On a night where Conor McGregor traded words with Carl Froch, it was Anthony Joshua who did all the talking, but for the wrong reasons.
The Brit fought gallantly as he was defeated by Oleksandr Usyk. However, the spectacle was overshadowed after Joshua threw two of the Ukrainian's belts to the ground and stormed out of the ring to a chorus of boos before returning to the squared circle to approach Usyk, questioning, “how did you beat me?!” Finally, going on to take a microphone to tell the crowd in attendance how he faced prison as a youngster but turned his life around to be standing where he is now.
Many said it was just emotions running high, but is it more than that? An outburst after a punishing 12-round fight at the end of a grueling 12-week fight camp was a bizarre sight to see in a sport where you think you've seen everything.
This week, Adrian Broner withdrew from a fight due to mental health issues. Is it time to check in on AJ? Ryan Garcia has not long returned to boxing after publicly taking a hiatus from the sport due to his struggles with mental illness, and someone should ensure that Joshua doesn't need to seek help himself.
It was an emotional evening and an emotional event. The heavyweight champion fought for his country and claimed the victory. But, what should've been his moment was stolen from him. Why did the Londoner decide to address the public at that particular moment? Why didn't one of his team, friends, or family intervene to save him from himself? What if this was more than just frustration?
“There's a stigma in this world that men can't talk. Listen, if you're a man and you've got a weight on your shoulders and think the only way you can solve it is by killing yourself, please speak to someone! Speak to anyone,” Paddy ‘The Baddy' Pimblett said after his recent UFC win in London after a friend committed suicide.
For one reason or another, it's deemed not masculine to open up about struggles. It's because of this we must applaud the likes of Ryan Garcia and Adrian Broner, who are arguably two of the biggest names in the sport. During the post-fight press conference, Anthony Joshua broke down in tears when addressing what the public had just witnessed.
“I just spoke from my heart. It's been so tough. You see AJ holding it together, yeah, and I'm a hustler, so I try to put things together. Try to work hard and put things together and make sure my team's good. But it comes at a cost, a big cost. It'll never break me, but it takes real strength for it not to break me. And tonight, there's a little crack in the armour when I took a loss. And I think you just saw me upset. And with the speech, I was just speaking about where I come from. I was on the roads, really.”
A little crack in the armour stated the two-time former heavyweight champion, or was it a cry for help?
🗣️ "I'm upset deep down in my heart" 💔💔
— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) August 21, 2022
The bigger they are, the harder they fall
No truer word has ever been spoken when you say this about a fighter's ego. We saw Anthony Joshua unravel after defeat to pound-for-pound great, Usyk, hijacking the microphone to go on a bizarre rant. I asked the question, are these mental health issues? Now I ask, is this the aftermath of a destroyed ego?
The mentality is a big part of pugilism. You have to believe in yourself, but at what point does it become absurd? After losing to the Ukrainian in London last year, Joshua claimed he felt like he looked like Muhammad Ali on the canvas that night. Fast forward a year later, after being defeated again by Usyk, AJ is being told post-fight that he was outboxing and level, if not beating, the 35-year-old heading into the final nine minutes.
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) August 20, 2022
Joshua regularly turns up to fight night with a large entourage, all of whom are yes men; they're there blowing smoke up his ass to be quite frank. Everybody around him is telling him how amazing he is, how he's winning the fights, how he's unlucky. This will continue the whole time they're cashing in their cheques.
Boxing is an unforgiving sport. I cast my mind back to when I spoke with Pinklon Thomas, he had a coach by the name of Joe West, and he gave his young charge some advice that Pinklon passes on to anyone who'll listen, “he told me in the locker room during fights as I was coming up saying that, ‘Pink, one day you're going to have so many people around you that you're not going to be able to carry your own towel.' And then he said, ‘there's going to come a time when nobody will be there but you.'
“When I lost to Berbick, it was so true. My locker room was so empty, and you know who was the only one there? That old man, Joe West. That old man, Joe West, had come to the fight, and he sat there, and he cried with me, man. I will never forget that. That's advice that I give to a young fighter.”
Now, whilst Anthony Joshua is still marketable, he won't experience this just yet, but it's only a matter of time. There'll come a day when AJ will kick himself for listening to too many people or for not listening to the ones who tried to give constructive criticism.
For Joshua to disrespect Usyk's championship belts the way he did, to explode at fans in attendance to, then break down in tears during the post-fight press conference, these are all signs of the pressure getting to him. Recently added coach Robert Garcia needs to put his arm around his fighter and guide him away from the spotlight. The former heavyweight champ needs to take time away from the sport to refocus and to rebuild mentally.
Having an ego as a fighter isn't a bad thing; it's normal, but surely it has to be warranted. Yes, AJ is a two-time world champion, yes, AJ is an Olympic gold medalist, and yes, AJ put in an improved performance against Usyk. However, ten years of being told you're the best are now wearing thin. A near clueless corner during both fights between the Brit and the Ukrainian, someone needed to tell Joshua he needed to go for the knockout. But, instead, as usual, all Anthony got was more smoke blown further up his ass.
Whilst I don't doubt the 32-year-old will continue to succeed in the sport, he needs to change his surroundings. Find someone who's not afraid to tell you some home truths; only then will you know your true capabilities.