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JEFF POWELL: Anthony Joshua has relatively easy work ahead to return to a world title as he looks more like the old AJ… and now will he fight Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk next winter?

  • Anthony Joshua looked back to the old AJ in beating Otto Wallin on Saturday
  • 2024 could see two Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk fights – before a date for AJ 

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Anthony Joshua rolled back the years. Deontay Wilder rolled up the carpet.

So complex are the ironies of big-time boxing that AJ – instead of pocketing one hundred million dollars from two sand-shoe shuffles with the broken Bronze Bomber – will be offered a shortcut to a third world heavyweight title.

Deep down – since he already has ten times more millions to his account than the 15 children Wilder and Tyson Fury have sired between them – this is what Joshua may prefer.

In the final reckoning legacy, respect, history and all that come down to all you put into the record books. Not how much into your bank.

If in Riyadh on Saturday night Wilder had continued proving himself the most lethal puncher since Iron Mike Tyson instead of feebly losing all 12 rounds to Kiwi Joseph Parker, then the desert sun would have risen over a very different landscape.

Anthony Joshua beat Otto Wallin on Saturday night, showing signs of the 'old AJ'

Anthony Joshua beat Otto Wallin on Saturday night, showing signs of the ‘old AJ’

Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will fight twice this year - while Joshua is set for a world title

Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will fight twice this year - while Joshua is set for a world title

Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will fight twice this year – while Joshua is set for a world title

Now the two-fight contract with Wilder lies gathering dust in the Saudi Kingdom while Joshua contemplates the prospect of meeting one Filip Hrgovic for a vacant IBF world championship.

So contrary is this particular sanctioning body that they are expected to strip their belt from the winner of the February 17 fight between Fury and Oleksandr Usyk for the undisputed world heavyweight championship for which boxing has been begging the last two decades.

While those two go back to Saudi for a rematch in the summer, the IBF will insist on their mandatory challenger getting his shot.

Step up Croatia’s Hrgovic, who kept his nose clean on Saturday with an instant stoppage of hapless Australian fall guy Mark De Mori. More relatively easy work for Joshua, now he has got his mojo back.

No, Otto Wallin is no longer the same Swedish basher who once gave Fury a gashed eye and a headache. But yes, Joshua did look more like the old AJ who pounded his way to Olympic gold and two world heavyweight titles.

The aggression which evaporated after he was knocked out by Mexico’s roly-poly Andy Ruiz Jr returned. As did the fluency of forward movement, the ramrod left jab, the bone-shaking rights. Most importantly of all the confidence as he bullied his way through the first four rounds before referee Steve Gray and Wallin’s corner men agreed their man had suffered punishment enough.

The trainers played significant roles in the bill-topping fights. Ben Davison coaxed Joshua out of his negative mindset and on to the front once more. Andy Lee not only brought former world champion Parker back to title contention but also into the best performance of his life.

It gives hope to us all that the likeable New Zealander benefited mentally also from sharing a few Jagermeisters as well invaluable sparring with his idol and friend Fury.

As for Wilder, after his retreat into Costa Rica’s eco jungle to sample the mystic powers of psychedelic drugs he boxed as if still in a nirvana trance.

When he raised an arm at the final bell as if expecting the gods to declare him triumphant he was still gazing at the moon. Parker won every round on one official card as well as mine and many others.

Not until the twelfth did he make any significant effort to land his right bazooka. Even then his timing was so far off that he couldn’t have punched his way out of a cobweb. Not even rust after only 50 seconds in the ring, for his last stoppage victory win since the third of his wars with Fury, can explain this away.

‘Perhaps I’ve found too much love in my life,’ Wilder muttered while hinting at retirement. That, he retracted later but whenever he returns to reality he will have to consider that at 38 he is unlikely ever to be the same deadly fighting man again. Highly unlikely, perhaps we should say. For Wilder the magic carpet ride looks to have crash-landed. For good.

Deontay Wilder bizarrely raised his hand after fighting Joseph Parker - when defeat was clear

Deontay Wilder bizarrely raised his hand after fighting Joseph Parker - when defeat was clear

Deontay Wilder bizarrely raised his hand after fighting Joseph Parker – when defeat was clear

With 2024 beginning to look like the last year of the Golden Oldies – with Fury and Usyk fighting each other twice and maybe the winner giving Joshua his hefty cash-out next winter – Daniel Dubois has found redemption just in time to be party to the succession.

Doubts raised about Dynamite Daniel’s stomach for the hardest game after his second taking of a knee, against Usyk, required answers.

He provided them by beating up Jarrell Miller, the man mountain almost as wide as he is tall, then stopping this belligerent and previously undefeated American brawler seconds before the end of the tenth and final round.

Criticism can sometimes be your best friend. A motivator to which a reborn Joshua and a redeemed Dubois have just borne witness.

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