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Tony Bellew says Anthony Joshua needs to be returned to pre-2015 to reinvent himself

Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk boxing photo

By Scott Gilfoid: Tony Bellew believes that if Anthony Joshua can be returned to the fighter, he was in 2015 and before, he can transform his career to defeat Oleksandr Usyk in their rematch.

Bellew thinks that the golden era of former IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champion Joshua’s career was from 2013 to 2015, and if he can only return to that magic period, he’ll beat Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) next March.

Bellew is failing to recognize that the pre-2015 version of Joshua was fighting strictly godawful opposition that he was able to run over without worrying about getting hit back.

Joshua was able to get away with murder against the terrible opposition he was facing in the first 14 fights of his career before meeting up with Dillian Whyte in 2015.

Joshua’s six fights leading up to his match against Whyte in 2015:

  • Gary Cornish
  • Kevin Johnson
  • Raphael Zumbano
  • Jason Gavern
  • Michael Sprott
  • Denis Bakhtov

Bellew wants Joshua to be taken back to 2015

“I think there are certain things that need igniting in Anthony Joshua,” said Bellew to DAZN Boxing Show. “Maybe the aggression, maybe back to what he was doing before the Dillian Whyte fight. That fighter is still in there; he’s gotta find a way to ignite that in himself again.”

Anthony Joshua, Oleksandr Usyk boxing photo

“It’s all about how AJ clicks with these guys, and it’s going to have to be quick because this is no time to get a feel-out fight to see how the relationship is going to go.

“He’s [Joshua] got to hit the ground running, and going in with  Oleksandr Usyk a second time with a new trainer is very risky, but at the same time, I understand why he’s doing it.

“He’s [Joshua] addressing a problem, and he feels he needs a fresh outlook. That’s not taking anything away from Rob McCracken and the job he’s done,”  said Bellew.

What Joshua went through in his loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. was the equivalent of being tossed into a warzone and seeing and experiencing things that have changed him permanently.

People don’t come of a war without being changed permanently from what they went through. What Joshua went through physically and mentally in his loss to Ruiz Jr. in 2019 changed him forever.

He’s NOT going to come back to be the fighter he was way back in 2015. Even if it were possible, Joshua couldn’t get away with fighting the way he used to back then against a talented fighter like Usyk.

A new trainer won’t change Joshua

“A fighter only gets one opportunity and a career,” said Bellew about Joshua wanting to change trainers. “A trainer gets dozens and dozens with how many fighters he wants to train.

“A fighter gets one. He’s got one opportunity, and he’s got to make the most of it, and I think that’s what Anthony Joshua is doing.

“[Eddy] Reynoso is an excellent trainer,” said Bellew about the possibility of Joshua replacing McCracken with the San Diego coach Reynoso. “The stumbling block there is Andy Ruiz being in camp.

“That’s a bit of a stumbling block, but if he can look past that, he’s a brilliant coach. The job he’s done with Canelo is phenomenal. He puts game plans in order fantastically well as when Canelo defeated GGG in the rematch.

“It’s how he clicks [with the coach] because you’re not going to change too much with Anthony Joshua’s game at this stage of his career and at the age that he’s at [31],” Bellew said.

If Joshua isn’t going to be changed with the addition of a new coach, he might as well keep McCracken and instead make sure that the game plan for the rematch with Usyk is a sound one.

At this point, Joshua’s relationship with McCracken might not be capable of being saved. When a fighter is OPENLY hunting for a new coach, it would be an uncomfortable situation for him and McCracken if he returned.

The last thing Joshua needs is for McCracken to be walking on eggshells, fearing that he’s going to get replaced with him making the wrong decision.

Let’s face it. Joshua would have likely lost to Usyk last September no matter who his trainer was for that fight. Ultimately, Joshua lost the battle to Usyk because he was too stiff and robotic, and his stamina and chin weren’t good enough.

On top of all that, Joshua lacked the mobility to cut off the ring on Usyk, making it easy for the Ukrainian to dart around the ring like a rabbit all night.

Joshua could have had Ronnie Shields, Eddy Reynoso, Virgil Hunter, and Robert Garcia working as his trainer for that fight with Usyk, and he STILL would have lost.

Those guys would be in the same position McCracken is in now, with Joshua using them as a convenient scapegoat for his loss and failing to look in the mirror to realize that he wasn’t good enough.

Joshua probably won’t be good enough in the rematch with Usyk, and he’ll probably dump the poor sap that he hires as his replacement for McCraken.

It’s going to look pathetic if Joshua keeps dumping coaches without taking responsibility for him not being talented enough to win.

Joshua wants to prove the world wrong

“So it’s got to be someone that clicks with him immediately and isn’t going to try and change his mental makeup and his tactical approach to his fights very much.

“It’s very dangerous to start fiddling with a guy’s mentality and how he approaches fights,” Bellew said of AJ.

“I just think certain things that need igniting with Anthony Joshua,” said Bellew. “I feel like it was a different fighter than we saw against Klitschko than we saw against Usyk.

“And I understand the styles are completely different styles, and it’s quite compelling to watch both fights back.

“But ultimately, that fighter is still in there with Anthony Joshua. He’s just got to find a way to ignite that in himself again, and that is very hard to do for a fighter.

“You go through a chain of different cyles as a fighter. You become a really hungry and aggressive fighter, and you become a champion, and you relax a little bit and take your foot off the pedal.

“And then it gets reignited against Ruiz, and we see the best of him [in the rematch].

“I feel at this stage in his [Joshua]  career right now, he knows how damaging the defeat was, but it’s also lit a fire in his stomach, and he wants to prove to the world wrong.

“Everybody is writing him off right now, and everybody is saying he has no chance of defeating  Oleksandr Usyk. He does, make no mistake about that, and he has the capability and the ability to do it.

“He’s just got to figure out the way he does it, and he needs a coach to believe in him. Also, to have the same belief in the strategy that he puts in place,” said Bellew of Joshua.

It’s good that Joshua has a chip on his shoulder going into his rematch with Usyk in five months from now in March 2022.

But if Joshua can’t fight hard for more than a round or two without gassing out, he’s not going to prove ANYONE wrong against Usyk.

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