By Frank Warren
THE BIGGEST FIGHT in British heavyweight history, for the time being at least, went up in a puff of Ukrainian smoke at the home of Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday night.
Oleksandr Usyk put out the Anthony Joshua fire following the fireworks that flew high above the High Road but, in truth, the pre-fight pyrotechnics set off pretty much the only bangs from the extended corner of the home favourite.
My observations have nothing to do with promotional allegiances – although we do have a vested interest with Tyson Fury – I just thought the performance of Joshua was very disappointing. He started slowly and rarely attempted to pick up the pace.
I don’t wish to be over-critical or kick a man when he is down. Joshua was in with a top operator, granted, but at no point did he get anywhere close to enforcing his own obvious advantages.
Perhaps more concerning was an apparent lack of substance, desire or urgency on the part of Joshua, who just wasn’t at the races and, like I said before, the outcome has killed off what would have been the biggest fight in my time in boxing.
Of course, Usyk is now a big player in the heavyweight business and there are great fights to be made, but we all wanted to see Fury v Joshua at the peak of their powers.
That is gone for now and we must await another rematch to play out, which could potentially hold up three of the world title belts from being competed for and delaying the ambitions of several genuine contenders in the process.
Two of those possible champions in waiting are from the Queensberry camp in Joe Joyce, who holds the No.1 position with the WBO, plus Daniel Dubois, who is in line for a shot at the WBA belt.
We will naturally do everything we can to ensure the progress of our two big fellas is not hindered by the prior booking of a rematch. It is a pity that, given he was a mandatory challenger, Usyk is not free to confront new fronteers after winning so clearly on the night.
I cannot actually imagine a rematch turning out much differently. After all, unlike the return fight with Andy Ruiz the last time Joshua was beaten, I cannot see Usyk jumping on the party circuit and turning up horrendously out of condition.
Fortune has very much favoured Joshua since he turned professional in the wake of an Olympics a short hop around the North Circular from his home in Watford.
The British public craved a heavyweight hero and got behind him in their droves, backing him to the absolute hilt and invested fortunes in ticket and pay-per-view fees. I hope this devotion is repaid by not exporting his return fixture overseas in return for a Middle East moneypot.
Tyson himself has a contract to appear on ESPN in the States, but it is only in recent times that he has truly enjoyed the affection of the British public and he has said himself how much he would like to enjoy a homecoming.
That being said, Tyson cannot afford to allow himself to become distracted by the derailment of the Joshua gravy train and take his eye off the job in hand against an extremely motivated Deontay Wilder on October 9 in Las Vegas.
I can’t see Wilder being able to reinvent himself enough to trouble Tyson, but there will be no complacency in our corner. By the same token, much as I admired his performance and believe him to be a great fighter, I don’t see Usyk being a match for Tyson either.
The attributes Usyk possesses are shared by Tyson with interest, along with a size and speed advantage. A fight between them is a natural one to make as we will now consider an alternative way forward, all things being well on October 9.
As for Joshua, I very much hope he can punch his way back into the picture and we get to deliver the all-British fights involving Tyson, Joe and Daniel while they are still ripe for the making.