The Anthony Joshua Story: How will he be remembered?
Watford warrior Anthony Joshua has been one of the most dominant forces in the heavyweight boxing scene for the past half-decade. The London-raised world champion has notched up an impressive 24-3 record with 22 of those victories coming by way of knockout. His accolades are plentiful, including four world titles, an Olympic gold medal, and consecutive ‘Fighter of the Year’ awards in 2017 and 2019.
However, it has been a few years since Joshua’s last truly impressive victory. There have been predictable wins over the likes of Charles Martin and Eric Molina, but they have done little to convince the boxing world that he is still the best. The fight, and surprise upset, against Andy Ruiz Jr. was an effective wake-up call for Joshua.
A sports betting platform, Bovada, where you can bet boxing and other combat sports, had made the Brit a huge favorite for his title defense against the unheralded Mexican-American challenger in New York City. But as we all remember, the reigning champion was stunned, with Ruiz picking up a seventh-round knockout victory and the heavyweight gold.
That performance revealed a number of weaknesses in his style – such as a suspect chin – and opened the door for other contenders.
As we all remember, AJ redeemed himself for that loss. His cautious approach – similar to the one employed in his unification victory over Joseph Parker – worked wonders in the rematch against Ruiz in Saudi Arabia. Six months on from that jaw-dropping defeat in Madison Square Garden, he regained his unified heavyweight championship of the world via a wide unanimous decision. He would defend the titles one more time with a convincing knockout victory over Bulgarian contender Kubrat Pulev.
But it didn’t take long for the London 2012 Olympic gold medalist’s heavyweight reign to come to an end. In his first bout against the former undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk lacked intensity and ambition and as such, succumbed to the second defeat of his career. In the rematch, he showed plenty of heart and desire but simply lacked the talent to compete with the gifted Ukrainian, once again losing via unanimous decision.
Three defeats in his last five bouts have caused many pundits to speculate that Joshua will soon be surpassed by the younger generation of heavyweights if he hasn’t already.
If you look at some of his recent fight statistics, it's not hard to see why many believe he is on the decline. For example, in the first Usyk bout, he connected with just 19.2% of punches thrown. Compare that to the 43% he landed on former heavyweight kingpin Wladimir Klitschko four years prior, and it's clear to see why the critics are mounting.
Furthermore, fans of boxing have long been critical of Joshua for his lack of experience in the ring. Despite his impressive achievements, it's worth remembering that, in his nine years as a professional, he has only fought a total of 27 times. This suggests that Joshua is yet to reach his full potential in the ring and that his future success will likely depend on whether or not he can acquire the necessary experience and boxing IQ to become a true great.
There are still plenty of money fights out there for AJ. The world would still love to see him square off against current WBC Heavyweight Champion and fellow Brit Tyson Fury. With or without the championship belts on the line.
Fans would also salivate at the prospect of AJ squaring off against knockout artist Deontay Wilder. That fight was originally planned for the undisputed world heavyweight championship, but the fight never materialized and both fighters eventually lost their title belts.
Then there is Dillian Whyte. The Body Snatcher has proven that he is a very capable contender at heavyweight. He has beaten the likes of Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker, and one of the very few blemishes on the record is against Joshua. The pair have a very public disdain for each other, and that fight would be a money spinner in the UK.
But it does look increasingly likely that Joshua's glory days are behind him. Very few people wish to see a third bout against Usyk, and even fewer believe that AJ would pick up the victory. Fans instead are now clamoring for the undisputed bout between the Ukrainian and Tyson Fury, the winner of which would become the first Undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis over two decades ago.
At the end of the day, whether or not Anthony Joshua will be remembered as one of the greats is still up for debate. He's certainly had his moments in the spotlight, but his recent performances have done little to suggest he will remain at the top of the heavyweight scene for much longer.
Will he be remembered? Only time will tell. One thing's for sure, though – it's been a great ride.