Anthony Joshua: "Right now Wilder and Fury are a step ahead of AJ," insists former champion
Well, he did it.
Anthony Joshua reclaimed his place at the top of the heavyweight heap by pitching a virtual shut-out against the man who stopped him just six months prior. The now two-time world champion won his WBO/IBF/WBA titles back by putting on a, dare we say, Lennox Lewis/Wladimir Klitschko type of effort in which he used lateral movement to control range.
And rather than trading with the quick-handed Andy Ruiz on the inside, AJ elected to tie his man up underneath, consequently forcing the referee in charge to create a comfortable distance for Joshua throughout the great majority of the twelve round fight.
The intelligent fight plan was reminiscent of Lewis' performance against the very dangerous David Tua back in 2000.
But is he ready for that kind of challenge?
Former two-division world titlist and Showtime expert commentator Paulie Malignaggi doesn't think so.
In a recent interview with FightHub TV, the "Magic Man" shared his thoughts on Joshua's title-winning performance in Saudi Arabia.
"Right now, I would say Wilder and Fury are both a step ahead of Joshua," claimed the former two-division world titlist.
Although AJ's performance was intelligent and appropriate, considering what happened just six months ago in NYC, Malignaggi doesn't believe the 30-year-old champ is mentally where he needs to be to defeat two very confident fighters like Fury and Wilder.
"The gameplan (for Joshua) was the right gameplan. The confidence missing was almost forgivable because he was knocked out six months ago by this guy (Ruiz). But I would have liked to see him move in a more confident manner...be a bit more dangerous offensively."
"He has the power to be a bit more dangerous offensively, but seemed so much more committed to getting out rather than doing damage offensively. As a result, he never seemed to detour Ruiz's aggression."
While most would like to see the popular British fighter unify the division in 2020, Paulie is convinced that Joshua needs more work before taking on the other heavyweight champions.
"I think Joshua needs more confidence building," Malignaggi believes. "He won, but he didn't look like the confident guy I've seen in the past. I think AJ's greatest night was the Klitschko fight. Where even when he was down, it didn't matter. That was a tiger. Where even though he was champion, he was still in that hunt mode, looking to take everyone out."
"We need to see the Joshua who wanted to consume his opponents again."
But will we ever see that version of Anthony Joshua ever again inside the ring?
In the case of former Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko, the former Olympic Gold Medalist was seemingly never the same after getting spanked by southpaw Corrie "The Sniper" Sanders in March of 2003. After hiring the late, great Emanuel Steward as head trainer, the once offensive-minded juggernaut ostensibly resigned to a more safety-first approach to winning fights.
Even though the fight strategy was super-effective, resulting in an eleven-year win streak, it didn't do much to excite the mainstream and casual fans of the sport outside of his adopted home country of Germany.
Despite being knocked out twice, former Heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis ostensibly regained his aggressive composure before ultimately retiring at the top of his respective fight game. Before hanging up the gloves in 2003, Lewis put forth three impressive knock-out performances over Hasim Rahman, Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko.
Will Joshua eventually resemble Klitschko or Lewis in the ring?
"For some fighters, that guy never comes back," Paulie recently stated to FightHub TV. "Sometimes it does. We'll see. In the meantime, he is the heavyweight champion and he proved a lot of people wrong in that a lot of people picked him to lose this fight. We'll see where he goes from here."
Rather than engaging in another unification bout in 2020, it seems as though the sanctioning organizations have already mapped out Joshua's course for him. The WBO and IBF would like to see him take on his mandatory challengers in Oleksandr Usyk and Kubrat Pulev respectively next year. Although AJ's vast legion of die-hard fans will undoubtedly be appeased with the proposed competition, the rest of the always critical boxing community won't be terribly excited to see another year go by without an undisputed Heavyweight king.
Then again, is anything ever good enough to appease the blood-thirsty fans of the boxing colosseum?
The truth always reveals itself in time.
What would you like to see Anthony Joshua do in 2020?
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