Anthony Joshua's big title fight in London against Oleksandr Usyk — which saw challenger Usyk win Joshua's WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles — certainly delivered in terms of excitement, action and significance.
However, the hype and mainstream stature surrounding 'AJ' ever since he turned pro of course makes it inevitable that his title loss postmortem will be particularly stern. In fact, it already is, less than 48 hours after the final bell.
Joshua was by no means poor in the bout, and many had him even with the Ukranian after six rounds (DAZN's live text coverage had it at 58-56 Usyk at the halfway point, and also had just one point between the two after 10/12 until Usyk produced his fantastic final two rounds to put it beyond doubt).
What unfolded at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium this past Saturday, in the eyes of his ringside reporter at the very least, was that Usyk's timing, angles and tactical periods of aggression did a superb job of keeping a formidable foe limited to isolated spells of success and reluctant to play to his own strengths.
Nonetheless, while winning and losing are both a part of this game, Joshua's image at the top certainly can only take so many setbacks. So, what next?
We'll start with the obvious option.
Usyk vs. Joshua 2: Title rematch
Eddie Hearn has confirmed there is a rematch clause, and no matter what some may say about Joshua, he's certainly driven and determined enough to try again. It's honestly tough to see the result being any different a second time around, but their bout was enjoyable enough that people would enjoy a second dose, and it will certainly reward the new champion financially to run it back. For 'AJ' to do what he did against Andy Ruiz Jr. and avenge a loss, a brand new gameplan is a must. There also needs to be a little more willingness to take risks and be aggressive, but he will have nothing to lose this time around, so why not?
Moving on to other fights
Of course, Joshua could look elsewhere, especially if the proposed undisputed title unification does not happen without his and Hearn's push. The four belts would inevitably fracture again at some stage and an alternate route back into championship status will come about. There's enough long-standing rivalry with Deontay Wilder to make that fight work if the American loses again to Tyson Fury, in what would be a high-stakes non-title affair with the winner returning to the championship picture and the loser being at a crossroads. And Joshua had a point: the fight with Fury sells whether there are belts on the line or not. And if Wilder manages to get it done on Oct. 9, perhaps AJ and Fury remains the grudge fight after all.
Fighting in Africa
Joshua still one day wants to stage a bout on the continent of Africa, akin to the Ali-Foreman 'Rumble In The Jungle'. With his standing domestically and in the US taking a hit due to the loss, heading out to Africa for a big international spectacle against a lesser name in a 'rehab fight' could be a sound choice from a business perspective.
Honestly, it seems unlikely he just walks away now. Though second best on that night, Joshua is still very talented, highly motivated and just shy of his 32nd birthday, is still at a good fighting age. But, we will simply point this out: Joshua reached the stage of not needing to fight to make a lot of money a long time ago. The ball is very much in his court as to whether he sees reason to continue. For the time being, though, a contracted rematch with Usyk is surely going to send him straight back to the gym (and the drawing board).