Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2: AJ makes Muhammad Ali claim about first fight

Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2: AJ makes Muhammad Ali claim about first fight

Anthony Joshua has revealed that he thought he was winning last September’s heavyweight fight against Oleksandr Usyk ahead of the rematch next month.

This will come as a surprise to many, as Joshua was outfought by the Ukrainian southpaw and was well beaten on the night.

Joshua is a supremely confident character, but it is strange to think he did not realise that he was losing almost every round at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

His dismay at the defeat may seem to boxing fans as a self-preservation tactic, but the quotes from yesterday’s press conference promoting the fight sound as though Joshua genuinely believed he was in control in the loss over the undefeated Usyk.

Joshua recalled the events of the fight last year to the media, stating: “I swear I thought I was looking like Muhammad Ali in there. I can show you sparring footage where I’m on the ropes leaning.

“Throughout the fight I thought I was winning but at that stage [by the 12th round] I kind of knew it was close. I thought at that stage I was well in the fight because it didn’t seem like there was any real communication as to where I’m at; like ‘you’re losing this fight… you’re down by two rounds’. I didn’t get that.

Read more: Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk 2: Date, Card, UK Start Time, Ring Walks, Tickets, Live Stream, Odds and More

Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2: AJ makes Muhammad Ali claim about first fight
Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2: AJ makes Muhammad Ali claim about first fight

“I’m not blaming anyone by saying that, but I didn’t get any impression that I was losing the fight. I thought we were well in it. That’s why when they announced the name I was kind of like ‘huh?’ It was all just ‘that’s it, keep on going’. So I was jabbing and jabbing. It was hard to accept afterwards. Now when I watch it back I think he won by three rounds, that’s probably from the ninth onwards.”

This comes despite all three judges ruling in Usyk’s favour, with scorecards of 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113.

Now that the dust has settled on the first fight between the pair and Joshua has had time to reflect, the Olympic gold medallist concedes that he did lose the fight; although perhaps not as badly as many would think.

While Usyk deserves enormous praise for the way that he outboxed his opponent, there are perhaps some contributing factors to Joshua’s underwhelming performance.

Firstly, the fight came at a time when Joshua’s much-hyped battle with Tyson Fury had been cancelled after looking the most likely it ever has due to a legal issue with Deontay Wilder. This meant that, as the unified heavyweight champion, Joshua had to fight the mandatory challenger.

Up stepped the undefeated Usyk.

Joshua, simply nicknamed AJ, was a heavy favourite going into the fight and was expected to sweep Usyk aside before looking ahead to his next challenge. However, the Ukrainian was determined not to be walked over and history shows us that he stepped up to the challenge with aplomb.

Perhaps underestimating the Ukrainian, who goes by the nickname of The Cat, coupled with a lack of preparation, was Joshua’s biggest downfall.

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Joshua’s corner received their fair share of criticism following the surprise defeat, too, with their lack of communication with their fighter a strange feature of the fight.

Joshua’s head trainer for the showcase event was Rob McCracken, and Joshua explained his corner’s shortcomings yesterday.

Joshua was quick to add that he wasn’t blaming anyone, but the fact that he has replaced McCracken with Robert Garcia tells you perhaps all you need to know about where AJ attributes at least some of the blame for what happened on that September night.

One thing is for sure, though, Joshua will not want to be embarrassed twice. He is sure to have left no stone unturned in his preparation for Usyk this time round and will be keen for retribution.

Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua 2: AJ makes Muhammad Ali claim about first fight
LONDON, ENGLAND – JUNE 29: Anthony Joshua reacts as they talk to the media during the Oleksandr Usyk v Anthony Joshua 2 Press Conference on June 29, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

A win may not even be enough for Joshua, it feels as though he needs to put on a show for the spectators in order to atone for the humbling he received at the hands of Usyk last time out.

Will Joshua put things right, or will Usyk prove too savvy once more? We will find out on August 20 when the two heavyweights do battle in Saudi Arabia.

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