While believing a rematch was the wrong option for Joshua, rival promoter Frank Warren stated a fight with Tyson Fury could still happen
Branding himself “a different animal, not a sulker” Anthony Joshua was adamant that a rematch with Oleksandr Usyk is “100 per cent on” after the shock loss of his heavyweight world titles in a unanimous points defeat by the dominant Ukrainian.
Usyk claimed the IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO belts from Joshua at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday night, but the fallen champion quickly vowed to dust himself off and “learn from the loss”.
Eddie Hearn, his promoter, confirmed that the rematch would take place in the UK, likely in February/March 2022, against Usyk’s wish to take the bout back to Kiev, and said that Joshua had given his opponent “too much respect” with “fundamental changes” needed in a second fight against the former cruiserweight king.
But Hearn also added – as did rival promoter Frank Warren – that the fight with Tyson Fury could still go ahead in the future despite this major setback.
“AJ-Fury will happen – unquestionably,” said Hearn. “AJ was flat in this fight, not himself, and I still hope Fury wins in a couple of weeks [against Deontay Wilder]. Right now the focus is on Oleksandr Usyk – it has to be. Joshua wants to fight for another four or five years and he’ll want to win his belts back – he’s a proud champion.”
Asked about any future fight with WBC champion Fury, Joshua said: “The road to undisputed is marketing. I’ll fight Tyson Fury and Wilder without the belts. The belts are fun, it’s great, it’s legacy – but with or without the belts, I’ll fight whoever.”
Rob McCracken, Joshua’s head trainer, revealed his fighter could not carry out their game plan against Usyk. “You’ve got to apply better pressure with a fighter like Usyk and not give him too much time,” said McCracken. “That’s really what should happen. But Anthony’s already addressed that he’s learning on the job.
“I’ve got no doubts that if he applies himself, which he will, then he’ll produce a great performance in the rematch. Usyk boxed tremendously well and Anthony will have learned loads.”
Joshua himself added: “It was a good chess match. I’m just learning and studying this game. It was a great lesson. I’m not a sulker, this is a blessed opportunity to fight for the heavyweight championship of the world. It’s a long process. I’m not going to go home and cry about it. Sulking is a waste of time. It’s all about experiences, and you have to trust the process.
“I’m keeping a positive head on. I feel I had a good foothold in the fight and I’m going to build on it. I just want to get back to the gym and improve. If this was the end of the story, I’d be more emotional. But I believe in the process.”
The heavyweight greats also weighed in with George Foreman advising Joshua to decide what he is good at and stick to it – namely, being a big, aggressive power puncher, not a boxer – and Lennox Lewis, who urged that the Briton “can’t be so tentative or wait until the eighth round to turn it on.”
“Learn from this, and improve,” added the last undisputed heavyweight champion Lewis.
The worrying signs for Joshua, nonetheless, came from Usyk himself post-fight, with his assessment that Joshua was “nothing special”, and furthermore in the instructions in the corner from his trainer Anatoly Lomachenko, who urged Usyk “don’t go for the knockout” in the final rounds.
Joshua’s rivals also weighed in, with Warren, Fury’s promoter, adding: “Joshua shouldn’t go anywhere near Usyk. He will never beat him. In terms of fighting Tyson Fury, it can happen. Joshua losing has taken away the belts and he is damaged goods now. But people would still buy into that fight. It can happen and it can happen in the UK. But he shouldn’t have a rematch with Usyk. I wouldn’t even think about it if I was him.
“Usyk is a good fighter, he boxed extremely well. But Joshua is so vulnerable. I thought he would be too big for Usyk, but I knew if he was there at the end, then he would have been outboxed. Usyk nearly had him over at the end. Joshua was gun shy. He never let his hands go. They can talk all they want about rematches, but he’s just been totally exposed, like he was against [Andy] Ruiz. Even if he was to beat Usyk, what is Tyson Fury going to do to Joshua? You’d have your house on Tyson beating him.”