Anthony Joshua only needs an attitude tweak to return to the top of the heavyweight division

Anthony Joshua gestures during a press conference at the Nobu Hotel London Portman Square, London, ahead of his fight against Jermaine Franklin on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. (Photo by Zac Goodwin/Getty Images)

Anthony Joshua sat at a table in a London hotel on Wednesday and discussed his fight against Jermaine Franklin on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London. Above him were the big words “New Dawn,” telling the story of where the former heavyweight champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist is in his career.

Joshua is without question a tremendous talent, but he doesn’t always show his full potential. Most notably, he struggled in 2019 with a KO loss to Andy Ruiz. But he has also suffered two losses in bouts for the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles to Oleksandr Usyk.

However, Usyk is an elite fighter who, by the time he retires tomorrow, will likely already have his ticket into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He is 20-0 as a pro and was the undisputed cruiserweight champion and has three of the four major heavyweight belts. Five of Usyk’s last seven fights have had at least two of the four major title belts at stake, be it cruiserweight or heavyweight.

Losing to this guy is no cause for embarrassment.

So much is expected of Joshua because of his physical abilities. Not only is he massive, 6ft 6 tall and weighs about 245 chiseled pounds, he is also very athletic and a strong puncher. He’s a highly intelligent young man with a flair for the fighting game and a brain that will help him thrive long after boxing.

He’s achieved a lot in his young career, although that’s often overlooked with so much attention focused on his losses. But if he had the attitude of, say, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, his two biggest rivals, he might never lose.

First think of Fury who at 6-9 and 275lbs makes even Joshua look small. But Fury isn’t nearly as athletic as Joshua and doesn’t hit nearly as hard as either Joshua or Wilder. Wilder is arguably the biggest puncher in boxing history, and if he’s not the best, there are very few who unequivocally punch harder.

After battling Wilder to a draw in 2018, Fury realized the best way to beat Wilder was to attack and get him back on his feet. But that meant going straight into the lion’s den and risking being hit in the chin by Wilder. Victory meant more to him than the possibility of being dropped and/or injured, and he willingly put himself at risk in pursuit of victory.

If Joshua struggled with that attitude, maybe we’d hailed him as one of the best of all time at any weight.

Wilder loves to fight and he knows he’ll get hit for his attacking style. But it never stopped him from aggressively going into a total blitz and trying to win.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02: Anthony Joshua attends the JD King Of The Game Christmas Launch Event at All Star Lanes on November 2, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for JD)

A confident attitude would go a long way in helping Anthony Joshua climb back to the top of the heavyweight division. (Photo by David M Benett, Getty Images)

You could say Fury and Wilder are fighters while Joshua is a boxer. They are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

No matter how he fights. However, Joshua was an unqualified success. The problem he faces as he embarks on the Franklin fight is the industry’s obsession with losing and the accumulation of talent near the top.

The heavyweight division is teeming with talent, with Fury, Usyk and Wilder still leading the pack and Joe Joyce among the many knocking on the door at the top.

Joshua is clearly in the middle of that group, but hearing him speak is almost like not believing it. He had a question about the possibility of losing to Franklin, who is 21-1 but has encountered underperforming opponents. His biggest namesake came in his last fight when he fought Dillian Whyte. Whyte, who is at the end of his career, won a majority decision against Franklin, winning eight rounds on two of the three judges’ cards.

Joshua shouldn’t consider the possibility of defeat for a moment. When asked what would happen if he lost to Franklin, he said he was considering retiring.

“If Jermaine were to succeed on Saturday night, I would give him the respect he deserves,” Joshua said. “I will make the decision whether I want to keep fighting or not. I feel like I can make that decision. If I want to keep fighting, I don’t think it’s up to anyone to tell me anything. I don’t anyway. I think anybody can tell me what to do with my career.”

Joshua is a -1000 favorite at BetMGM and it is almost ridiculous to hear him speak like that. He’s good enough to beat anyone in the world – including Usyk, Fury and Wilder – but doesn’t seem to believe in it as much as others.

If a fighter loses and puts on a good show, who cares? The only time losing should matter is when a fighter isn’t giving a full effort and is lackluster in the ring. When you’re fighting the best in the world, like the top 10 all are, you should realize that losing is part of the game.

Joshua is talented enough to win every night, but he’s not the only talented one out there. However, he acknowledged that there was pressure at the highest level.

“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, fighters,” Joshua said. “Hearing that final bell or hearing the referee count it is such a high feeling that no amount of money can give you that feeling. It’s true. It’s a crazy feeling. Every fight is a new chapter, I would say. Every chapter is so important.”

This chapter is important because he’s not far from being champion again. And with a couple of wins, it’s not inconceivable that he could face Fury in one of the top 10 grossing fights in boxing history.

I believe in Anthony Joshua like so many others. But it is also up to him to believe in it.

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