Nigeria’s former world heavyweight boxing champion, Anthony Olaseni Oluwafemi Joshua is facing another kind of threat in his ambitions to reclaim three belts he lost last September against Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine.
SportsDayonline.com reports that, athough he has an automatic rematch lined up for mid-this year, ‘AJ’ has been told in clear terms that he does not have the stuff ‘real champs’ are made of.
This is the stern verdict of an emergent pugilist, Frank Sanchez, who believes his stablemate, Canelo Alvarez has enough ‘heavyweight power’ that can trouble Joshua or Tyson Fury in the heavyweight division.
The unbeaten Cuban ace dispatched Christian Hammer in Florida on New Year’s Day and Sanchez, who has shared the ring with Canelo in sparring under the watchful eye of Eddy Reynoso, is talking huge for his pal.
After a surprise move by the Mexican superstar to step up to cruiserweight, with a WBC world title fight against Ilunga Makabu later this year, Sanchez has detailed how the undisputed super-middleweight champion could make waves in the sport’s premier division.
“Look, I’ve sparred with Canelo,” Sanchez told DAZN. “I can tell you with the utmost confidence that Canelo has heavyweight power.
“He can handle cruiserweight, and in my opinion, he could be a heavyweight champion if he put his mind to it.
“Canelo is an absolute stud. He’s very serious and very respectful both with me and his work ethic.
“The biggest lesson that I learned from him is the fact that it doesn’t matter whether you’re training or you’re inside the ring, that you got to be serious about your craft, that you got to follow it with passion.
“That’s the main thing that I took away from being around Canelo, someone that I appreciate a lot.”
Canelo has also discussed his potential ceiling as a fighter, admitting heavyweight would likely prove a challenge too far due to his diminutive stature at 5ft 8ins in comparison to Fury, who stands at 6ft 8ins.
“I think a year ago I said no to a switch to cruiserweight… and here we are,” said Alvarez.
“Therefore I don’t think so but I don’t know for sure with Eddy [Reynoso] sometimes. But I don’t think so. My body would not allow that to happen.”
This comes at a poiont in which Joshua admitted that a taunt from Fury played a role in his defeat by Usyk last September.
Joshua was comprehensively outpointed by Usyk in north London, surrendering his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles in the process. The pair are now set to rematch this year, likely in spring.
Many pundits were critical of Joshua’s attempts to outbox the undefeated Ukrainian in the opponents’ first meeting, and “AJ” himself has said the tactic might have been misguided.
“Usyk came up from cruiserweight, great fighter, 12-round fighter,” Joshua told Sky Sports.
“I wanted to box with him for 12 rounds, because there was always a stigma that I can’t box, [that] I’m a big, stiff bodybuilder,” Joshua continued, referencing a jibe from fellow British heavyweight Fury.
“So I said: ‘Alright, cool, let me practise my boxing.’ I tried practising my boxing with Usyk.
“He won nine rounds, I won three. Next fight, I win four more rounds – I win. So, let me simplify that matter, and I’ll then get on the road to being undisputed champion.”