SAUDI ARABIA has thrown so much cash at Anthony Joshua he has forgotten what is fundamentally right and fundamentally left.
After back-to-back defeats to southpaw genius Oleksandr Usyk, the 34-year-old London 2012 legend vowed to swerve lefties for the rest of his career.
Rehabilitation wins over orthodox little’un Jermain Franklin and right-handed big gun Robert Helenius were the perfect stepping stones toward the single most right-handed heavyweight champion in history, Deontay Wilder.
But, following a mega-money curveball from the desert kingdom, AJ is facing Otto Wallin on December 23 in Riyadh – a 6ft 5in talent who jabs with his right and whacks with his left.
It is a large, risky and confusing lurch off the seemingly straightforward gravy train tracks.
And now, with barely six weeks notice, he will leap back into the ring to face the respected 32-year-old.
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Wallin has only one defeat on his record – to Tyson Fury – and that should have really been a shock upset win.
In their 2019 Las Vegas bloodbath the former prison guard bashed a gash into Fury’s eye that – if he were not the celebrated, undefeated Gyspy King about to enter back-to-back fights with Deontay Wilder – would have cost him his first defeat, as well as the 47 stitches required to save his career.
The following years were quiet for the much-avoided nice guy.
But in August he once again took a big gamble, travelled to Turkey as the away fighter expected to lose, to fight Murat Gassiev.
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Gassiev was a frightening Russian bulldozer who had only lost previously to Usyk over the distance but Wallin stunned him with a split decision that was generous to the beaten favourite.
It begs the question; whose idea was it for AJ to take on this awkward 17st southpaw who only people in the trade will really know and respect?
The mainstream fans who Joshua won over emphatically with his rapid rise from Reading remand wing to Olympic golden boy, to unified world champion and national treasure, will be nonplussed by a win over the pale Swede.
But if he were to suffer a devastating loss to an unfamiliar name outside casual fans’ checklist of bonafide heavyweight stars, there wouldn’t be a spare seat on the bandwagon to write him off – again.
A far easier and more marketable fight would seem to be the one Daniel Dubois is having on the very same Riyadh show.
Dynamite Dan is fighting America’s obese dope cheat Jarrell Miller who shot to fame on a reinforced winch for failing multiple tests in the build-up to his planned 2019 bout with AJ.
Instead Andy Ruiz Jr was drafted in as a late replacement, disaster struck and Joshua’s career altered dramatically.
A revenge mission against Miller would have spite and history and pride at stake.
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AJ standing over the infantile imbecile nicknamed ‘Big Baby’ would be sublime.
Instead he has the very grown-up task of doing what Fury and Gassiev failed to do, in beating Wallin and looking perfect doing it.
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