As Anthony Joshua stumbled back to his corner after surviving the twelfth round against the imperious Oleksandr Usyk, the picture painted on his face was one of resignation. Resignation to the fact that he had clearly been beaten by the better man on the night, resignation that he had relinquished his titles and resignation that his potential super fight with Tyson Fury is now not quite as ‘super.’
The Brit will be desperate to avenge only the second loss of his career, but what lies next for AJ?
The most likely option to be Joshua’s next fight is the Usyk rematch. After he lost to Andy Ruiz Jr in New York he took up the option for a rematch and beat the Mexican in Saudi Arabia, which will give the Brit confidence he can repeat the trick against Usyk.
However, Ruiz turned up for that rematch completely out of shape and even at his best, he is not on the same level as Usyk is. The unbeaten Ukrainian showed a huge amount of class in his dominant win at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, as AJ failed to land any significant strikes. His movement was simply far superior on the night, and Joshua’s boxing skills will have to hugely improve over the next six months if he is to win the rematch.
Having had a quick talk with Usyk following the fight, Joshua is almost certain to exercise the rematch clause in his contract as he did against Ruiz, with the fight likely to take place in February or March 2022.
“I’m ready to get back to training,’ AJ confirmed. “It was a good 12-rounder, so I’ll be in a good place when I get back into training to pick up where we left off. Usyk is a lot lighter than me so he’s got a good pace. But he still gets hit a lot and in the rematch we’ll just learn how to hit him more and be more concussive with our punch selection.”
Usyk, now holder of the IBF, WBA, and WBO heavyweight belts, has not fought in his homeland since 2015 and has already stated his preferred destination for the rematch. "I would love to have the rematch at Olympiyskiy Stadium in Kiev."
So this seems to be the next logical step for AJ, but the much-talked about fight with Tyson Fury now on the face of it, seems in jeopardy. After the deal that would have seen the British duo fight for the undisputed title this year fell through, it is far to say both fighters have now lost out. The ideal outcome from this set of fights would have been an AJ win over Usyk and a Fury win over Wilder, which could’ve raised more hype for the potential encounter, but now the fight seems far less glamorous.
Both men are sure to have lost out financially now the fight has lost its edge. Having watched that display, surely not even the most fanatical AJ fan believes he has a chance against the undefeated Fury, who will now have to add Usyk to his list of men to fight before he calls it a day.
However, this defeat in a way could bring the Fury v AJ fight even closer. If the Brit does beat Usyk in the rematch, surely he will want to get the Fury fight sorted as soon as possible so that they can fight for the undisputed title, while if he loses again, he’ll surely be desperate for the big payday that fight will provide.
So the rematch with Usyk, which should draw another huge crowd, looks to be up next for AJ. Win that, and his status will only be enhanced, lose and his reputation as one of the most fearsome heavyweights on the planet will be severely damaged.