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Joshua Targets Return, Clashes With Wallin Today

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – DECEMBER 21: Anthony Joshua and Otto Wallin face off at the Day of Reckoning press conference on December 21, 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing via Getty Images)

Joshua faces Otto Wallin in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday (today). A win will be the final piece in the jigsaw to rebuild Joshua – with the dangling carrot being a blockbuster bout against long-time rival Deontay Wilder, or a shot at a vacant world title. A loss to Swede Wallin, however, would scupper those plans.

There is a rematch clause in place so it would not quite be the final nail in the coffin of Joshua’s career but even his most hardened supporters would struggle to fight his corner. Eighteen months have passed since Anthony Joshua choked back the tears to a room full of the world’s boxing media in Saudi Arabia.

Britain’s London 2012 Olympics golden boy had just suffered a second consecutive defeat by Oleksandr Usyk. Years of pressure and scrutiny had taken its toll and the then 32-year-old faced an uncertain road back to world-title contention. There was no shortage of criticism. Some felt he was past his peak, less than a decade after turning professional.

Speculation on his mental state was rife. There were even some rather premature and unjust suggestions the two-time champion should retire. “Sometimes when you get knocked off your pedestal, people find it hard to get back up, let alone get back on course,” Joshua tells BBC Sport. But ‘AJ’ insists he is “back on course again”.

Having taken the rest of 2022 off, he beat Jermaine Franklin in an underwhelming yet composed points win in April and then produced a much-needed one-punch knockout victory over Robert Helenius four months later.

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