Joshua: Mental depression or lack of mentality?

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Boxing in last weekend’s heavyweight blockbuster was somewhat overshadowed by Anthony Joshua’s post-fight rant. Did he suffer a concussion, have a nervous breakdown, or did he lose his media-trained persona for once to show more of the real character? I’m afraid I think it was more of the latter, let me elaborate.

For the record, my money this time was on a stop by Usyk. I thought Garcia and his team would have made Joshua realize the need to press early and bully the smaller man. I thought Usyk would ride out an early storm and Joshua would melt in the heat. Well, there was no early thunderstorm and the building appeared to be air conditioned, so I’ll show you what I know. Usyk, having presumably been on a diet of bugs in between rifle cleanings in the trenches, seemed less confident in his own conditioning this time around. He never really put much weight behind his shots, happy to just send and confuse Joshua where he could, while conserving his energy. He did it convincingly enough for a clear verdict, but with a tough moment or two.

Usyk’s strategy matched his less than stellar prep fight. What is Joshua’s excuse then? We have to give him some brownie points, he was better than Fight 1. He looked more of a boxer and a bit less of a bodybuilder, so maybe he made some tweaks in the right direction. However, he remained far too cautious against the considerably smaller man. We heard some weird comments from him that Usyk was lucky to be left-handed, otherwise it would have been different. It is assumed that he and his coaches got the note on this and had enough time to prepare. At the end of the fight in a scenario that reminded me of Tyson-Holyfield II, the loser seemed to want to fight after the fight, when he hadn’t attempted to fight during the actual fight!

The moment he confronted Usyk saying “you’re not strong, how did you beat me?” was one of the weirdest things I’ve seen in a ring. Boxing is first and foremost a skill – to quote his own vernacular – he used those skills and took you to school bro! Maybe Joshua should fight Hafthor Bjornsson next and after Bjornsson’s loss he should face Joshua with “you’re not strong, how did you beat me?”

At the end of round 3 I was somewhat surprised when Joshua’s corner kick told him he was fine and leading 3-0!!! He barely threw a punch in the first, I gave him the second and he lost the third. He was trailing 2-1. Why was his corner blowing smoke up his ass? Did they know that at least one of the judges was in the pocket? Were they blind? Or were they aware that their fighter had limited confidence in his own abilities and felt they had to pander to him to perform at his best? If the latter, it seems a rather dangerous game to play. Had they told him he was winning all along, thus triggering his anger in the end?

This is not my conclusion. If anything, I suspect some discord in the camp. No one came to rescue him in the end and take the mic off him while he was doing boobs in front of the world, after all. However, there were some home truths to his rant. The real bombshell of truth was when he started talking about Dempsey, Tyson, Marciano et al and then said he couldn’t do what they did because he was 18th not 14th (for the American readers, it’s 252 books and not 196 books). The killer truth bombshell was “I’m not a 12-gun fighter bro”.

The first thing that comes to mind is that those 15 round fighters must have been amazing(!), but other than that he tells us he can’t fight 12 rounds at a high level. He is an anaerobic power athlete. I have a certain sympathy, BUT, there is more than one but.

First of all, if you’ve conceded that point and you have the much smaller Usyk in front of you, why not fight hard for six rounds and try to knock him out? Since you will always lose points in this life, if you do everything for everything you will considerably increase your chances of victory and if that fails at least you have given everything? He has the attributes but was clearly terrified of rolling the dice (sigh).

Second, prepare better!!! It was only a few weeks ago that another 400m championship winner had to be carried off the track due to his efforts. Joshua just doesn’t have that mentality. He should be helped after his sport-specific conditioning sessions. Train deadly, fight easily! Is he really pushing himself in training to the degree he needs? Considering his desire to fight after the fight and not during it, the answer has to be an emphatic no.

He is clearly very talented but seems destined to never max it out due to his attitude. If Marvelous Marvin Hagler had Joshua’s laissez-faire attitude towards engagement, he never would have beaten Hitman Hearns. Sometimes you have to mobilize and take risks. If he wants to get some respect back, he should fight Wilder next. Oh and don’t let Hearn overstate himself this time around. You’re already rich – if you’re serious, meet in the middle and fight!

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