Anthony Joshua changed the game, but the game hasn’t changed him: Tyson Fury fury bares human beneath superstar

KING ABDULLAH SPORTS CITY, JEDDAH – Against the backdrop of the Ukraine war, the post-fight press conference following Oleksandr Usyk’s unified heavyweight championship defense against Anthony Joshua was always emotional.

What we didn’t expect was the tears in the room for the British superstar, who had finally gotten over the mental strain.

The unbearable test and pressure told. Joshua is not broken, but he is in a moment of realization. Now a new chapter in his career begins.

“We’re proud of you,” promoter Eddie Hearn wanted to tell Joshua from the start – as did hordes of journalists in attendance in a surreal experience. That pride came first from Joshua’s in-ring show on Saturday night.

MORE: Is this the end of Anthony Joshua? Probably not, because losing again to Oleksandr Usyk creates a challenge

Predictions for the rematch generally came in two flavors: the champion and favorite by decision, or the challenger by KO.

What makes Joshua’s loss so heartbreaking is that he came excruciatingly close to beating the absolute genius of a pound-for-pound king on points.

His uncharacteristic anger in the ring immediately after the fight was understandable given that he had given it his all.

A great setback from the first fight – when he was comprehensively passed and defeated by Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 11 months earlier – saw Joshua on the front foot early and winning the middle rounds.

He let the Ukrainian rock in the ninth. The body shots were beautiful; the Robert Garcia effect paid off.

But Usyk is quite simply the best fighter on the planet. He has an incredible boxing IQ and an incredible motor, especially for the last three rounds of the Saudi Arabian showdown.

Finding extra fuel in the tank, he produced fast combinations on the final knock that many boxers 10 years his junior could only dream of at the first bell.

After all, Joshua will be one of the greats. But sometimes you face a superior opponent and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

MORE: Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2 results: Usyk dominates championship rounds to retain heavyweight title

The 32-year-old said: “I tried a different style. What got me through my early days was hitting guys out of sheer hunger and passion.

“In the last fight I wanted to compete and improve as a boxer and it wasn’t good enough. Tonight wasn’t good enough.

“But you can see I’ve adjusted, I’ve made the changes needed to give him a more competitive fight. I left everything at the gym.

“Am I proud of myself? It’s really, really hard to say that I’m proud of myself. I feel nothing. I’m just really upset, deep down in my heart.”

And he couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. He was emotionally exhausted. It’s a feeling that everyone has experienced before, and after all, that’s what makes Joshua so likeable.

Beneath all the glitz and glamor, this is an ordinary boy with extraordinary skills who has been thrust into the spotlight. He is pressure sensitive. He is fallible. He is human.

Every now and then he would glance down at the table and nervously run his hand over it as he searched for words.

“If you try to do things from the heart, not everyone will understand. I was mad at myself, not at anyone else,” he explained.

MORE: Inside Anthony Joshua’s bizarre post-fight speech after losing to Oleksandr Usyk: respect for the champion, tribute to Ukraine and more

“It was so hard. You see AJ tying it all together and I’m a hustler so I put things together to make sure my team is good, but it comes at a heavy price.

“It will never break me, but it takes real strength not to break me. There is a small tear in this armor tonight because I took a loss.

“It’s none of my business what [the public] thinks of me I can’t… I can’t… You know what people should respect me for?

“When I meet them, how I greet them, shake hands, ‘yes, please; No thank you’.

Oleksandr Usyk - Anthony Joshua

(Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)

“Don’t respect me for the fight and the belts, because that doesn’t make a man or a woman.

“It’s your character and how you treat people. That’s how I want to earn respect. I make mistakes, sometimes I do things from the heart without thinking. But I hope people can respect me for the man I’m trying to become.”

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn passionately defended his man: “The key to life is happiness.

“At the end of the day, I just want him to be happy. He has dedicated his entire life to boxing.

MORE: Oleksandr Usyk vs. Anthony Joshua 2: What’s next for AJ after back-to-back defeats

“People don’t know what a bubble it is in the world of Anthony Joshua. Everyone in the country knows who they are, everyone has an opinion about who they are.

