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Anthony Joshua: Is this end of highly celebrated champion?

For anyone, defeat is a bitter pill to swallow. And for a star in the class of British-Nigerian boxer Anthony Joshua, who – for years…

For anyone, defeat is a bitter pill to swallow. And for a star in the class of British-Nigerian boxer Anthony Joshua, who – for years – was widely celebrated as ‘the lord of the ring’, it could certainly be more upsetting to let in the pill.
A back-to-back defeat in the hands of Oleksandr Usyk has dragged Joshua’s reputation in the heavyweight world to the slaughterhouse, leaving the 32-year-old frustrated after the Saturday night rematch in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
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Joshua lost by a split decision of 115-113 in his favour, then 115-113 and 116-112 in favour of the 35-year-old Ukranian. Although AJ displayed much improved tactics in Saudi compared to his frosty outing in Tottenham 11 months ago, his skills fell short of Usyk’s to reclaim his unified WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles.
Before the rematch, some pundits had described the fight as a decisive moment that would make or mar Joshua’s illustrious boxing career.
Joshua also realised how crucial the fight was to his future and did all he could to redeem his fate. He changed his long-time coach and trained harder, but those efforts weren’t enough to let him scale through on Saturday.
With the loss, it is crystal clear AJ’s beautiful career trajectory is srambling on the edge of a precipice. This perhaps informed his outburst after he failed to gain back those belts as he did about two years ago against Andy Ruiz Jnr.
“It’ll never break me. But it comes at a cost,” emotional Joshua remarked in a post-fight press conference before breaking down in tears.
Attempting to explain how he felt, AJ faltered as he choked back tears, holding his head in his hands.
“I don’t feel anything,” he said at first, trying to come to terms with the effect of the loss, before he had to admit, “I’m upset deep down in my heart,” Sky Sports quoted him as saying.
Earlier, at the final sound of the whistle in the rematch, Joshua had flung two championship belts from the ring, stepped momentarily out of the arena before returning to grab the microphone. He was visibly frustrated.
“I was mad at myself. Not at anyone, just at myself. So I thought I’ve got to get out of here because I’m mad. Like anyone when you’re angry, you might do stupid things
“Then I realised, this is sport. Let me do the right thing. Then I just spoke from my heart. It’s been so tough. You see AJ holding it together and I’m a hustler so I try and hold things together and I try and work hard, put things together, make sure my team’s good. But it comes at a cost, a big cost. It’ll never break me, but it takes real strength for it not to break you.
“There’s a little crack in that armour. Because I took a loss and I think you just saw me upset,” he explained.
“I’m a fighter,” he continued, “I’m not a normal person, even though I try to hold it together.”
The loss is very hard to take and Joshua will definitely smart from it in the days to come. Whether it won’t break him, as he has vowed, is a resolve he needs to hang on to for a rebound to the Champions’ Hall of Fame. Is this an end of a champion or he will lift those coveted belts someday, only time tell.