Opinion: Anthony Joshua showed he is boxing’s reigning champion choke artist in loss to Oleksandr Usyk

Josh Peter
USA TODAY

Anthony Joshua, the British heavyweight boxer, is now a famous artist.

A choke artist.

It was as clear as ever Saturday when he lost to Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine.

Who is Oleksandr Usyk, you ask? Exactly.

He is a Ukranian who was fighting as a heavyweight for only the third time of his career. In front of a crowd of about 70,000 cheering madly for Joshua at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England. Cheering, that is, until Usyk outdueled and outslugged him on his way to a victory by unanimous decision and taking ownership of Joshua’s heavyweight title belts – WBO, IBF and IBO.

This should be no real surprise by now.

In June 2019, Joshua lost to Andy Ruiz Jr. (aka Fat Andy) by TKO, and he won a rematch primarily because Ruiz weighed a staggering 283 pounds and Joshua refused to brawl on his way to a unanimous decision.

Now Joshua is expected to exercise a rematch clause and fight Usyk yet again. It’s too late for vindication. Sure, he’s only 31. Which means there’s more time for more choking. But before we infuriate all of Britain, it’s worth noting a few things about boxing’s reigning champion choke artist.

ROUND-BY-ROUND ANALYSIS:Oleksandr Usyk stuns Anthony Joshua to claim three heavyweight title belts

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Anthony Joshua leaves the arena after losing to Oleksandr Usyk during their heavyweight boxing match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

He has the body of Adonis. In fact, the Greek God would probably be willing to swap pectoral muscles and biceps with Joshua.

He is handsome, articulate and refined. The kind of chap who no doubt helps elderly ladies across the street and saves stray kittens.  

He has name power, too. Because England loves its boxers.

Then there’s the 24-2 record with 22 knockouts. But the defeats are far more glaring than the victories are glorious.

He beat Wladimir Klitschko, the two-time heavyweight champion, by TKO. But Klitschko was 41 and better prepared for a retirement party than that fight. In fact, that was the last fight of his career.

Yes, Usyk was the undisputed cruiserweight champion before he decided to move up to the heavyweight division in 2019. But Joshua is three inches taller and on Saturday 20 pounds heavier and far more experienced in the weight division. But he showed poor judgment before he even climbed into the ring.

During an elaborate entrance, Joshua parade into the arena as if he were a pop singer, at one point standing in the middle of a firework show and greeting fans with waves and smiles. Not exactly a glowering Mike Tyson wearing black trunks, no socks and a white towel around his head.

It was the perfect way to gear up for an exhibition, not a fight with so much at stake. The original plan was for Joshua to fight Tyson Fury, with the boxers expected to generate more than $150 million from the blockbuster fight. But an arbitrator ruled Fury’s first contractual obligation is to fight Deontay Wilder a third time, which is set to happen Oct. 9.

It Joshua-Fury appeared the mega-fight hinged on Fury defeating Wilder. At worst, Joshua would end up fighting Wilder in what figured to be an entertaining matchup.

But others knew better. The people who knew what became clear on Saturday.

The boxer with the Adonis build, the sweet temperament outside of the ring and a country rooting for him simply can’t deliver in the clutch – something real boxing champions do.