Before the ring walks in 1974, Muhammad Ali came out of the dressing room to charge up members of his team who were looking very disturbed and cold.
In his white robe, Ali turned to them and said, ‘why are you all looking as if you are at a funeral. Yes, George Foreman beat Joe Frazier. He has got heavy punches. You are not the one to fight him but me, so why are you so cold. Damn George Foreman.”
The rest is history, Ali came out of the Rumble in the Jungle unscathed, knocking out mighty Foreman to seal his greatness.
Ali, coming out of retirement to fight a younger, brutal, bigger and ferocious Foreman was like a suicide mission for boxing lovers, including members of his team themselves.
No one ever gave the match to Ali. His wife warned him against Foreman but with all negative predictions, Ali conquered Foreman and forced him to quit boxing for about ten years.
To beat your opponent, you must be able to control him and to win a match, you must not listen to the crowd, including members of your team who had lost confidence in you.
That was what Ali did, which for me, Anthony Joshua must do to reign again. Among the elite heavyweights of today, Joshua stands second solidly behind Oleksandr Usyk as a skillful boxer by my own judgement.
Yes, Joshua may not have the stamina of Tyson Fury or the agility of Deontay Wilder, my long years of watching boxing shows that Joshua is a more skillful boxer than the two behind Usyk as of today.
What he needs now is the audacity to take risk as Ali did in 1974 when he used both his skills and chin to take down the monster of that era. I have seen Ron Lyle fall under Ali. I have seen Earnie Shavers, Leon Spinks fall under Ali. These were some of the hard punchers of all time.
If Joshua will not be aggressive anymore, then he should fortify his jabs and new style to deal with his opponents as he did against Jermaine Franklin last weekend.
No doubt, Wilder’s punch will be too heavy for Joshua who lacks a strong chin and Fury’s slaps will be to hot for this British-Nigerian boxer but he has what the other two do not have, great boxing technicality, which on a good day can be his best winning weapon.
For me, the trilogy of Fury/Wilder was a brawl that lacked the boxing ingredients. The three fights were mere exhibition of power, strength and bullying. None of these guys would have survived the legendary Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson in their prime going by the combinations of skills and power of these former champions.
Joshua came in the form of Ali, a beautiful face, a skillful puncher and a powerful force that would have become the new face of boxing but an upset by the Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr truncated his jolly ride and killed his confidence.
The fact that Wilder and Fury had fallen before means that they are not invisible and can still fall under a very determined and highly technical boxer.
I want to believe that Fury cleverly dodged Usyk by requesting for 70 per cent of the deal, which the Ukrainian still agreed to.
To many boxing followers, Fury is in a class of his own, a serious fighter but a closer look at him shows that he also has some shortcomings.
A straight blow to his head will take him to the canvas. Wilder did it twice. Fury escaped one by pulling himself up the canvas but the bell saved the second one, otherwise, Wilder would have finished him in one of the trilogy.
When Fury is in control, he is a greedy puncher, he moves closer to his opponent to want to finish him up. In this situation, he may be caught by a very good in-fighter with a strong uppercut.
Ali brought this to Zaire in 1974 by luring greedy Foreman to the rope where he finished him with strong jabs. I pray Joshua can learn from Ali, especially from the visuals, before the ring walk of 1974.
By Kunle Awosiyan