Before you judge Anthony Joshua for his emotional outburst, ask yourself why

The former world heavyweight champion suffered defeat in Jeddah before an outrageous outburst in the ring, but we should not be so quick to condemn, writes Jack Rathborn

Monday 22 August 2022 21:30 BST
Joshua faces a long road back to the top
Joshua faces a long road back to the top (PA)

Anthony Joshua was bruised. The Briton had been peppered with shots and his pride had been dented after back-to-back defeats built a rage deep inside. Just as his vision was blurred by Oleksandr Usyk’s lightning-fast hands, Joshua’s mind failed to clear in time.

It was a remarkable rant inside the ring in Jeddah, moments after the Ukrainian’s hand was raised. Despite Usyk’s lack of fluency in the English language, he looked on bewildered, if not mildly irked by the disrespectful nature of the vanquished seizing the initial moment after the heavyweight champion of the world is announced. Not to mention spoiling the moment for a Ukrainian icon poised to deliver an emotive message back to his war-torn country.

“If you knew my story you’d understand the passion,” Joshua shouted, later breaking down in tears at the post-fight press conference. It was a stunning moment, with the nature of this barbaric sport demanding instant takes.

Let’s park the debate as to whether a man or woman is ready to speak coherently after absorbing such shock and trauma to the brain. There is a feverish demand for immediate analysis of the reaction, both on the pay-per-view platform to justify the £26.95 fee and also for many publications to spread the initial judgements, some of which can be cruel and hard to shake for a fighter.

Sky Sports Box Office’s excellent presenter Anna Woolhouse and former world champion Carl Froch, working as a pundit on the night, both floated the possibility of Joshua experiencing symptoms of concussion. It was not an outrageous question to pose, given Joshua’s past behaviour, even in defeat to Andy Ruiz or to Usyk the first time last September.

It is fair to question whether there might be a caveat to instant reaction in the media; a reminder to the reader or viewer to consider how at the very least emotions are running high in a sport famed for presenting its cast of characters, both raw and exposed.

“Heavyweights like Mike Tyson, Sonny Liston, Jack Dempsey,” Joshua added. “‘You don’t throw combinations like Rocky Marciano!’ Because I ain’t 14 stone, that’s why... I’m 18 stone, that’s why, I’m heavy.”

It was an explosion after more than a decade as the face of British boxing, the dashing looks and chiselled frame. Perfect for so long with perhaps the most prestigious title in sport; even the golden boy succumbed to the brutal nature of the sweet science.

Joshua’s legacy is arguably already set despite this moment of madness. Yes, there is a flawed side to him, yet most would sympathise when imagining or reflecting on their lowest ebb. Joshua stole Usyk’s moment and certainly didn’t carry himself with the usual, unsustainable level of class seen throughout his compelling journey.

But context is key and fighters have done far worse. For Joshua, today will prompt evaluation having discovered who he is when enduring such physical and mental pain and, to him, humiliation. It is just another example of a heavy setback poised to fuel a famous comeback.


Jack Rathborn

Assistant sports editor

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