RIATH AL-SAMARRAI: Watching Anthony Joshua try to catch Oleksandr Usyk was akin to watching a man trying to catch an eel between two sticks of butter… He has an awful lot to solve
- Anthony Joshua has a lot to prove if he is to ever finally take on Tyson Fury
- Joshua lost world heavyweight belts to Oleksandr Usyk by unanimous decision
- It will take a lot to put Joshua together again after this most humbling of losses
In the final 15 seconds, as he was caught between sagging ropes at his back and a blur of hard fists in front of his eyes, Anthony Joshua managed a smile. It was a smile of the damned if ever there was one.
He lost the fight, the second of his career, and the better part of £200million may have just gone with it.
It will sting all over. There will be the sting of the huge bruise under his right eye and the sting of that busted nose. And there will be the sting of what else has disappeared, which in order can be listed as his treasured belts for the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO world heavyweight titles, and then the small business of the big fight to which we have all given so much time in discussing.
Anthony Joshua’s defeat to Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday and the loss of his belts will sting
Tyson Fury. Will it ever happen? And if it does, will it ever be what we wanted it to be?
On the matter of the former, maybe it can. Maybe it will follow one of those redemptive story arcs, the culmination of revenge over Oleksandr Usyk in some far off date.
We have seen it before in this sport. Many times, actually. There will always be a market for Joshua and Fury, just as 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 off sufficiently, 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 a lot to put Joshua together again after this most humbling of defeats against the brilliant force of Usyk, who won all the belts at cruiserweight and now holds all bar one in the land of the giants.
How he dominated this fight with his guile. With his tactical superiority, his movement, and his ability to launch that southpaw left into Joshua’s jaw. At times watching Joshua trying to catch him with his beige gloves, to pin him down, was something akin to watching a man trying to catch an eel between two sticks of butter.
A question at this point about Joshua’s approach. How? Why? For a time, we could see and appreciate progress and maturity in his conservative style. He stayed back, he waited. Remember the first Andy Ruiz fight, to which Joshua succumbed through too many misadventures forward? This looked like the refinement of a model – the restraining of instincts, the curbing of aggression. We saw it in the Ruiz rematch and we also saw added patience against Kubrat Pulev last time out.
It will take a lot to push Joshua together again following this most humbling of defeats
But this wasn’t that. What initially passed for something measured and controlled quickly took on the appearance of something lost and desperate. By the sixth Joshua had barely landed a punch. By the eighth his nose was bleeding. By the 10th his left eye was almost closed and by the 11th he very clearly needed a knockout. Barring the odd decent shot, he just never came close across 36 minutes in extremely talented company.
In time we will wonder again how he might get on against Fury. But for so many reasons there will be a doubt around any of that now, not least because of one question: if he couldn’t get close to a slick-moving genius up from cruiserweight, how can he be expected to out-dance a slick-moving giant?
He has an awful lot to solve before we ever find out. If we ever find out.
If Joshua is unable to get close to a slick moving cruiserweight, how can he compete against a slick moving giant?