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  • Writer's picturePaul Weir

Top trainers suggest that the shift in Anthony Joshua's style can be traced back to a pivotal moment

AJ in the Ring listening to advice
Top trainers suggest that the shift in Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua's evolution in the ring has ignited explosive discussions among boxing enthusiasts. Many have pondered whether his transformation can be traced back to his unforgettable loss to Andy Ruiz Jr., a setback that left an indelible mark on the fighter. Yet, some of the industry's top trainers argue that the true turning point occurred during Anthony Joshua's 2017 clash with Wladimir Klitschko.

Drawing intriguing parallels between Klitschko's earlier career and Joshua's post-Klitschko fighting style, these trainers raise questions about whether Joshua's approach is born of self-preservation instincts or a newfound maturation within the squared circle. One of them elucidates, "Has AJ become more cautious following his encounter with Wladimir Klitschko, or has he evolved into a fighter with heightened self-preservation instincts? Klitschko suffered a knockout defeat to Corey Sanders and returned as a more efficient winner, albeit a less captivating one, as his primary concern shifted from winning at all costs to avoiding a knockout."

In that unforgettable showdown, Joshua, then on a quest to add the WBO and IBO titles to his IBF crown, endured a ferocious onslaught from Klitschko. The fifth round saw Joshua in trouble, teetering on the ropes, but he managed to weather the storm. However, in the sixth round, an explosive right hand sent Joshua crashing to the canvas for the very first time in his professional career. Displaying astounding resilience, Joshua fought on for a grueling one minute and forty seconds before reaching the safety of the bell, ultimately securing victory via knockout in the eleventh round.

These trainers speculate that this pivotal bout may have catalyzed a profound transformation in Joshua's fighting approach. They suggest, "Those who have experienced the brutal realities of being knocked out or concussed in the ring understand the terror of it, an experience concealed from the prying eyes of the public. So, after that Klitschko win, we must ask ourselves: Was he concussed? Did he endure a night of agony with a throbbing headache and confusion, emerging with a concussion, vowing to avoid a recurrence?"

Concussions often prompt fighters to adopt a more cautious stance, prioritizing self-preservation over reckless brawls. These trainers posit, "Suffering a concussion compels fighters to reassess their strategy, to be savvier in the ring, to ensure they don't expose themselves to unnecessary risks. Why engage in a war when it's not imperative? The majority of fighters enter the ring with a single-minded goal: to win, but without a willingness to sacrifice life or long-term well-being."

Joshua himself has openly expressed his aversion to engaging in firefight-style battles akin to his confrontation with Klitschko. Critics contend that he embraced a similar approach in his 2019 bout against Ruiz, a decision that temporarily marred his record. Nonetheless, Joshua adapted his tactics for a rematch, securing victory through a tactical decision.

Over the course of his career, Joshua has changed trainers twice, and he currently trains under the guidance of Derrick James. While some fans may opine that the elusive "finisher's instinct" remains absent from his recent performances, Joshua's two wins this year have gone a long way in silencing doubters.

The ultimate test of Joshua's evolution as a fighter may come in the form of a highly anticipated clash with Deontay Wilder, with negotiations stretching out over a significant portion of the year. Wilder, renowned for his knockout prowess with 42 knockouts in 43 wins, sets the stage for a high-stakes showdown, where Joshua must assert his dominance before Wilder has the opportunity to unleash his explosive power.

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