Home Boxing News To box or to bang? For Anthony Joshua, that is the question

To box or to bang? For Anthony Joshua, that is the question

Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua after their first fight. Photo credit: Sky Sports

Former two-time unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua 26-3 (23) may have got the knockout win against Robert Helenius 32-5 (21) at the O2 Arena in London, England on Saturday night, but one question still remains.

Is he better as a boxer or a banger?

The 33-year-old Brit showed a little of both against Finland’s Helenius, 39. After boxing cautiously for the first six rounds, Joshua dropped the boom in the seventh.

Joshua’s detractors have been on his case since his first profesisonal loss to Andy Ruiz Jr 35-2 (22) in June 2019. In that bout Joshua responded by getting dropped by trying to brawl his way out of trouble. He lost by seventh round knockout.

Fast forward six months and Joshua was back in the ring with Ruiz Jr again. This time he used his height and length to box his way to a points victory. His method was successful, but it didn’t excite the fans.

A similar scenario played out against Ukrainian southpaw Oleksandr Usyk 20-0 (13). In their first fight two years ago Joshua tried to box with the 36-year-old and came off second best. He performed slightly better in their rematch in August last year when he tried to impose his size and power on Usyk, but ultimately lost again.

Now with a fight against formidable American puncher Deontay Wilder 43-2-1 (42) likely to take place in Saudi Arabia in January, the question remains which version of Joshua will show up.

“This is a game of chess. I’m gonna take away Wilder’s best attributes. I’m not gonna stand there with my chin in the air and say ‘hit me’. I’m gonna nullify him. It will be very challenging for him for sure,” Joshua told The Sun.

Joshua’s fight with Helenius was his second under new trainer Derrick James. The slow pace of the bout elicited boos from the large crowd.

“I think they don’t understand it is competitive boxing. I was watching certain fights tonight and they didn’t look as exciting as I thought they would. Were they booing me or Helenius? That is the question, who were they booing? Have any of them ever boxed before?,” Joshua said.

“[The rating of my performance] is for my coach [Derrick James], I don’t really rate my performances, whatever the coach thinks. We can go back to the drawing board and I know there is a lot of things we can improve on. I felt better than I did in April [versus Jermaine Franklin] and that is the main thing.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn said he knew the conversation would turn to the Jekyll and Hyde personas Joshua displays in the ring after his fight with Helenius.

“I knew this would happen,” Hearn told BBC 5 Live Boxing. “Everyone’s talking about the new AJ, the old AJ, and after two or three rounds, the crowd starts to get a little bit impatient. You know, you also have to understand that [Helenius] is coming in on five days’ notice.

“Josh has been in a training camp for six weeks for Dillian Whyte. [Helenius] is six-foot-eight, he can punch a bit. [Joshua] don’t want to take no chances. He finds the measure of his right hand and he delivers one of the knockouts of the year on Robert Helenius. Absolutely brutal finish. And this is just the AJ you’re gonna see now. No chances. He’s not going to come in and start crossing his feet and trading with his chin in the air. And he still got to be more aggressive than he was tonight.

“But there was a lot on the line. And obviously the late replacement is difficult. But I’m just pleased he delivered the knockout of the year. He needed that, because the fight was beginning to get a little frustrating. Crowd was getting restless and they went home with a massive knockout.”