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Anthony Joshua Needs to Make a Radical Change

Plus other news and notes on Manny Pacquiao, a potential return from Sergey Kovalev, the Lopez-Kambosos fight and more.

Standing eight count while wondering if the heavyweight upsets will continue next weekend . . .

8 — Anthony Joshua intends to pursue an immediate rematch with Oleksandr Usyk. Fine. Some, like Top Rank’s Bob Arum, have suggested Joshua allow Usyk to face the winner of Tyson Fury–Deontay Wilder, but I get it. Joshua has control of the situation. He allows Usyk to move on, he loses it. But Joshua needs to make some changes. Big changes. He did everything wrong against Usyk. He fought at 240 pounds. Why? Joshua’s size was one of the few advantages he had over Usyk. He tried to outbox Usyk. While both Joshua and Usyk are Olympic gold medalists, Usyk is by far the superior boxer. What Joshua needed to do was bully Usyk. He didn’t, and it cost him.

At 31, Joshua needs to do something radical. Changing trainers could be it. Rob McCracken has guided Joshua to the highest level of the heavyweight division, but Joshua has lost two of his last four fights and looked bad in both. He has never fully harnessed his physical tools—unlike Fury, who masterfully uses his 6' 9" frame—and looked uncertain against Usyk. My suggestion: Teddy Atlas. Atlas, who has trained heavyweights like Michael Moorer and Alexander Povetkin, among others, is everything McCracken is not. He’s an old-school disciplinarian. Let Joshua work with Atlas in New York. See if Atlas can’t restore his confidence and bring the fire back out of him.

7 — It shouldn’t be controversial to suggest Joshua needs a change. In sports, coaching changes happen often. In boxing, they happen all the time. Where would Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko be if they had not linked up with Emanuel Steward? Where would Gennady Golovkin be if not for Abel Sanchez? Where would Manny Pacquiao be if he hadn't moved to Los Angeles to train with Freddie Roach? It’s not a knock on McCracken. He’s a brilliant trainer who deserves enormous credit for his work with Joshua. Sometimes fighters need a change. Joshua does.

6 — I’m going to save any retrospective on Manny Pacquiao until I’m sure Pacquiao’s career is over. Pacquiao, 42, announced his retirement this week, as he shifts his focus to the presidential election in the Philippines. If Pacquiao loses the election—and outlooks on his chances vary wildly—many will expect the 42-year-old Pacquiao to return in 2022. Even after losing to Yordenis Ugás in August, Pacquiao remains one of boxing’s most marketable fighters, one many top opponents, including Errol Spence—who Pacquiao was originally scheduled to face—and Terence Crawford, would bend over backward to face. Salute Pacquiao now. But don’t be surprised to see him later.

5 — Demetrius Andrade is finalizing a deal to defend his middleweight title against Jason Quigley next month. Great. Quigley is a fine opponent, one who earned a shot at Andrade with a solid win over Shane Mosley Jr. in May. But Andrade-Quigley means we will go another year without getting one of the best fights that can be made in boxing: Andrade against Jermall Charlo. That Andrade-Charlo has not been made is embarrassing. These are two undefeated American middleweight champions. There is a pile of money in it for both. Yet the two have never come close to a deal. Instead, they have faced a steady diet of no-hopers in completely irrelevant fights.

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Who deserves the most criticism? Andrade and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, have made countless overtures to Charlo. They have offered him a deal in excess of $5 million to fight Andrade on DAZN. They have made it clear Andrade can fight on Fox or Showtime, the two networks the PBC-promoted Charlo regularly appears on. Hearn told me earlier this year that Andrade would have accepted what PBC paid Sergiy Derevyanchenko—$3 million, per sources—to face Charlo last fall. Charlo, however, seems content to feast on inferior opponents. If Charlo, who scored a lopsided decision over an overmatched Juan Macias Montiel in June, fights again this year, it will likely be against someone like Maciej Sulecki or Luis Arias, opponents with little chance to score an upset.

4 — Former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev is eyeing a return at cruiserweight, according to a source close to Kovalev. The 38-year-old has not fought since he was knocked out by Canelo Alvarez in November 2019. Last January, Kovalev tested positive for synthetic testosterone, scrapping a scheduled fight against Bektemir Melikuziev. Kovalev’s handlers would like for Kovalev to get a tune-up fight at cruiserweight before targeting Lawrence Okolie, the WBO titleholder. It makes sense. Okolie is seeking to unify the cruiserweight titles in his next fight. If he does, a mid-summer showdown against Kovalev, still one of boxing’s more recognizable names, could be a lucrative fight for Okolie in the U.K.

3 — The biggest reasons George Kambosos won’t sign to fight Teofimo Lopez on October 16th: I'm told it's Triller’s refusal to place Kambosos’s purse, just over $2 million, into escrow. Triller, the embattled app that won the rights to Lopez-Kambosos at purse bid, has been attempting to move the lightweight title fight, originally scheduled for Oct. 4 at Madison Square Garden, to Oct. 16 at Barclays Center. Negotiations with Kambosos have proved difficult. On Tuesday, SI first reported that Kambosos’s attorney, Greg Smith, sent a letter to the IBF demanding Triller default on the bid, citing breach of contract and Triller’s “egregious” behavior. I’ve been told that had Triller been willing to put the money into escrow, Kambosos would have agreed to the change of date. Triller refused, and now a fight that has seemingly been snake bitten from the start is facing yet another postponement.

2 — What happens if Triller defaults? Matchroom Boxing owns the next-highest bid, and I’m told Matchroom is interested in picking up the fight and adding it to its U.S. schedule before the end of the year. One possibility: Place Lopez-Kambosos on the same card as Devin Haney, the WBC champion who has verbally sparred with Lopez for more than a year. A move like that would potentially set up a mouthwatering showdown between Lopez and Haney in early 2022.

1 — Speaking of lightweights: Ryan Garcia has publicly suggested that a fight with stablemate Joseph Diaz Jr. is close to being finalized. But while Diaz appears on board, I’m told Golden Boy is having difficulty finalizing a deal with Garcia. There are some in Garcia’s camp that prefer Garcia take on a lesser opponent in his next fight. Garcia, who started the year out strong with a knockout win over Luke Campbell in January, has taken time away from boxing to deal with mental health issues. One possibility being floated for Garcia is Yuriorkis Gamboa, the faded former two-division champion who has lost two fights in a row. Still, expect Golden Boy to continue to push for Garcia-Diaz, which is an excellent 135-pound fight. 

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