By: Sean Crose
Oleksandr Usyk surprised a whole lot of people on Saturday when he bested Anthony Joshua on Joshua’s home turf of Great Britain. It was something to see. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion simply controlled the tempo of most of the fight. Whenever Joshua appeared to be asserting himself, Usyk would zing him with an impressive shot before the round was over. By the end of the twelfth and final chapter AJ looked as if he might need the referee to step in and save him. The towering Englishman not only lost the fight. He got beat up in the process.
Yet to write Joshua off after such a brutal loss would be ridiculous.
Here’s a guy who got concussed by Andy Ruiz in his American debut before the significantly under-rated Ruiz won Joshua’s heavyweight title belts off him. Make no mistake about it, Ruiz’ win over Joshua was a lot more surprising that Usyk’s. And Joshua made the needed adjustments, came back, and won his titles back from Ruiz six months later. That’s something to keep in mind, even with the knowledge that Usyk may well be a considerably better fighter than Ruiz is. Still, whether it’s losing his belts in Madison Square Garden, or getting dropped by Wladimir Klitschko, or missing out on a “sure deal” fight with Tyson Fury, Joshua has always been able to get back on his feet.
That doesn’t mean Joshua will return and best Usyk in the rematch the two are said to be contractually obligated to have. The truth is that right now it’s hard to say with any certainty that any of the top heavyweights can best the Ukrainian master – and that includes Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder. Usyk, however, is a special fighter. Guys like him are hard to beat. Fortunately, it appears fans might once again be willing to give fighters with a couple of losses on their resume’s a chance. When the smoke clears, Anthony Joshua may not be standing at the top of the heavyweight heap – but he’ll most certainly have been in the mix.
“Well done to the winner,” Joshua said at the post fight press conference, “and we’ll be back again.” Joshua had a damaged eye as a result of the Usyk fight, but still appeared to have a positive attitude. “We progress from this point on,” he said. No matter what happens in the future, there no reason in the world not to believe him. If anything, Joshua has shown repeatedly that he’s able to learn from bad experiences.
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