the brilliant power of Usyk, who won all titles at cruiserweight and now owns all but one in the land of the giants.
How he dominated this battle with his deceit. With his tactical superiority, his movement and his ability to launch those left-handers into Joshua’s jaw. Sometimes watching Joshua try to catch him with his beige gloves, to pin him down, was like watching a man try to catch an eel between two lumps of butter.
A question at this point about Joshua’s approach. How? Why? For a while we could see and appreciate progress and maturity in his conservative style. He stayed behind, he waited. Do you remember the first Andy Ruiz fight, to which Joshua succumbed to too many setbacks forward? This resembled the sophistication of a model – curbing instincts, curbing aggression. We saw it in Ruiz’s rematch and we also saw extra patience against Kubrat Pulev last time.
It will take a lot to get Joshua back together after this most humiliating defeat
But this was not. What initially passed for something measured and controlled soon took on the appearance of something lost and desperate. By the sixth, Joshua had barely dealt a punch. By the eighth his nose was bleeding. On the 10th his left eye was almost closed and by the 11th he clearly needed a knockout. Other than the odd decent shot, he never came close to 36 minutes in extremely talented company.
In time, we’ll again wonder how he could stack up against Fury. But for so many reasons, that will now be in doubt, not least because of one question: if he couldn’t come close to being a slick cruiserweight genius, how can he be expected to be a smooth-moving giant?
He has a lot to solve before we ever find out. If we ever find out.
If Joshua can’t come close to a smooth-moving cruiserweight, how can he compete with a smooth-moving giant?