Home News JEFF POWELL: The desert sands have shifted towards a resuscitated Anthony Joshua....

JEFF POWELL: The desert sands have shifted towards a resuscitated Anthony Joshua. The British heavyweight is 'making boxing great again'… the good he has done for this mediaeval sport is profound

13
0

Anthony Joshua has done himself a power of good, literally, with the hat-trick of thunderous blows which he thanks the Almighty for raining down upon the head of UFC interloper Francis Ngannou.

‘God is good,’ said he who would be three-time and undisputed world heavyweight champion. Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk permitting, in due course.

The good he has done for his mediaeval sport is even more profound. And he knows it.

Joshua went from worshipful to Trumpian as he said: ‘We are making boxing great again.’

That he is. Just as remarkably as he as risen from a trough of despond after being dethroned by Usyk.

Anthony Joshua claimed his fourth successive victory against Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia on Friday night

Joshua (right) knocked his opponent down three times in the opening two rounds, landing a brutal right-handed hook on Ngannou (left), knocking his opponent out

Joshua (right) knocked his opponent down three times in the opening two rounds, landing a brutal right-handed hook on Ngannou (left), knocking his opponent out 

Joshua, suddenly, is leading the charge across the Arabian desert which has become boxing's new battleground

Joshua, suddenly, is leading the charge across the Arabian desert which has become boxing’s new battleground

If ever this noble old game needed a clarion call to arms it is now. Joshua, suddenly, is leading the charge across the Arabian desert which has become the battleground. One announced by three knock-downs inside two rounds of such force that Ngannou cannot remember them.

The electricity which surged through the world of boxing in the dawn hours of this Sunday morning sparked the man himself to say: ‘We are on fire.’

He vows to carry the fight all the way to a full blown revival of the ring’s flagship division, saying: ‘Heavyweight boxing is a league of its own.’

The Premier League, he might have said. Except that it has been in the doldrums of late. Now, empowered by the black gold of Saudi oil, the best of the big men are finally getting around to boxing each other. As in days of yore.

When asked who he would prefer to fight for that undisputed crown once Fury and Usyk have settled the ownership of all the alpha belts, Joshua said: ‘Both.’

There will be a delay, since the Gypsy King and the Ukrainian hero are contracted to a rematch whichever of them prevails here in May. But they both know that the desert sands have shifted towards a resuscitated AJ.

For Fury to watch from ringside as his British arch-rival reduced to dust the huge icon of mixed martial arts who knocked down and almost defeated him here five months ago, was a 4am wake up call. Be sure he will respond with alacrity as well as the tinge of irony with which he said: ‘Me and Usyk will be real boxing.’

Tyson Fury (pictured), who defeated Ngannou last October, was spotted ringside and looked shocked by the manner of Joshua's victory

Tyson Fury (pictured), who defeated Ngannou last October, was spotted ringside and looked shocked by the manner of Joshua’s victory 

The British fighter (left), meanwhile, praised his opponent and whispered in Ngannou's (right) ear: 'You’re a great fighter. Stay in boxing. Work at boxing and you will have many big nights to come'

The British fighter (left), meanwhile, praised his opponent and whispered in Ngannou’s (right) ear: ‘You’re a great fighter. Stay in boxing. Work at boxing and you will have many big nights to come’

It was a big win for Joshua (left), who has been working hard to reinvent himself following his two defeats by Oleksandr Usyk

It was a big win for Joshua (left), who has been working hard to reinvent himself following his two defeats by Oleksandr Usyk 

Usyk, for his part, will not have recognised the hesitant Joshua he outboxed twice. Trainers Ben Davison and Andy Lee have inspired his reinventing of himself in his maturity as the old AJ who dynamited his way to Olympic gold followed by two world titles.

The buzz among the faithful will grow louder, The couple of hundred followers who trekked to Riyadh this time will multiply as his crusade goes on.

Joshua will need a worthy opponent to keep him primed as he waits for Fury and Usyk.

One candidate on the undercard did himself no harm either. Joseph Parker suffered the inevitable damage which Chinese giant Zillie Zhang is capable of inflicting when his monstrous punches connect. 

But with Usyk (pictured) and Fury set to meet in May, Joshua will need a worthy opponent to challenge him next

But with Usyk (pictured) and Fury set to meet in May, Joshua will need a worthy opponent to challenge him next 

Joseph Parker (pictured) could be that man, after coming back from suffering an early battering to defeat Zillie Zhang on Friday night

Joseph Parker (pictured) could be that man, after coming back from suffering an early battering to defeat Zillie Zhang on Friday night

Parker (right), like Joshua, has applied himself to the hard graft of redemption since losing his WBO title to the Brit six years ago

Parker (right), like Joshua, has applied himself to the hard graft of redemption since losing his WBO title to the Brit six years ago

But the amiable Kiwi rose from two knockdowns, ignored his broken nose and produced the second masterly performance of this late, late show with a brave and brilliant tactical exercise which won most of the 12 rounds. 

This on the back of beating Deontay Wilder, who has also been classified as one of the biggest punchers of all time

Parker, like Joshua, has applied himself to the hard graft of redemption since losing his WBO title to AJ six years ago. Of a possible rematch, the New Zealander who trains with Fury, says: ‘Yes. Bring it on. I’ll be ready.’

Joshua explains the cost of such epiphanies: ‘This can only be done by hard, hard work. It is by total dedication that I think I’m not just the old AJ but possibly the best AJ I’ve ever been.’

No argument here. The naysayers will join Fury in raising the caveat that Ngannou is still a novice in boxing after only two high profile fights, But as he recovered from this traumatic shock Joshua whispered in his ear: ‘You’re a great fighter. Stay in boxing. Work at boxing and you will have many big nights to come.’

Later he added: ‘These things happen to the best of men, especially with the power of heavyweight punching. But Francis is a big asset to boxing. We need him.’

Joshua also spoke of how he and Ngannou will be donating money to provide life-changing opportunities to children from Nigeria and Cameroon

Joshua also spoke of how he and Ngannou will be donating money to provide life-changing opportunities to children from Nigeria and Cameroon 

Of the Arabian summer to his career, in which he is now as hot as he has ever been, Joshua says: ‘The future is in God’s hands. We all have our destiny. What will be, will be. But I can do my bit. I will be back in the gym this Monday morning. I will keep training almost every day. Back in what I call my cage.’

By such application these 30-somethings – Joshua, Fury, Usyk, Parker – are making this mysterious but emergent land very much the country for older fighting men. With their own financial futures very much secured by the tens of millions of dollars the Saudi Kingdom is investing in them, they are coming to the help of others.

Joshua rarely talks about his charity work but given the context of his fight with Ngannou he revealed: ‘We have our roots in Africa. Me in Nigeria, Francis in Cameroon. We have agreed to combine our efforts in providing life-changing opportunities for poor kids from those two countries.’

Forget about AI for the moment. AJ the very human being has struck three huge blows for mankind.