For the first time since 2020, Anthony Joshua, found himself in the winner circle, as he out-pointed Jermaine Franklin over 12 rather tepid rounds at the O2 Arena in jolly ol' England. To be fair -- and factual -- the highly popular 'AJ' hasn't fought that often in recent years, having lost to Oleksandr Usyk in 2021 and 2022.
Under the guidance of the highly regarded, Derrick James, Joshua was largely tentative and hesitant throughout this contest. While he looked as strong and robust as ever from a physical standpoint, for much of the fight he seemed to be very unsure of himself, and he lacked a certain confidence inside that ring.
This is not an indictment on James, who has won various 'Trainer of the Year' awards the past several years with his work with Errol Spence and Jermell Charlo. But it's clear that there is still plenty of work to be done. For Joshua, this was his third trainer in as many fights. So yeah, you could state he's a boxer in transition, if not confusion.
As was pointed out in the last K9's Corner, Joshua has been a victim of his own box-office success, when it came to his overall development as a fighter.
Despite being a former unified heavyweight champion, and being 33 years old, he is still a bit of an unfinished product. Eddie Hearn, who has laid out the blueprint for this highly lucrative career, now says that the plan is for Joshua to make up for some lost development by boxing three times this year. Something he hasn't done since 2016 (the year he won the IBF belt against Charles Martin).
Joshua seems to be aboard with this plan.
But here's the reality: Joshua has never quite been the same guy after going through that memorable war against Wladimir Klitschko in 2017. In short, he got 'Rosario'd'. And for those who don't know what the means, that's something I coined years ago to reference a boxer who is forever altered (for the worse) after getting hurt for the first time in a fight. It goes back to how Hector Camacho was never really all that 'Macho' after getting buzzed a few times by Edwin Rosario in their 1986 bout.
Don't believe me, look at how he fought prior to that encounter, and post-Klitschko. It's a different guy in there. Then you add on his shocking KO loss to Andy Ruiz, and well, you have a fighter that is now firmly, safety first (second, and third).
Joshua is still an effective heavyweight, but as of now, you wont find many pundits who would tab him to beat his British rival, Tyson Fury, and there is a growing sentiment that Joe Joyce would be simply too rugged and persistent for him. The consensus is that Deontay Wilder, for all his flaws, would bang him out early. The aforementioned Usyk has already defeated him twice.
His issues, may not be so much technical or fundamental in nature, but more psychological.
Is there any trainer that can solve that?
BOXING (WAY) AFTER DARK
It was an entertaining card from the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which featured the battle for the vacant WBO featherweight title between Robeisy Ramirez and Isaac Dogboe, which was won in convincing fashion by Ramirez on ESPN+.
"I’m living a new stage in my life," said the newly minted champ. "This is a new history that I’m writing, and I did everything I had to do. As an Olympian, I won two Olympic gold medals, and now I can call myself a champion.”
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
He's come a long way under the direction of trainer Ismael Salas. But the reality is that Ramirez has still got a long ways to go as he remains, for the most part, a one-handed fighter offensively despite his vast amateur background.
But something struck me in the late rounds as I was watching this bout, which ended up being a wide unanimous decision for Ramirez after 12 rounds:
Seriously, what other sport consistently puts on its events so late into the night/early morning? Other sports seem to make it a point to be on prime time. Boxing seems OK with having their events finish well past midnight for some reason.
Before Ramirez-Dogboe, we saw a 10 round grinder between Joet Gonzalez and Enrique Vivas, where both men stood in front of one another and continually hurled leather. But it was Gonzalez who was a bit sharper and it was his punches that were doing more damage. In the late rounds, Vivas had noticeable swelling on his face, but he gamely hung in there till the final bell. Gonzalez is a solid professional prizefighter, who generally makes for good viewing.
Earlier in the night, Top Rank prospects, Emiliano Vargas, Abdullah Mason and Tiger Johnson all notched victories. But it was junior middleweight hopeful, Jahi Tucker, who shined the brightest as he overcame the hard-nosed Nikoloz Sekhniashvili over eight brisk rounds. Tucker got stung in the early moments of the bout, and looked to be almost out on his feet. But he steadied himself and began to consistently beat Sekhniashvili to the punch in the subsequent rounds.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
This was a true gut check for a young boxer who has designs on Xander Zayas, another high-profile prospect that is under the Top Rank banner. Not sure if that match-up will be consummated any time soon but Tucker showed something on this night, a fighting spirit.