Anthony Joshua can take inspiration from two heavyweight legends

Steve Wellings

Steve is an experienced boxing writer and author. He has been writing about boxing for over 12 years and has attended over 150 shows. He has written and published nine books on the sport. He is the host on a boxing podcast called Boxing Asylum.

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Anthony Joshua is aiming to join the list of top heavyweights in recent years who have bounced back from damaging defeats to once again reign supreme. Few expected “AJ” to fall at the hands of chubby contender Andy Ruiz in June when the latter was drafted in at short notice for Jarrell Miller following a failed drugs test from “Big Baby”. But upset the odds he did, dropping Joshua four times en route to a seventh-round KO victory that stunned the boxing world.

Now it is in Joshua’s own hands as he attempts to wrestle the titles back from Ruiz in emphatic fashion. If he manages to do so Joshua will have followed in the footsteps of two other heavy hitters that have also been forced to tread the comeback path. Wladimir Klitschko, the man Joshua knocked out in 2017, had put his shock 1998 loss to journeyman Ross Puritty down to a lack of stamina as he reeled off a string of impressive wins over contenders and faded names in Germany and America.

That solid run came crashing down in 2003 when hard punching South African southpaw Corrie Sanders dramatically ripped away Klitschko’s WBO title in two devastating rounds. Wlad’s confidence was shot as he was knocked out again the following year, this time by Lamon Brewster and struggled badly in a subsequent comeback fight. Teaming up with Manny Steward, while altering his style in the process, revived Klitschko’s fragile mentality and he embarked on an 11-year run of wins, holding multiple heavyweight belts.

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Another heavyweight who regrouped twice from adversity was Joshua’s own compatriot Lennox Lewis. The Londoner was also an Olympic Gold Medallist (albeit while representing Canada). Enjoying wins over the likes of Frank Bruno and Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, Lewis was riding high as the WBC champion in 1994 when 24-5 Oliver McCall arrived in Wembley Arena. McCall was an extremely tough and uncompromising heavy who made up in toughness what he lacked in finesse. A bludgeoning right hand saw for Lewis in only two rounds.

Long before Klitschko brought Manny Steward on board, Lennox was busy adapting his own style and availing of Steward’s infinite wisdom as the pair reclaimed world titles and reigned together. Hasim Rahman caught a sluggish Lewis cold in South Africa, 2001, taking hold of his three belts. Lennox knocked Rahman out in an immediate rematch and went on to beat Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko before retiring from the sport.

Inspiration for Anthony Joshua who needs to take note of Klitschko and Lewis’s resolve if he is to overcome his own challenges in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

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