FEATURE: Is Anthony Joshua overrated?

BY: Bernard Neequaye

Last night was another unpleasant one for former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, who suffered another upset defeat in his bright career.

Ukrainian southpaw Oleksander Usyk ended the British reign as world champion with a masterclass that shocked the entire world.

Usyk had dominated Joshua from the opening bell to the last round and before the scorecards were announced, every boxing fan knew that boxing has produced a new heavyweight sensation.

I was impressed with the Ukrainian not because of his dominant display but the fact that he was making his heavyweight championship bow against one of the greatest in the division.

Usyk, before this emphatic victory, had dominated the cruiserweight division and coming up against Joshua in his maiden attempt at becoming a two-division champion wasn’t an easy task.

The Ukrainian just like Joshua had stellar amateur careers by winning gold medals at the 2012 Olympic Games. While Joshua won gold at super heavyweight, Usyk took his at heavyweight and both turned pro after the global sporting showpiece.

When his bout with Joshua was announced, I decided to watch his previous fights and it was then I realised why he was undefeated in pro career.

Joshua’s struggles

Usyk’s victory proved to me what many boxing enthusiasts feel about Joshua. I am not here to discredit the Briton’s achievement but the question remains whether he is overrated.

His two career defeats could make people believe that assertion because they were not against any of the top fighters in the heavyweight division.

When Joshua lost to Andy Ruiz in June 2016, many felt it was just a bad night for him and the sport and that was believed when he avenged that defeat six months later in Saudi Arabia.

In his subsequent bout against Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev, he recorded a knockout victory to prove a point but why does Joshua struggle under pressure?

Against Usyk on Saturday night, Joshua struggled to keep up with an intense pressure from the Ukrainian. His chin was tested on numerous occasion and proved to be a bad one.

Joshua hasn’t been able to convince me as the best of the heavyweight division having failed to take on any of the elite boxers in the division — Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.

At least the other two elites have slugged it out twice and are waiting to make their trilogy bow on October 9.
That is what boxing lovers want to see from the three best fighters to make the division lively.

Joshua v Fury in jeopardy

Before Joshua accepted to fight Usyk, he was ready to clash with WBC titlist Tyson Fury but the bout fell through after Deontay Wilder activated a rematch clause with Fury.

Fury had wanted to unify all the four heavyweight titles with Joshua for the undisputed championship but Wilder went to court to compel him to honour their third bout.

Despite the ruling by the court, Matchroom Promotions, promoters of Joshua, held on to the believe that the bout with Fury could take place after the Wilder fight but as it stands now, that could be a fallacy.

With Joshua losing his belts to Usyk, Fury could opt to fight the Ukrainian for the undisputed championship instead if he is able to go past Wilder for the second time.

That could mean Joshua’s much anticipated bout with Fury could be in doubt. Also, I doubt if Wilder could pursue him should he reclaim his WBC crown from Fury knowing how the Briton had avoided him over the years.

It is going to be a difficult situation for Joshua without his belts and I believe his managers will quickly start arranging for a rematch with Usyk in an attempt to get his titles back.

Until that, I don’t see either Fury or Wilder fighting Joshua anytime soon. The next is to wait for the outcome of the Wilder v Fury III on October 9.