Anthony Joshua: The Voices From Within
For all the talk about too many voices in his ear, there is probably only one voice that will determine if Anthony Joshua is to reverse what Oleksandr Usyk did to him last year. The voices in his own head. You can lie to others, but you can’t lie to yourself. You can blame others for your demise, but responsibility comes from within.
The decision to dispose of the old might well pay dividends for Joshua in the rematch with Usyk. Joshua will likely have had one eye on his domestic rival Tyson Fury in his recent decision-making process. Fury dispensed with the services of Ben Davison prior to his rematch with Deontay Wilder. It looked like an act of cruelty, an unforgivable act of disloyalty. But Fury knew he had to change. Joshua will be hoping, praying even, for similar results.
You didn’t need the benefit of hindsight to know that the mixed messages and the many voices would lead to an inevitable break up of the Joshua inner circle once it ended in tears and the usual predictable game of blame, denial and delusion. If there was doubt in the corner, they shouldn’t haven’t been there in the first place.
Changing the team is nothing new in boxing after a defeat. Akin to blaming making weight after an unexpected setback, it is an excuse that has been rolled out many times. Too many. Often it is nothing more than a convenient excuse. Joshua saying he needed his corner to tell him he was losing against Usyk is a claim that is borderline absurd. Joshua must have been the only one there who didn’t know what was happening inside that ring.
There has always been a certain frailty about Joshua, despite his promoter doing the boxing spin on his boxing resume. The disaster in New York was always coming, the only surprise was that it was Andy Ruiz who sprung it.
Joshua got his revenge over Ruiz, but he had the look of a fighter battling his own inner demons. The look of someone who was about to unravel at any given moment. To his credit, Joshua saw the fight out, but Ruiz played his part in not bothering to turn up in anything near resembling fighting shape. In truth, Ruiz made it easy for him.
The resume has always been built up to something it isn’t. The great mythical list of opponents he has beaten on his way to his world heavyweight titles. Joshua is a good heavyweight in an era of, Fury and Usyk aside, distinctly average contenders. Nothing more. And you wonder after two devastating defeats if Joshua now realises that also. Mind over matter. The mind will matter greatly in the rematch with Usyk.
Joshua has all the physical advantages over a fighter who is a champion of many things. But bigger is not always better. The tactics in the first fight were all wrong on many levels, and Joshua will no doubt come into the rematch heavier and far more aggressive. In simple terms, he will look to put it on Usyk. It might not be the all-or-nothing approach some would want, but Joshua will surely set about making those physical advantages count. At least he hopes.
But will the extra aggressiveness bring about his downfall in a quicker and much more emphatic manner? Joshua, as they say in the trade, goes over a little too easy. And with a fighter who isn’t blessed with the greatest gas tank in the world, Joshua may well have to stop Usyk to win. And quickly.
It is not quite everything on the line for Joshua in Saudi Arabia, but it’s not far off. Heavyweights, certainly one with the box office appeal Joshua has, can nearly always be repackaged to come again. But the stock will still inevitably drop if Joshua loses again, and more so if this time Usyk does it with more force than guile. Will Joshua even want to come back to experience more of the same? I have my doubts.
Joshua is 32, and new trainer or not, it is difficult to see how much can be changed. Robert Garcia could be what he needs, but can he train out the voices of doubt that must lie deep within Joshua. What Joshua needs to defeat someone of the calibre of Usyk may be beyond change. Some things just can’t be fixed.
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing