Anthony Joshua, who was one of the world’s most feared boxers about six years ago, has lost confidence such that every decent heavyweight feels he can beat the former champion.
Joshua, the former heavyweight unified champion and star in England, turned back a game Jermaine Franklin of Michigan over 12 rounds earlier this month at O2 Arena in London. It was Joshua’s first win since suffering back-to-back defeats to current unified champion, Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine.
But the boxing world was not impressed by the Nigerian-born boxer’s display.
Like many in the boxing world, Swedish heavyweight contender, Otto Wallin, wasn’t overly impressed by Joshua’s latest performance in the ring.
Critics have been divided on how to grade his performance, especially given it was his first fight under the stewardship of new trainer, Derrick James. Some—even his own promoter, Eddie Hearn—have suggested Joshua appeared gun-shy and hesitant at times. Joshua, moreover, weighed 255 ¼ pounds, the heaviest of his career.
Wallin, who has been something of a perennial candidate to face Joshua, is very much of the opinion that Joshua is no longer the same fighter that he once was, saying his “confidence” has been totally ruined. Piggybacking on a widely-held theory that Joshua was irrevocably changed after his brutal tussle with Wladimir Klitschko and knockout loss to Andy Ruiz, Wallin believes Joshua has become something of a basket case inside the ring.
“I don’t think his physique has changed,” Wallin told iD Boxing. “I think it’s more his mental game. I think he’s lost a lot of confidence. You know, maybe it started when he had that tear-up with Klitschko and you know he knocked Klitschko down, and he got knocked down, it was a really tough fight. Came out with a knockout win but then fought Ruiz, had him down, and then went after him, and then got caught himself and then ultimately got knocked out. So, I think it has a lot to do with confidence. I think his confidence is really shot, and I think he really cares about what people think of him and what they expect of him. I think it’s all mental (with Joshua), to be honest.
“Looking back, maybe he shouldn’t have come in so heavy. What does it matter how heavy you punch if you can’t hit the guy? Maybe it slows him down a little bit. Maybe he gets worried about his cardio when he’s heavy. So, I think that, I didn’t see a big difference, but maybe it’s better for him if he’s lighter. It’s not all about how much you weigh. You gotta have the speed, the timing, and the stamina to really perform.”
Wallin, who is backed by Detroit-based promoter Dmitry Salita, hopes he will get the nod to face Joshua at some point.
Another fighter, who thinks Joshua has lost his fear factor is Tony Bellew.
Bellew, who believes Joshua has signed to hold out for a Tyson Fury fight in December, says fighting the Gypsy king so soon is a risky venture for AJ.
After the Franklin fight, ‘AJ’ was expected and advised to take another fight under new coach, James, before targetting the division’s top dogs.
He surprised fans and analysts by going against this, announcing that he would be back in the ring in December rather than July as previously promised.
“My thinking, from the outside looking in, it’s Fury. I can’t dress it up as anything else.
Fury’s obviously got to have a fight. He probably said ‘I want another fight before I fight AJ’ and it wouldn’t surprise me if they said you (AJ) can’t have a fight in the interim because we don’t want you to risk anything,” Bellew said.
Something that might buoy the theory is that Eddie Hearn recently said Fury-Joshua was a fight that would be made behind closed doors given that the very public negotiations were at the heart of it failing in the past.
Meanwhile, some important persons in Fury’s corner are not sure Joshua will get a fight from the Gypsy King.
Fury could be offered a British battle with Joe Joyce this summer, but there have been no fresh talks about a fight against Joshua, says promoter George Warren.
Warren has not completely ruled out a possible fight between Fury and Usyk and has backed Joe Joyce to become part of that heavyweight conversation
Warren insists he ‘has not heard anything’ from Joshua’s camp about a blockbuster all-British clash with Fury, as he touted Joyce as a potential opponent for the WBC heavyweight champion.
Fury has been left without fight after negotiations broke down with Usyk about a proposed undisputed world title bout on April 29.