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Big Joshua Has A Shot, Or Is He Shot?

That might seem like a big question and somewhat impertinent, but it’s what is keeping AJ, Anthony Joshua, in the boxing public eye.

And that’s difficult for Joshua, who once had the heavyweight world at his feet, but was knocked off them by Andy Ruiz in 2019. Although he won the rematch, many thought Joshua has lost that instinct to finish opponents, even thought he had feet of clay.

The Joshua Doubt Industry

Credit; The Guardian

The Ruiz fight started it. The thousands of column inches, and hours of podcasts; I’ve contributed to both myself. All based around one question;

Will Anthony Joshua ever be the same again?

Is he gun-shy?
Is he overthinking with all the new coaches?
Does he need a complete boxing overhaul?
Is he finished?

Again, sounds brutal, but these are the questions being asked. If you’re constantly assailed by this as Joshua’s team or Anthony Joshua himself, it has to bother you. And much more, because it’s necessary.

It Isn’t About The Boxing Any More

Since the Ruiz loss, AJ has won back the belt with a cagey boxer’s show, had a little more spite in stopping Kunrat Pulev, lost twice to superior Oleksandr Usyk and went the distance with unfancied Jermaine Franklin.

We shake our heads at those performances; Joshua is big and talented enough to be able to get opponents out of there easily, we say. No matter who trains him, we can’t help but cavil at his new boxing skills.

If there was a media comment blackout on Anthony Joshua, would anyone watch If his fights were marketed, but no one could comment, would we tune in?

Not many. Because the Anthony Joshua brand relies on the worry, complaints and advice that so many, me included, provide.

That annoyance is essential to the brand because it keeps people talking and that’s essential for any brand. It would be better if the majority of the comments were laudatory, but in today’s always-on brand culture, the rough has to be taken with the smooth.

Ironically, the Dillian Whyte Situation Helped

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Credit; Sky Sports

The last-minute removal of Whyte from the Pay Per View main event might have seemed a disaster, but it actually worked.

Matchroom and DAZN decided to cast around for another opponent. And in choosing Robert Helenius, who stepped in with a week’s notice and was fighting a week ago, the chat was able to continue.

Whyte? That’s a dead end. Fury beat him, he was seen as a Joshua tune-up/rehabilitation fight and many rolled their eyes at the idea of the fight as a main event of a PPV.

The switch has ensured that there’s a reason for the event to be removed from  Pay Per View status, where many felt it didn’t deserve to be in the first place.

Plus, this continues the Joshua worry chat. Why’s that? AJ wants a fight with Deontay Wilder, which has a common opponent in Helenius, so that comparison can take place.

And it’s a good one. You see, Wilder despatched Helenius with a devastating punch in the first round, so devastating that Helenius talked of retirement afterwards.

Up against it again, Joshua? Well, or kept the brand on people’s minds.

The Fight

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Credit; BBC

It didn’t end in the first. Helenius had clearly learnt from his gung-ho Wilder weakness, he was a little more cagey, and used a jab, so a 1st round KO was probably not on.

As Sky Sports pointed out;

‘As early as the third round boos began to ring out from some quarters of the arena, a demand for urgency.’

As Tony Bellew on commentary mentioned in round 5, a Wilder fight isn’t going this long. And he may be right, the Bronze Bomber Wilder has TNT in his gloves.

But Joshua has the physical attributes to put the lights out too. If only he used them, was the common commentary cry and social media shenanigan.

And in the 3rd, that jab hiding the right hand rattled Helenius and Joshua…backed off. Reset himself. Stayed patient. That was perhaps not the best plan. Helenius held quite frequently, but AJ didn’t seem to see it as a prompt. The BBC summed it up;

‘The 33-year-old Briton – who was jeered by fans during the bout – landed nothing of note until a huge right to the jaw ended Helenius’ night.’

The end came in the 7th round when one of those jabs and right hands got through; he’d shaved Helenius’ chin a couple of occasions, this didn’t hit flush and yet the fight was immediately over.

Helenius went down hard. He was OK after oxygen, he should surely follow through on that call; 2 sickening-looking KOs at heavyweight so close together is bad news.

What’s Next?

Well, retirement, I hope.

And for Joshua? Well, he drank Conor McGregor’s branded stout after, and that’s what it’s about; brand vertical integration.

AJ is going to fight Wilder, isn’t he? Intakes sense for the brand, people will have an opinion, discussions will be all over social media, YouTube will be alive with it, and the AJ brand will be bright too.

But the boxing? That’s altogether more dangerous for Joshua, if Wilder catches him with a big punch, the lights might go out on Anthony’s chances of title contendership.

Because after all, boxing does affect the brand, doesn’t it?

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