I read somewhere that we shouldn’t write Anthony Joshua off just yet.
That because he’s a big, athletic guy that he can still be a heavyweight elite.
All he’s got to do, the piece insisted, was simply change his entire in-ring persona.
Stop being a gentleman. Turn into a tenacious, chip-on-shoulder monster.
You know the drill.
One day you’re a cautious giant, the next you’re a blood-thirsty marauder.
Do that, and poof … Oleksandr Usyk will be reduced to a rematch footnote.
As if doing that were as easy as flicking a switch.
Just imagine how history would have been written if it were.
But it’s not.
While fighters can absolutely make technical tweaks when surrounded by new trainers, it’s not so common for a veteran to make a complete 180-degree turn from what he’s typically done.
Arturo Gatti didn’t become Ray Leonard with Buddy McGirt.
Gennady Golovkin didn’t become Marvin Hagler with Johnathon Banks.
And no matter who accompanies him to Usyk II – assuming he even dispatches Rob McCracken in the first place – Joshua is highly unlikely to become a 6-foot-6, 240-pound Mike Tyson.
Don’t believe it? Take a look at the rematch he’s already fought.
Joshua was probably seconds away from stopping Andy Ruiz before getting clipped when they met for the first time in June 2019 – but he arrived to the second fight six months later not as a vengeful beast looking to risk it all to vanquish a rival, but as a combat-averse giant who shied away from anything resembling a prolonged exchange, for fear of a repeat embarrassment.
And that was against a 280-plus pound foe who’d gorged away his best chance at victory.
With Usyk, he won’t have that advantage to work with.
This wasn’t a fortunate result that sprang from a lucky punch.
This was a comprehensive fundamental beatdown delivered by a man to a pound-for-pound boy.
Usyk will come back in six months not only more accustomed to the heavyweight division and the tolls it takes on a body, but also confident that he’s better than Joshua in every aspect of the game.
“A southpaw Joe Frazier,” ex-HBO stalwart Jim Lampley told Boxing Scene. “And why did (Joshua) fight him anyway? Southpaw, quicker, better skills. What is Eddie Hearn smoking?”
In fact, unless Joshua finally hits him with the sort of shot he spent 36 minutes searching for, a second go-round might not look all that different from the first – unless it means the Brit actually hits the canvas, as he’d have probably done if Saturday’s fight had lasted even 60 seconds longer.
Even if not, does anyone still believe he’d stand any sort of a chance against Tyson Fury?
And before you make the comparison to Lennox Lewis, don't bother.
Though Lewis did have two title reigns ended by surprise KOs, his losses were more easily dismissed by perfect shots delivered by hard-punching journeyman in Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman, rather than the clear stylistic issues that existed for Joshua against Usyk.
And both of Lewis' losses were avenged by KOs, too, which seems a stretch for Joshua, given his fragility.
“He's no Lennox Lewis,” Lampley said.
“Emanuel trained McCall, Lennox saw that he was short on craft and immediately hired Emanuel to fix him. Brilliant. The second one happened because he wanted to do scenes with Wladimir for Ocean's Eleven. Saw it as rehearsal for inevitable crossroads. Then went to Johannesburg at 7,500 feet altitude, and at the moment Rahman ran toward him and launched, Lennox was too exhausted to respond.
“Only two losses. Dominated Evander and Mike. AJ is not in Lennox's league, which is no insult.
“Very few have been that good. When he was really on – Golota, Mike, first Evander fight, Ruddock in London – you just can't compare it to anyone but Louis and Dempsey, punchers who could box.”
“There were a couple moments that Anthony pushed me hard,” he said, “but nothing special.”
It was a 117-112, 116-112 and 115-113 win in the eyes of the judges — incidentally, my card agreed with the two-point gap — but once you got past the shock of what you were seeing, it didn't seem that close.
Hearn agreed, too.
“We talked about overthinking it and getting too technical,” he said. “He tried to do that with arguably one of the top pound-for-pound technical fighters in the world. I thought Usyk had the perfect game plan and credit to him for it. The rematch is very tough. Knowing him, he'll want to get straight back into it. But based on that performance, he'll have to do something different.”
Yes, Eddie, he will. Drastically different.
Like become Lennox Lewis. A tea-drinking, chess-playing bully.
The problem is that job’s already been filled.
Instead, the epitaph-carvers can go ahead and get to work.
And as they chip away on the headstone of Joshua's two-time ex-champ career, here's a suggestion:
“Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.”
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
No title fights scheduled
Last week's picks: 1-2 (WIN: Okolie, LOSS: Teraji, Joshua)
2021 picks record: 31-12 (72.0 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,187-387 (75.4 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.