Ricky Hatton has identified what he believes to be a “worrying sign” for Anthony Joshua ahead of the heavyweight’s expected rematch with Oleksandr Usyk.
Ukrainian Usyk extended his unbeaten record to 19-0 by defeating Joshua via unanimous decision in London on 25 September, taking the Briton’s heavyweight titles in the process.
Former undisputed cruiserweight champion Usyk outboxed Joshua (24-2) for much of the bout at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and the 34-year-old even looked close to securing a finish in the final round.
In a column for Metro, former welterweight and light welterweight champion Hatton wrote this week: “[Usyk] maintained it from start to finish and I think in the last round when he put his foot on the gas, he was saying to AJ: ‘This still isn’t my best. I’ve still got some more to come here.’
“It was a bit of a warning there for AJ for this rematch. ‘Look what I can really do when I put my foot down,’ which is a very worrying sign for AJ.”
Joshua’s loss to Usyk was the second of the 31-year-old’s professional career, following his stoppage defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019.
Joshua avenged that loss against the Mexican-American in December of the same year, outpointing Ruiz to regain the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles.
The Briton must similarly succeed in a rematch with Usyk, expected to take place in spring 2022, to once again reign atop the division.
A victory over Usyk would also reignite hopes of an all-British clash with WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, in what would be a momentous bout to unify the belts.
Fury must first overcome Deontay Wilder this Saturday, however. The ‘Gypsy King’ fought the American to a controversial split draw in December 2018 before stopping Wilder in the seventh round of their rematch in February 2020.
The rivals are now complete their trilogy in Las Vegas, and Hatton said: “I think Tyson will be a bit surprised but not shocked with what happened [between Joshua and Usyk].
“I think we all knew that anything could have happened that night. They were both capable of knocking each other out and outpointing each other.
“Because we all wanted the AJ vs Fury fight next, we were all a bit disappointed when Usyk won, but ultimately Tyson will be sat there now saying ‘fair play’ to Usyk. You have to give the credit to him.
“How can anyone sit back and not say anything other than ‘what a performance from Usyk’? And privately, Tyson will be doing the same.”