ANTHONY JOSHUA will not box in December as he struggles to rebuild his sanity after back-to-back defeats by Oleksandr Usyk.
The 33-year-old London 2012 Olympics gold boy was dethroned from his WBA, IBF and WBO world titles by the Ukrainian mastermind in September 2021.
And he failed in his rematch in August – despite a vastly improved performance – and subsequently collapsed, throwing some of his old belts on the ground and crying in the post-fight press conference.
A decade of carrying such great expectations on his huge shoulders poured out of the father of a child after losing his crowns and any chance at his career goal of an undisputed playoff.
And although Watford icon and promoter Eddie Hearn vowed to fight in December, the powerhouse pin-up has now confirmed – despite fighting fit – his head still hasn’t fully recovered.
AJ entered talks with undefeated WBC Gypsy King Tyson Fury over a possible December 3 showdown.
But he pulled out of talks when his trading and sponsorship partnerships clashed with playing second fiddle on the Fury show that was slated for Cardiff Stadium.
And he has now confirmed to broadcaster DAZN that his family has been urging him to take an extended break to allow his huge heart and mind to recover from the agonizing losses.
“You saw after my last fight, I swear it tore me up,” Joshua bravely admitted.
“I’ve had so much to do, for me, the British fans, the undisputed fight.
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“It really tore me up, so mentally my loved ones are telling me to mentally rest.
“Physically I’m ready to ride, I’m a warrior, I like this game and I like to compete.
“But from a mental perspective, people really saw that it meant a lot.”
Bitter nemesis Fury has embarked on a second career as a mental health campaigner after his own meltdown coincided with a backdated 2017 doping ban.
But Joshua stopped all his fighting until his rock-hard facade melted away in the scorching desert of Saudi Arabia.
He now faces another rebuilding process and will most likely return to the ring against a mid-level opponent in Spring 2023 to get him back on track to victory.
But watching seven-year-old son JJ learn to deal with defeat has also taught the 6-foot-6-in ace to roll with the punches.
He said: “Even though I’m not fighting, my name gets called every day, so it’s a mental pressure to be AJ and maintain a reputation, they go hand in hand.
“Trying to do this thing — and get it right — is tough. Boxers are rough and tough, but this boxing is a lot of mental pressure.
“I won’t know how I’m going to feel until I get back in there. But the best feeling that will do me good is winning.
“It’s not nice to feel like you’re losing. Now I know why my son gets so angry when he loses anything. I never understood it before.
“Regardless of the belts, the feeling of victory will be great again inside.”
Joshua has now missed the two elite heavyweight fights of his day – against fellow Brit Fury and America’s KO king Deontay Wilder – for money and contracts.
But he’s still hoping to prove himself by eventually bringing the 34-year-old Morecambe champion into the ring, although Fury insists the ship has definitely sailed now.
“I love doing business, good business and good deals,” he said. “All that social media stuff is just time consuming.
“My dance partner, the last geezer I should be fighting (Fury), he’s a good dance partner.
“He takes care of the social media side. I think we would do good business behind the scenes.
“It will happen, we are in the same era.
“Just like two competitors, two fighters. He’s definitely someone who’s a fighter.”
SunSport reckons Joshua’s steady comeback trail will lead to a third fight with Dillian Whyte – against whom he defeated a barnstormer in 2015 and lost in an amateur slugfest in 2009.
After a KO loss to Fury in April, the 35-year-old body snatcher returns to the ring on November 26 – on AJ’s DAZN channel – and hints the pair are back on a collision course while Fury and Usyk enjoy an undisputed fight in the plan for March.
Joshua said: “If you look at how I’ve handled my business, I’ve never had to call anyone or disrespect anyone to make a fight or make it bigger.
“I’ve always done business my way, winning every belt twice except for the WBC.
“I still have goals and targets to achieve, but so far I feel my strategy has worked.
“I like fighting good opponents and as important as being a champion is to me, I’ve always wanted to fight the best of my time because there’s that stigma of cherry picking.
“If you want to get to the top in boxing, you have to take risks, calculated risks.
“And it’s not how popular you are, but how good a fighter you are that makes you popular.”
You’re not alone
A life is lost to suicide in the UK EVERY 90 minutes.
It does not discriminate and touches the lives of people in all sectors of society – from the homeless and unemployed to construction workers and doctors, to reality stars and footballers.
It is the leading cause of death for people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car accidents.
And men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women.
Yet it’s rarely talked about, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage if we don’t all stop now and take notice.
That’s why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The goal is that we can all do our part to save lives by providing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health.
Let’s all pledge to ask for help when we need it and to listen to others… You are not alone.
If you or someone you know needs help coping with mental health issues, the following organizations offer support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
- Movember, www.uk.movember.com
- Anxiety UK www.anxietyuk.org.uk, 03444 775 774 Monday-Friday 9.30am-10pm, Saturday-Sunday 10am-8pm
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6566093/anthony-joshua-next-year-fight-mental-health-revealed/ Anthony Joshua reveals he won’t box until next year as he battles his mental demons following Tyson Fury fight talks