Anthony Joshua‘s rematch with Dillian Whyte has the potential to offer more than just bragging rights. It could see either boxer return to the fore of the heavyweight conversation following their disappointing performances against Jermaine Franklin.
The history between AJ and Whyte makes the Body Snatcher one of the most dangerous opponents for Joshua outside the current champions, regardless of how poor he looked in his long-awaited title shot against Tyson Fury last year.
The fact their rematch will be taking place at the O2 Arena also brings a sense of nostalgia after the two British heavyweight’s went toe-to-toe at the same venue in December 2015.
But, with great opportunity comes great risk. A loss for either boxer would set their careers back.
And, although I’m not saying they would be finished, it would take a substantial amount for them to claw their way to the top of the division.
Anthony Joshua’s (above) rematch with Dillian Whyte has officially been confirmed
A loss for either British boxer at the O2 on August 12 would set their careers back significantly
Joshua has made it clear he is eager to fight three times this year, gel with new trainer Derrick James and return to the top of the heavyweight scene. But, facing his arch-nemesis Whyte for a second time has the potential to derail his plans for 2023.
AJ will head into the rematch as the favourite despite his recent fall from grace -having suffered successive defeats to Oleksandr Usyk before picking up a ropey points victory over American heavyweight Jermaine Franklin.
However, the pressure will be on Joshua’s shoulders heading into the bout at the O2 next month as his Saudi Arabian bout with Deontay Wilder will be hanging in the balance.
AJ’s bout against Wilder is a lucrative opportunity to propel the British boxer back to the top of the heavyweight division. However, a loss to the Body Snatcher could see Wilder pull out of their potential bout.
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The Bronzer Bomber is looking to return to the fore of the heavyweight conversation, after losing to Tyson Fury twice in a row in 2020 and 2021, and feels he must be selective about his next opponent.
Facing AJ after a loss to Whyte won’t make the splash he is intending. Therefore, the American heavyweight may be more inclined to face the likes of Andy Ruiz in Saudi Arabia instead.
AJ’s performance against Whyte will also play a role in his future endeavours. There was a lot of talk ahead of the Franklin fight about how Joshua had to win in spectacular fashion and Eddie Hearn even backed AJ to come in the a wrecking ball.
But, that’s not the AJ we got. Instead, we got a Joshua that was afraid to let his hands go out of fear of the counter. I can’t blame him though – he will have been extremely cautious given what happened during his first fight with Usyk.
Joshua and Whyte last fought in 2015, with AJ emerging victorious via technical knockout
Nevertheless, at the peak of his powers – before Andy Ruiz Jnr brought him crashing down to earth – a prime AJ would never have gone the distance with a fighter like Franklin.
However, AJ did show glimpses of his former self during his second bout with the Ukrainian. He concentrated on attacking the body before finally breaking through in round nine round and hurting the 36-year-old with a flurry of shots.
The champion – who had taken AJ’s WBA, WBO and IBF belts during their September bout – looked uneasy on his legs after being bullied around the ring. Joshua was relentless, unleashing a series of quick-fire punches to the head and midsection.
AJ threw 67 punches in the ninth round and landed 28 of them. That was double his career high. However, he failed to truly capitalise.
Usyk turned the fight around in the 11th and dominated before a sharp counter right hand pushed the Ukrainian back for a split second. AJ knew he needed something spectacular to win and finished the fight by going for the KO.
AJ was exciting and ferocious during the 12th round but couldn’t quite do the business. And although he lost to the Ukrainian, people were excited about what was to come from the Brit given his upturn in form.
However, the pressure was still on AJ’s shoulders to perform against Franklin. Some boxing fans were calling for him to retire from the sport if he failed to beat the American heavyweight.
AJ managed to secure the win but there was nothing spectacular about it. Speaking at ringside immediately after the fight, I asked Joshua whether he was happy with his performance and he said: ‘Not really, not that happy with it. But, it’s all good’.
Joshua beat Jermaine Franklin in April 2023 at the O2 Arena via unanimous decision
Fans will be eager to see a different side to AJ during his bout with Whyte and Joshua will be eager to prove himself to the those at the top of the division. Lets be realistic, the likes of Tyson Fury isn’t going to want AJ if he flops against Whyte.
Nevertheless, I believe the fans will get what they want from Joshua on August 12. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. If there’s one opponent that will bring the best out of AJ (or bring back the old AJ as people like to say) it’s Whyte.
The atmosphere for AJ’s bout with Whyte was electric. AJ himself was electric. He landed a vicious right uppercut in the seventh round which sent the Brixton heavyweight tumbling flat onto the bottom rope.
However, Whyte will be back with a vengeance too after stating he lost to AJ after breaking his hand during their 2015 bout. Speaking after their fight in 2015, Whyte said: ‘I was like, Listen, it’s my opportunity. All I’ve got to do is – get the left hook off and that will be enough.
‘Because Joshua when he attacks, he leaves his right side open all the time. But obviously the shoulder was so bad. I actually did land the punch I wanted to land, but when I landed it, my whole AC joint shattered. The pain was intense.
‘My adrenaline was pumping, so I was just trying to keep it in, but the pain was crazy. Every time I was jabbing or hitting him, it felt like the bone rubbing on bone and there was no power, no snap in the joint anymore.’
Whyte is under just as much pressure to secure a victory over AJ as his best win in the last four years came against a 41-year-old, Covid-worn Alexander Povetkin.
Eddie Hearn felt AJ (centre) would benefit from another fight under his new trainer Derrick James (left) before facing Deontay Wilder in Saudi Arabia
Last time out Whyte’s hand was raised against Franklin, yet most were of the opinion it shouldn’t have been. The American heavyweight even stated he was ‘robbed’ by the British judges.
Losing to AJ would push him out of the top tier for heavyweight boxing. He’s already missing from the top five in the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO rankings. He’s only managed the top 10 in the WBC and IFB standings. I can’t see him getting a look in at Wilder, Ruiz or Usyk any time soon.
Nevertheless, the history between AJ and Whyte makes the Body Snatcher one of the most dangerous opponents for Joshua outside the current champions, regardless of how poor he looked in his long-awaited title shot against Fury last year.
I don’t care what you say, this fight is going to be huge. Joshua vs Whyte, back at the O2. Sign me up, I’ll be tuning in for sure.
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