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Anthony Joshua Wins By KO Despite Very Timid Performance

Anthony Joshua Wins By KO Despite Very Timid Performance featured image
Anthony Joshua (right) wins via knock out against Robert Helenius in the International Heavyweight contest at the O2 Arena, London. Picture date: Saturday August 12, 2023. (Photo by Nick Potts/PA Images via Getty Images)

Former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has officially completed his second fight following his dual losses against Oleksandr Usyk. However, the former British world champion showcased a side of himself that appeared to be on the downward spiral rather than the opposite on August 12th at the O2 Arena against stand-in opponent Robert Helenius.

Consistently dealing with high expectations, Anthony Joshua (26-3, 23 KO’s) failed to impress against Finnish heavyweight Robert Helenius (32-5, 21 KO’s), who replaced Dillian Whyte (29-3, 19 KO’s) on short notice following his failed drug test. Though Joshua’s previous match against Jermaine Franklin was not a boxing masterclass, needless to say, he performed much better during that match than when he fought Helenius.

Although Helenius came off a win the week before he fought Joshua, his first-round KO loss against Deontay Wilder still weighed heavily on the minds of many, and it further elevated expectations for Anthony Joshua. These expectations, however, were not met, even when he knocked Helenius out cold in the 7th round.

From round 1 to 7, Anthony Joshua displayed shades of his first match against Oleksandr Usyk by barely utilizing his right hand and relying on jabs to engage his opponent. Despite joining USA boxing trainer Derrick James with the intention to improve, Joshua appeared more tentative than ever during his fight with Robert Helenius.

There were flashes of improvement in his technique; his footwork seemed more fluid, and his head movement was quite active, although not as close to when he fought Jermaine Franklin (22-2, 14 KO’s) earlier this year in April. However, there were barely any combinations thrown during his fight with Helenius, and his right arm was underutilized, giving the impression that he might have injured it.

To Robert Helenius’ credit, the Finnish fighter approached the match with more caution compared to when he fought Deontay Wilder. It was evident that he wasn’t in the ring to be knocked out early. With Anthony Joshua fighting hesitantly, Helenius found more comfort in attacking Joshua and outjabbed the former heavyweight world champion for most of the fight. Joshua’s jabs were active but lacked real intent to hurt his opponent; they seemed more for show than effective offense.

There were several instances where Joshua’s jab allowed him to set up his right hand, and when that right hand did land, Joshua failed to capitalize on the openings. Instead, he either remained stationary in the pocket without throwing punches or moved out of range. This revealed Joshua’s tendency to overthink, be overly cautious, or lack a killer instinct, preventing him from finishing Helenius when opportunities arose.

Until the 7th round, Anthony Joshua’s lackluster performance led to his home crowd booing him. However, the arena erupted into cheers when Joshua slipped a right hand from Helenius and countered with his own, which resulted in a knockout.

The spectacular knockout seemed anti-climactic based on Anthony Joshua’s performance throughout the bout. While Joshua might be content with his knockout victory, his performance has raised doubts about his ability to face Deontay Wilder.

Although a potential match between Joshua and Deontay Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KO’s) has been teased since the beginning of the year, no official announcement has been made. Saudi Arabia’s boxing promotion, Skills Challenge, appears to have secured the necessary funds and venue for a potential Joshua-Wilder fight. While both fighters stand to earn their highest payday, Joshua may not be the favorite if the fight materializes.

Joshua’s performance against Helenius highlighted a side of him that might not be ready for the likes of Deontay Wilder. While Wilder may have limitations in his skillset, his mental fortitude is unmatched, enabling him to overcome knockdowns and significant damage during fights. Wilder’s devastating right hand, which has dropped every opponent he’s faced, coupled with his resilience, makes him a feared adversary.

Conversely, Anthony Joshua is often criticized for his tentative fighting style, reflecting his mental approach. To his credit, Joshua has consistently taken on challenging opponents, but many of his mental attributes have not translated well in his past matches. His hesitation to engage opponents has grown since his loss against Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019, or possibly even earlier during his 2017 fight with Wladimir Klitschko.

Anthony Joshua’s timidity and apparent reluctance to take risks in the ring were evident in his bout against Robert Helenius. This performance wouldn’t position him as a favorite with bookmakers if a fight with Wilder were arranged.

Doubts linger about the Joshua-Wilder fight, rumored to occur in either December of this year or early next year, as none of the parties involved have officially confirmed the match. While both sides have dropped hints about the potential fight, these hints suggest consideration rather than a finalized agreement. Matchroom chairman Eddie Hearn has repeatedly stated that Joshua will not only fight Wilder but also defeat him.

I believe he can comfortably defeat Deontay Wilder,Hearn emphasized during the post-match press conference of Joshua vs. Helenius. “However, he can also be defeated by Deontay Wilder. I’ve always thought AJ can outbox Deontay Wilder, but I prefer him to fight tentatively.

Eddie Hearn also discussed the possibility of Joshua facing Wilder in the near future and confirmed that Joshua aims to have another fight this year. “I’ve never seen Anthony Joshua this motivated before, wanting to be so active,” Hearn admitted during the press conference. While fighting twice this year might be challenging, Joshua’s desire remains strong. The Wilder fight is expected to take place in January, but Joshua isn’t solely banking on that matchup.

Whether the fight with Wilder happens or not depends on Skills Challenge in Saudi Arabia,Hearn added. “While we’re hearing from both sides that the fight is set for January, we must keep our options open until the contract is signed.

The fight card featured a title bout between IBF interim heavyweight champion Filip Hrgovic (16-0, 13 KO’s) and Demsey McKean (22-1, 14 KO’s). Both fighters showed a good account of themselves but it was Hrgovic who clearly edged most of the rounds with his effective blows, and the match eventually culminated in a stoppage win for the Croatian in the 12th round. Hrgovic retained his IBF interim title as a result.

Derek Chisora and Gerald Washington (20-6-1, 13 KO’s) also faced each other in the co-main event in a match that wasn’t as entertaining as it seemed on paper. Chisora’s punches looked ineffective until the latter half of the fight when some of his landed blows seemed to curtail Washington’s movement and ability on the backfoot. While Washington was most effective on counters, he failed to truly put his stamp on Chisora who continuously chased him like a raging bull and eventually coursed to a hard-labored unanimous decision win.