ANTHONY JOSHUA'S stunning defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr a fortnight ago came as a RELIEF to the British boxer, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.
The onus was on Joshua to breeze past the Mexican underdog but a shock technical knockout defeat – the first of his career – came as one of the sport's greatest upsets.
Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder were hoped to be on the agenda for the 29-year-old after his American debut but he must now overcome Ruiz Jr in a rematch later this year.
Approaching that contest could weigh heavily on Joshua, such is the make or break nature of the result.
But Matchroom boss Hearn reckons the pressure is now off.
Speaking on the Radio 5 'Live No Passion, No Point' podcast, he said: "Anthony has this massive pressure on his shoulders all the time.
"He is the first mega star of boxing in this country and it was almost like a relief to him.
"He will never admit that but the fact that: 'I am the challenger now, I am not this champion who has four belts and who everyone expects me to win all the time'.
"It's kind of like the pressure is off."
Hearn faced plenty of criticism for his role in Joshua's loss, not least from the fighter's dad Robert.
But he must now plan for a rematch with Ruiz Jr before attending to Joshua's grandiose rivals.
His quotes mirror that of heavyweight nemesis Fury, who claimed Joshua wanted to crash to the canvas during the bout.
Fury told the Telegraph: “It’s the way he sort of accepted defeat.
"In round seven he went down because he wanted to not because the punches were that hard. It was like he was jumping to the floor.
"That’s a true sign of somebody who doesn’t want to stand and fight. I think he needs some mental coaching and to get back to the drawing board."
In fact, the 30-year-old hopes to be fighting Tom Schwarz for the WBO world title on Saturday if the authority strip it off Ruiz Jr.
He believes they could do so as the Mexican is set to face Joshua in a rematch, rather than a mandatory challenger.
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