Over the weekend Anthony Joshua was spotted wearing a leg brace while out in London. As expected for a boxer, throughout his career AJ has sustained a few injuries during sparring and training but is not known for having any issues with his knees.
The most recurring issues Joshua has had, seem to be with his back. He had to pull out of his fight with Kevin Johnson in 2015, after suffering a stress fracture in his back in the run-up to his fight with Michael Sprott. He ended up fighting through the injury to KO Sprott in round 1, but shortly after got confirmation that it was more serious than he had realized at first.
He suffered another back issue during a sports massage just before his fight with Klitschko. The injury scare came just two weeks before the bout, but luckily it was not serious and Joshua was not affected by it on the night, earning Fight of the Year honors in his TKO victory over Klitschko.
Speculation has been rampant about the origin and severity of his new knee injury. The Sun reported on Monday, June 1st, that the brace was a precaution and that the injury was not serious. The Sun’s source told them, “The brace is a precautionary measure on the advice of physios. It will be further checked by his doctors but there is no immediate concern.”
With sportsmen and women needing to keep their bodies in top condition at all times it is normal for them to practice preventative measures that the rest of us would not normally take, even if we should. While the brace may look alarming, it could just be a way of relieving some of Joshua’s substantial weight from putting pressure on his knee which, according to The Sun’s source, suffered a “slight twinge” during training.
With high-intensity training being an integral part of any boxer’s training, small strains and stress-related injuries are a regular part of life. However, as normal as they may be, the downtime needed to recover from one can throw off their training schedule. When a boxer is preparing for a
What if it’s something more serious?
With his fight against Pulev set for June 20th but now postponed, Joshua can’t really afford to have any bad injuries at this stage in his preparation. Both Joshua’s and Pulev’s teams are working hard to confirm a venue at the moment, once it’s confirmed, the pair will have strict training camps planned by the day.
If Joshua had sustained anything serious, it’s unlikely he would have been out on a scooter with his friends. However, like the stress fracture he picked up before fighting Sprott, some injuries start innocuously enough and then get more severe.
Should Joshua suffer another more serious injury before fighting Pulev, he would likely pull-out to avoid losing his IBF title, and with it his opportunity of a historic unification fight with Tyson Fury. This would be disastrous for AJ and Fury, as Fury would have to face Dillian Whyte in February 2021 before facing AJ, and AJ would likely have to recuperate and reschedule with Pulev before facing Fury much later in 2021.
This delay would bring more risk into the equation, with Fury having to face both Wilder and Whyte first, and AJ having to face Pulev and possibly mandatory challengers from some of his 3 other belts. His mandatory WBA challenger, by that time, would likely be one of Manuel Charr (Regular champion), Trevor Bryan, Deontay Wilder, or Oleksandr Usyk. His WBO and IBO challengers are likely to both be Oleksandr Usyk. These scenarios all put a huge degree of risk and uncertainty on the unification bout.
Could it all be mind games?
It’s possible that AJ is just messing with Pulev, in some calculated scheme to affect his training. With Pulev finally getting his IBF title shot, which he’s been waiting so long for, news that Joshua is injured will be playing on his mind.
If Joshua is injured and pulls out Pulev will need to wait, maybe until 2021. At 39, Pulev will be aware that the later this fight happens, the more his chances will be affected.
On top of that, once Pulev has any doubts that his AJ fight will be happening in the next few months, it will be almost impossible for his training not to be affected. With the extreme level of preparation needed for boxing at this level, everything needs to be perfect, including Pulev’s mental state and effort going into each day of his camp.
If Pulev takes his foot off the gas, even just a bit while he’s playing scenarios out in his mind, Joshua could gain a valuable advantage. Alternatively, Pulev could let his frustration get the better of him, which could throw his training off in other ways. If his mind is not fully concentrated, he won’t get 100% out of himself at any point.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. The odds are that AJ just felt something a bit off with his knee and doesn’t want to take any risks, but with a fair bit of time between now and him finally getting in the ring with Pulev, any number of things could happen.