Joe Frazier was punched down a half dozen times by George Foreman in Kingston, Jamaica and somehow picked himself up each time to try to save the World Heavyweight Championship.
Vitali Klitschko’s face was a mangled mess after five rounds of enduring Lennox Lewis’ punches in Los Angeles, CA but he refused to abort his quest to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
Jess Willard was beaten to a bloody pulp in the first two rounds by Jack Dempsey in Toledo, Ohio but he refused to surrender the World Heavyweight Championship…
When you think of those historic, epic, superhuman efforts in the annals of heavyweight title history, the performance by Anthony Joshua on Saturday night in London not only boggles the mind, it arouses suspicions.
Joshua seemed to only push his punches, usually one at a time, and lost a boring, bland, half-hearted unanimous decision to the new champion Oleksander Usyk.
A couple of heavyweight contenders were baffled by Joshua’s disappointing, lazy, prideless and lackluster effort, compared to his dynamic, electrifying triumph AJ exhibited vs. Wladimir Klitschko.
“He just kind of stayed there,” said Andy Ruiz, who beat and then lost a rematch to Joshua a few years ago. “I don’t know why he wasn’t moving around, like in the second fight with me. He ran around and made sure he didn’t get hit, and if he did, he would grab and move around. So he had his strategy. But for this fight, it didn’t go his way. It was probably the wrong strategy. He probably underestimated him. Kind of like how I did with Chris Arreola…I think Anthony Joshua is still there, still strong. I kind of felt he was scared and holding back a little bit. Maybe it was the lefty style of Usyk and how he moves.”
Another leading heavyweight contender who also has competed against Joshua as a pro, was also confused by the lousy effort he saw by oshua vs Usyk…Dillian Whyte said: “I was surprised with how the fight went because I thought Joshua would get it done inside seven rounds because he would enforce his size and bulk on Usyk but he was very reserved and tentative, it was weird.”
“Usyk was a lot more aggressive because Joshua allowed him to be, whenever Joshua stung him he stood in front of him and let his hands go and Joshua let him do it. Joshua was hurting him but backing up so it has baffled me a bit, it was a bizarre performance. Joshua is a strange guy, he’s a proper f——- weirdo, he should have been putting the heat on him. After eight rounds he should have felt like he was down on the cards and started really having a go, he’s the unified heavyweight champion of the world.He needs to throw his hands. Joshua’s mentality has to change, lately he is in a safety-first mode, he is fighting weird. It’s good he is using more athleticism and boxing responsibly but being a big strong guy is what has worked for him, got him an Olympic gold medal and world titles so he just needs to have a f—— go. He was not hungry enough because when the chips are down and sh!t is against you, you have to have a go. And he did not want to have a go. He never tried to finish him off when he hurt him, it was madness.”
Two days before the fight, Joshua made some bizarre comments after the weigh in about the Usyk fight, which seemed to downplay his own chances. Joshua said he had no gameplan. “I don’t know what to expect…as long as boxing is winning, we’re all winning…Just a fight, we do our best… there’s no gameplan – just win… my gameplan is pray, visualize and give it my best, that’s it.”
There is a term in boxing of one fighter “playing soft” for the pre-scripted winner. If ever there was a more definitive example of one fighter playing soft for the other in a World Heavyweight title fight than what we saw on Saturday night, it could not have looked as obvious as the effort by Anthony Joshua vs. Usyk.
Vitali Klitschko, Joe Frazier and Jess Willard would hardly disagree.
(Lewis vs Vitali artwork by John Murawski. Dempsey vs Willard artwork by James Montgomery Flagg.)