Anthony Joshua apparently doesn't hold the boxing public in the same high regard as he once did earlier in his career.
The former heavyweight titlist from England is coming off a brutal one-punch knockout over late-notice replacement Robert Helenius in the seventh round last Saturday night at The O2 Arena in London. Joshua’s original opponent, Dillian Whyte, was nixed from the fight after it was announced he had failed a voluntary drug test.
The win marks Joshua’s second in a row since his back-to-back defeats to unified WBO, WBA, IBF heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine. Joshua has been working to build his way back into title contention under the stewardship of veteran trainer Derrick James.
There has also apparently been an attitude adjustment of sorts as it relates to Joshua's relationship with the public.
In a post-fight interview, Joshua indicated that he was not so keen on milling around in the ring after the Helenius win, fulfilling media obligations and generating bromides for the masses, but wanted instead to engage with his true supporters sitting ringside.
“All the microphone stuff in the ring is for, like, clickbait, social media and stuff,” Joshua told BBC 5 Live Boxing. “This stuff here isn’t social media—just spending time with the people who came out tonight. Obviously I can’t go to the top rows and see everyone. They spend their hard-earned money and I just wanted to make sure I paid them their respects. That’s what’s important.
“I was going to walk back to my changing room [instead of stay for interviews],” Joshua continued. “It’s a gladiator sport. I went down the whole route of trying to promote British boxing heavily at the start of my career and obviously I took a few losses and [now] I can see what people are really about. I just want to really do my thing.
“It’s a fickle sport as well. You got to be real about what’s going on in this industry. Don’t get too caught up, you know? I just wanted to do my job. I got my win, and I can leave, right? I done my job, right?"
During the fight, Joshua was booed by the crowd for his reluctance to engage with Helenius. Joshua admitted that it took him some time to “figure out” Helenius.
“I had to figure him out early on,” Joshua said. “He’s very unique. He’s a unique style, so I just had to figure him out. And that was it, really. I knew what I had to do, I stuck to it, and I got there in the end.”
According to his promoter Eddie Hearn, Joshua (26-3, 23 KOs) could be in line to face fellow former titlist Deontay Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) early next year in Saudi Arabia.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.