Redemption in the Ring: Can Anthony Joshua Complete a Spectacular Comeback Story?

Redemption in the Ring: Can Anthony Joshua Complete a Spectacular Comeback Story?

“Why do we fall..? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up again.”

And fall he did. It was Madison Square Gardens, June 1st 2019 when the then brightest star in the boxing world came crashing down to earth - and when a 18 stone mountain of muscle falls, it makes a hell of a bang.

In the blink of an eye AJ went from an unstoppable force with a breathtaking balance of power and precision, to a tumbling tower - vulnerable, overhyped and “chinny”.

So fickle is the world of sport that despite his almost punch perfect performance in the rematch, his reputation has never been the same since that rainy night in New York City.

Two further defeats to current reigning champion Oleksandr Usyk left him looking broken and for many - finished.

That could well be the end of the story. From humble origins, AJ is now rich, a two-time heavyweight champion of the world and will no doubt be able to live a very comfortable life should he call it a day - but is there more to him than we previously thought?

A Reputation Built on Expectation

On the 9th April 2016 I was lucky enough to be ringside as Anthony Joshua won what with hindsight looks like a mis-match against Charles Martin to win the IBO Heavy Weight belt and become a genuine world champion. He had been fast tracked through the Olympics and was tipped to be the next big thing.

Routine wins against a number of Americans followed and it seemed like AJ was going to steamroll everyone in his path.

Then the magical night with Klitschko and a packed Wembley Stadium which was everything you would ever want - an instant classic.

But was it the making of AJ or a dark turning point?

A heavy knock down didn’t cost him on the night - but some might say he never really got back up. AJ until that moment had been unbeatable, never even really hurt - now he was human, hittable... beatable.

That terrible night against Andy Ruiz Jr was to follow and so the long long path back towards the top of the mountain began.

Anthony Joshua Andy Ruiz

The Road to Redemption

AJ has changed trainers after almost every fight since then - trying different gyms, different voices and different approaches to find a way back to be the furious force he once was. In recent years he has looked a shadow of his younger self, gun shy, fearful almost - the scar tissue of heavy defeats slowing down that giant frame.

But AJ has also shown a lot of progress. More control, more understanding of the fight game - he has become a better boxer. Yes he lost both fights to Usyk, but Usyk is unanimously considered to be an absolute brilliant boxer - yet AJ only lost narrowly.

And so to the rebuild.

AJ has teamed up with Ben Davidson, once responsible for the Tyson Fury comeback (remember when Fury was bigger than a house - Davidson sorted that out!) and you have to say the 4 fight results for AJ and Davidson have shown more than a little promise.

He fought Jermaine Franklin in April '23 in a fight that left fans more than a little disappointed. Still gun shy, still not the explosive powerful and ruthless AJ we all want, a points win it was.

Then in August '23 AJ stepped in with Robert Helenius who had been destroyed in 1 round by Deontay Wilder. This time Joshua got a showreel knockout - but after 7 rounds. On his way up through the division you got the feeling AJ would have handled Helenius much faster. That said, he found his power and it was an excellent finish against a fighter who has been about.

In December '23 AJ fought Otto Wallin, a highly regarded Swede who for many should have got a decision over Tyson Fury.

Going into the fight Otto Wallin was considered the real deal, a true test, some even fancied him to beat Joshua. But it was not to be Wallin’s night - AJ put on a show. This was possibly his best ever performance, a perfect combination of power, accuracy, poise, control, aggression and smarts gave him a near perfect performance.

Anthony Joshua Otto Wallin


If you wanted a sign that AJ was back, and still capable of being crowned the overall king from this generations boxing big guys then this was it - this was the performance we all wanted, this was the statement that Anthony Joshua might still be THE man.

In March Joshua continued his resurgence, dominating and knocking out Francis Ngannou. Now Ngannou was a curveball, and it’s hard to know what to make of him based in his very thin record. But AJ could only do what he did - nothing more. He was again exceptional.

Back at the Top?

So writing in April 2024 you can only say one thing - Anthony Joshua is absolutely back at the very top of the challenger list. He is no doubt the biggest financial draw in the division and the one they all want is AJ vs Fury for all the sweeties. A certain Ukranian might have something to say about that (and it’s not clear how much appetite there would be at this point for AJ vs Usyk 3) but you would not be surprised if that’s where it all landed.

The questions at the top of the heavyweight division remain the same as they have always been. Since the days of Frazer and Ali, Foreman and Tyson we have all wanted to know the same thing: who is the very best when everyone is on the top of their game?

I believe AJ is back at the top of his game. Is that enough to beat a 100% Fury, overcome the dynamite of a 100% Bronze Bomber or finally nail a 100% Usyk - and how about the next generation? Daniel Dubois, Sanchez, Anderson to name a few.

The AJ redemption story isn’t complete. He needs to beat the big names, he needs to take some shots and come back from them, he needs to win in the USA. Only one fighter will be the generation fighter - will it be AJ?

Lets hope we find out sooner rather than later!

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