Anthony Joshua hasn’t won in TWO YEARS with 2023 now decisive

Anthony Joshua, despite his back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk, remains one of Britain’s most pervasive sports stars. Advertisements, posters, GQ interviews, the 6ft 6in colossus – whose partners include Under Armour, Hugo Boss, Beats and Lucozade – is hard to miss.

But remarkably, it has now been over two years since he last won a fight. Indeed, it’s an unfortunate stat we all know – Joshua last won against Kubrat Pulev in December 2020 – but it’s a stat that’s still hard to fathom. Does he have really It has been such a long time ?

Unfortunately, especially for those yearning for an uncontested Joshua-Tyson Fury showdown, that is the case. To put that into context, Joshua’s last taste of victory came just four days after the UK administered its first Covid vaccine, a feat that feels a lifetime ago.

Anthony Joshua faces a career-defining year 2023 after suffering two disastrous years

The former champion last won against Kubrat Pulev in December 2020

The former champion last won against Kubrat Pulev in December 2020

Since then, he’s lost to Usyk, fired his trainer, toured the US to find a new one, hired a new one, lost to Usyk again, started negotiations to fight Fury, has… ended negotiations to fight Fury, fired his trainer, and embarked on another US tour to find a new one.

And in the midst of that, his respectful and humble image cracked slightly after his second loss to Usyk, when he threw the Ukrainian’s belts out of the ring, before storming off and then returning to deliver a speech very moving.

Just 24 months after Joshua turned in perhaps the best performance of his career against Pulev, adding a bit of vexation to his new boxer-mover style, Joshua now looks more lost than ever. No belts, no coach (to our knowledge) and no concrete opponent in place.

Even his multi-year mega-deal with DAZN announced this summer – in which Joshua was supposed to fight twice a year – didn’t quite materialize, with the 33-year-old, for a second straight year, getting a release. one time.

But while that all sounds a little pessimistic, that’s not what this piece is about. Rather, it’s a preview of what could be and must be the most important year of Joshua’s career.

Joshua has suffered back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk since he last won a fight

Joshua has suffered back-to-back defeats to Oleksandr Usyk since he last won a fight

A furious Joshua threw Usyk's heavyweight belts out of the ring after his rematch loss

A furious Joshua threw Usyk’s heavyweight belts out of the ring after his rematch loss

Joshua was visibly upset at the post-fight press conference, as he was consoled by promoter Eddie Hearn (left)

Joshua was visibly upset at the post-fight press conference, as he was consoled by promoter Eddie Hearn (left)

One thing to immediately point out is that Joshua is not ‘washed’, ‘finished’ or ‘broken’ – or any of the other slights the two-time unified world heavyweight champion has received in recent months.

Indeed, the Olympic gold medalist, who raised the profile of British boxing tenfold by turning professional in 2013, had one of his best performances when he lost to Usyk.

And in any case, losing by split decision to a once-in-a-generation talent – ​​although many think the result was kind to Joshua – is not a career-ending defeat. Joshua at his best remains a threat to anyone in the division. Well, maybe anyone but Usyk.

However, Joshua can overlook the top dogs in the division for now. Instead, high on his Christmas wish list should be finding a manager – having left Rob McCracken and most recently Robert Garcia – and finding an opponent for early 2023.

In terms of coaching, Joshua is once again reviewing his options. Before siding with Garcia, he also briefly worked with Eddy Reynoso, Virgil Hunter and Ronnie Shields. And more recently, he returned to Hunter, while trying out Derrick James. Roy Jones Jr also claimed that Joshua would spend time with him.

Joshua has now parted ways with manager Robert Garcia (centre) whom he appointed ahead of Usyk's rematch

Joshua has now parted ways with manager Robert Garcia (centre) whom he appointed ahead of Usyk’s rematch

Joshua also said he wanted to be a ‘free spirit’ now, insisting he was in a position where he could ‘work with anyone’. But having recently admitted that he was nearing the end of his career, now is probably not the time to start experimenting.

Joshua has always been surrounded by many voices, with Angel Fernandez being a major influence alongside McCracken and Garcia. He was even seen asking Clifton Mitchell – a former heavyweight champion but nighttime security chief – for advice moments before his first loss to Usyk.

Joshua later admitted he was unsure of the game plan, while promoter Eddie Hearn insisted “there was too much information and too many points of view”.

It takes time for a fighter to build a relationship with a new trainer, and Joshua took a risk by leaving McCracken for Garcia ahead of his all-important rematch against Usyk. It didn’t fully backfire, its performance was improved, but it didn’t stand out either.

And by the time Joshua is back in a position to fight Usyk or Fury, if he gets there, he needs to be set up.

Joshua worked with Errol Spence Jr's trainer, Derrick James

He also hung out with Virgil Hunter, like he did last year.

Joshua recently spent time working with Derrick James (left) and Virgil Hunter (right)

Boxing legend Roy Jones Jr has also revealed he intends to work with the former champion

Boxing legend Roy Jones Jr has also revealed he intends to work with the former champion

Who Joshua will fight in the coming months is therefore just as important as who he appoints his new coach. We talked about Deontay Wilder, but it’s far too big a risk. As Barry Hearn recently said, “he can’t afford another loss.”

Although no opponent is confirmed, Eddie Hearn has revealed that Joshua will be absent next spring at the O2 Arena. He also assured that it will be against a legitimate opponent.

“I don’t want to give you too many names because people are excited, disappointed, moaning,” he told iFL TV. ‘Wait and see. He’ll be a top 15 guy and he’ll be ready to show the world that he’s coming for the heavyweight title again.

Joshua’s former coach Garcia also provided an indication, telling ES NEWS: ‘WWhen he comes back, I know they’re going to pick two or three easy fights for him.

Possibilities include Dillian Whyte, Otto Wallin, Zhang Zhilei and Filip Hrgovic – every matchup Joshua should win. All the clashes that would probably be over if he lost. And all the games that would probably be good for Joshua.

Joshua is highly unlikely to jump straight into a fight against Deontay Wilder (left)

Joshua is highly unlikely to jump straight into a fight against Deontay Wilder (left)

A rematch against longtime rival Dillian Whyte is a more likely scenario in early to mid-2023

A rematch against longtime rival Dillian Whyte is a more likely scenario in early to mid-2023

Simply put, after two years without one, Joshua needs a win. Without his titles, without the immense pressure on his shoulders, and without this undisputed fight forever being a fight away, Joshua may well rediscover his mojo.

And if he does, a huge 2023 could be in store for us. Whether it’s a warm-up fight, then Whyte then possibly Wilder, or even two warm-ups and Whyte, staying undefeated over the next year would put him in the game for 2024.

Barry Hearn thinks Joshua could fight Fury by the end of 2023, but that’s unlikely at best. Fury and Usyk will likely fight twice – if their undisputed fight can be made – and the WBA, WBO and IBF are already getting finicky about their proxies.

Belts shouldn’t be Joshua’s focus regardless. On the contrary, building a relationship with a new coach, regaining that feeling of victory and building momentum before 2024 should be.

But if that doesn’t go Joshua’s way, and if the 33-year-old is to lose another fight on his road to redemption, 2023 could well be even more devastating than 2021 and 2022 for the once heavyweight king.

In such an uncertain time for Joshua without a coach and without a belt, one thing is certain: 2023 is now the most important year of his career.

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