Anthony Joshua refused to be drawn into a war of words over claims he will retire if he loses to Oleksandr Usyk again on Saturday night.
The two-time world heavyweight champion has just signed a lucrative broadcast deal with DAZN, but there has been speculation that he may retire if his effort at the unified world heavyweight titles is unsuccessful in Saudi Arabia. However, he is refusing to even respond to the suggestions, despite them being made by retired fighters Kell Brook and Carl Froch.
He was asked particularly about Johnny Nelson’s suggestion that he may consider hanging up the gloves during a media scrum upon his arrival for fight week. But he refused to be drawn on the idea, instead believing that the former cruiserweight champion was accentuating the importance of the bout.
“I think that he’s kind of saying that it’s a big night and it’s important,” Joshua theorised. “He’s just showing the magnitude of the fight, that’s what he’s trying to say – that it’s a must win, because I don’t want to walk away.”
Nelson is known for making at times controversial comments in his role as a pundit for Sky Sports, who will be broadcasting the fight on pay-per-view this Saturday night. Most recently, he claimed that he could have beat Usyk during his prime as cruiserweight champion.
And he believes that knowing the difficulty of getting back to world title contention will eat away at Joshua, and he could quit the sport with a loss this weekend. Speaking on Sky Sports, Nelson said: “We’ll be looking at a completely different animal now because he knows what Usyk is capable of doing and he knows what mistakes he made.
“But if Usyk beats him, I reckon he’ll walk away. He’s not a backing dancer; it’s not in his DNA to want to be hanging on knowing that there’s a guy in that division that can beat you. It’s a fighter’s mentality.
“He doesn’t want to hang about to be a backing dancer; he wants to be the best guy. So, therefore with this fight here with Anthony Joshua, it’s so important for his career. He knows that this might be the last big fight he’s in. It’s not in his DNA to stand back and be a gatekeeper for anybody.”
Brook had a similar sentiment when asked about the fight earlier this week, believing that Joshua could hang up the gloves, and would be disappointed with his career if he chose to do so. Speaking with safebettingsites.com, Brook explained that despite being a two-time unified champion and Olympic medalist, Joshua hasn’t yet got that major defining win.
“To be honest with you, I see Usyk beating him again,” Brook said. “Unless Anthony Joshua comes out and he puts it on him from round one and uses his size and strength. The only way, in my opinion, that Anthony Joshua can win is to use his strength and his power and put it on him in that way. In a boxing match, it’s Usyk all day every day.
“He could retire if he did get beat, because he wouldn’t have the x-factor anymore, basically. That feeling of this big Anthony Joshua, before he got beat, with the people behind him. Him losing again it just disheartens all the fans, and they just move on to the next fighter, don’t they? That’s what happens. Human nature.”