“He’s in the gym with his team all the time. He lives up in Loughborough, he’s not at home. I don’t know anyone who is more committed to the sport than he is.

“Sometimes people don’t understand the pressure on his shoulders. He never shied away from a challenge, he never shied away from pressure.

“He’s always tried to spend his time with people. He always tried to inspire the next generation, he was a great ambassador.

Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

“For the first time in boxing, you see all these complete jerks on social media who have too much to say for themselves, who want to pretend they’re good people who aren’t actually role models, who don’t want that my children look up to them.”

With a lump in his throat and seemingly on the verge of tears himself, Hearn continued, “This is someone I want my kids to look up to.

“It’s a huge burden to have that responsibility and he’s always felt that responsibility. He gives everyone their time. He’s one of the nicest guys you can ever meet.

“He’s a competitor, he’s a winner – and when you don’t win we saw raw emotion tonight, a real person feeling the pressure and wanting so badly to win.

MORE: The boxing world reacts to Oleksandr Usyk’s win over Anthony Joshua in rematch and Joshua’s post-fight speech

“People need to realize that you live in an online world that is all about opinions, liability and abuse. He’ll never tell you you feel it, but it’s impossible not to.”

Among the many British boxing fans who have bizarrely berated the Olympic gold medalist and former two-time unified world champion is one Tyson Fury.

Public adoration has shifted to Fury, who has at times been eloquent about his own struggles with depression and the need to speak out about mental health.

And yet the man whose recent online outburst saw him calling Derek Chisora ​​a “s**thouse, big sausage, carrot, carrot grinder, p***yhole” (a relatively tame comment by his standards) is practicing , rarely what he preaches.

Anthony Joshua

(Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing)

Joshua, on the other hand, interrupted Hearn and sportingly asked him not to accuse Fury of taking “easy” opponents when the promoter used the example of Tom Schwartz.

The specter of rage had settled over Joshua, and arguably the greatest heavyweight fight of all time looked dead in the water for now.

Had Deontay Wilder not activated a rematch clause against the WBC champion, Joshua would have faced Fury instead of Usyk last summer.

Joshua admitted: “I really wanted to win for Britain because I know how much [the public] wanted me to fight Tyson Fury.

“So I wasn’t fighting for myself, I was fighting for the whole nation. I’m so upset I really wanted to fight for the undisputed: two of Britain’s best.”

Fury, like every other fighter in the UK, obviously owes Joshua some gratitude for completely changing the game.

The Watford native was embroiled in a war between two broadcasters this summer and for every media opportunity he has headphones and energy drink bottles to show. The sheer amount of revenue that its popularity has brought to the sport is unfathomable.

Hearn said: “We wouldn’t be here today – none of us would be in this room without Anthony Joshua, I promise you. I wouldn’t be… our business, my life wouldn’t be what it was without Anthony Joshua.

MORE: Who is Robert Garcia? Career, title and tactics of the man chosen by Anthony Joshua

“No boxer would make that kind of money [they are] in Britain if it weren’t for Anthony Joshua.

“He took the sport to another level in terms of popularity, broadcasters and sponsors.

“He’s far too humble to say. We weren’t in stadiums every other fight before Anthony Joshua. It was amazing.”

However, one must now be aware that this must come to an end. Instead, Joshua needs to take action. There are quite a few potential options out there – Wilder, Dillian Whyte 2, Zhilei Zhang, Andy Ruiz 3 to name a few. But he must break them in quick succession.

The routine of an annual megafight, often a spectacular stadium show, cannot help his mental preparation.

Preparing for that time against an opponent and building more and more pressure every day for those 12 rounds can only be exhausting.

Joshua apparently recognizes this: “I asked Eddie if it was possible to come in November. It’s important to have that momentum.”

Ultimately, Saturday’s events in Jeddah proved that Joshua is currently “only” the third best heavyweight in the world and could potentially become “only” the second best.

But his career is far from over. The spirit will be cleared, the frequency of fights will increase and the improvement under Garcia will continue.

As the man himself ends: “I am a fighter for life. Hunger never dies.”

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