Fans have seen a marked change in Anthony Joshua’s fighting style over the last few years, with many believing his first career loss to Andy Ruiz Jr changed him.
But trainer Adam Booth – who led David Haye to the unified world cruiserweight titles – has looked further back on the record to the Wladimir Klitschko fight in 2017.
Speaking on Up Front with Simon Jordan, Booth said the eleven round war changed Joshua like Klitschko himself had been earlier in his impressive career.
“Is AJ gun-shy subsequent to the Wladimir Klitschko fight, or is he a better fighter with self-preservation instincts? Klitschko gets knocked out by Corey Sanders, comes back a better winner but a less entertaining fighter because his primary concern is not getting knocked out whilst winning.”
After being down himself, the Ukrainian had Joshua wobbled and on the ropes in the fifth, putting his foot on the gas for a stoppage.
‘AJ’ – who was looking to add the WBO and IBO titles to his IBF belt that night – weathered the storm, but a hellacious right hand in the sixth saw him dropped to the canvas for the first time in his professional career.
The Brit survived for one minute and 40 seconds, making it to the bell and ultimately winning by knockout in the eleventh round to put his stamp on a heavyweight battle for the ages.
Booth believes that, if Joshua was concussed that night, it could be the moment he switched tracks as a fighter.
“Anyone that’s been knocked out or concussed in a fight knows what that feels like, and it’s a terrifying experience that no one ever sees. So if you don’t know after that Klitschko win how much he was hurt – was he concussed? Was he throwing up that night with the blistering headache and the confusion and coming out a concussion thinking ‘I don’t want that to happen again’?
Being concussed makes people come out and think ‘I’m going to be a bit more savvy here, make sure I don’t get hit, I don’t need to be in a war, why be in a war?’ I think the majority of fighters go in there saying ‘I’m prepared to win, but I’m not prepared to die for this or give myself damage.'”
Joshua himself later said that he wasn’t keen on getting into a firefight like that again.
Some will argue that he fought the same way against Ruiz in 2019, his come-forward style ultimately being his downfall that night. He would beat Ruiz in a rematch via decision six months later by boxing cleverly.
Since then, he has changed trainers twice and now ends up under the tutelage of Derrick James. Fans feel that the ‘finisher’s instinct’ is still missing, but two wins this year may have ‘AJ’ and his team saying so what?
The acid test could be Deontay Wilder, whom the Brit has been in negotiations with for the best part of this year. With 42 knockouts from 43 wins, the general consensus is Joshua must get to Wilder before Wilder gets to him.