Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua insists Oleksandr Usyk was not toughest opponent he has faced

Joshua has insisted that Wladimir Klitschko was the toughest opponent he has faced despite his recent comprehensive defeat to Usyk, with 'AJ' claiming the fight was "too early" despite his victory

Anthony Joshua believes Wladimir Klitschko is the toughest opponent he has faced in his boxing career despite losing his belts to Oleksandr Usyk last year.

The British star suffered the second defeat of his career last year in a mandatory title defence against the Ukrainian. He had already been beaten by Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, but later avenged his defeat by outpointing the Mexican in Saudi Arabia.

However Joshua maintains his fight with Klitschko came “too early” in his boxing career which made the epic battle his sternest test to date. “The hardest opponent I have come up against would be Wladimir Klitschko definitely,” Joshua said during a Q&A with Oxford Union. “The passing of the guard. The young lion vs the old lion. At the time I fought him I thought it was definitely too early but it was his last fight.

“So if I didn’t fight him then it would have been too late, so it was risk vs reward and I thought boxing needed it. Sometimes due to a lack of experience we make it harder than it sometimes need to be. He had definitely more knockouts on his record than I have fights and knockouts combined. He is experienced and very strong and it was a tough fight.

“Before that stage I was knocking guys out within six rounds and seven rounds. Wladimir took me eleven rounds somewhere I had never been before but he was my toughest for sure.”

Joshua fought Klitschko in front of a then record 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium. Joshua was knocked down for the first time in his career but managed to rally in the penultimate round to ensure his rival’s career ended in defeat.

Anthony Joshua was defeated by Oleksandr Usyk
Anthony Joshua was defeated by Oleksandr Usyk (Image: Getty Images)

However Usyk proposed a much more significant test for Joshua who was unable to make a dents in his challenger. Usyk comprehensively out-boxed the two-time champion who lost his unified titles in London.

The 32-year-old faced heavy criticism for his tactical approach to the fight with many suggesting he failed to use any of his trademark aggression and power. The Briton will now have the opportunity to avenge his latest defeat this summer with the rematch expected to take place on July 23 in Saudi Arabia.

He has admitted that he will come in to his latest test with a structured gameplan, instead of relying on “raw ability” to look for revenge. “If I’m honest with you, this is the first time in my career I’d say we are specifically working to a game plan,” Joshua continued.

“So it will all make sense after July 23. I’ve based a lot of my success on raw ability, with the right coaches, experienced coaches. But they probably knew I had ability. So, it’s just about neutering that ability. What tends to happen is, we overthink things too much when there isn’t a game plan. Because things don’t always go our way when it’s based on raw ability”

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