Anthony Joshua’s slow reboot of his career is complete after a sharp display forced Otto Wallin’s corner to stop the fight after a punishing fifth round today at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Joshua, a former world heavyweight champion, was full of menace and back to his destructive best as he broke down Wallin, whose corner threw in the towel before the start of the sixth round.
Joshua, 34, was more aggressive than he was in the early rounds of his previous bout against Robert Helenius in August, and after a sharp start, he left Wallin busted up to the nose and eyes.
Joshua (27-3, 24 KOs), who lives in North London, and Deontay Wilder were on a collision course for a megafight on March 9, but those plans were ruined by Wilder’s feeble display and lopsided defeat by Joseph Parker earlier on the card.
But big things are still on the horizon for Joshua in 2024.
The IBF world title could become vacant after the undisputed title showdown between Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury on Feb. 17, and Joshua is likely to fight for it against Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic, who also fought on the undercard today and registered an easy win.
Joshua was moody in media interviews over the past week and admitted “there is no future” if he failed to beat Wallin.
But he emphatically quashed theories that he is unravelling under pressure and expectations. Joshua is on a mission to become a three-time world champion, and his third win since a second consecutive points loss to Usyk in a world title fight in 2022 continues his upward curve.
“Throughout the buildup, I was telling everyone I had to focus on the man in front of me,” Joshua said in the ring afterward,” he told ESPN Sport.
“Not so much a throwback fight but another day at the office. The corner plays a big role so the fighter can fight another day.”
“I’m on a journey and I’m going to stay focused. I don’t celebrate when we win these fights, I celebrate when I win the titles.”
Essex, England-based trainer Ben Davison was in Joshua’s corner Saturday, with Texas-based Derrick James unavailable.
Davison, Fury’s former trainer, is the fourth trainer Joshua has worked with since 2021.
“I’m searching for greatness, and Ben Davison is a really good addition to my team,” Joshua said. “They have helped me develop in a short space of time.”
Joshua did not dismiss a future fight with Wilder, but his promoter, Eddie Hearn, spoke afterward about a potential Joshua-Hrgovic fight for the vacant IBF belt. Joshua compared Wilder’s situation to that of Daniel Dubois, who lost to Usyk in August but rebounded by defeating Jarrell Miller on the undercard today.
“You can do anything, and if [Wilder] wants to come back he can do it,” Joshua said.
Joshua started well, jabbing to the body and landing two right crosses in the second round that left Wallin’s nose bleeding. Joshua boxed tidily behind his jab, and in the third round he landed with a lunging right to the body as well as a left hook to the head.
When Wallin (26-2, 15 KOs), from Sweden but based in New York, missed with a punch, Joshua almost connected with a counter big right hand in the fourth round. He was getting closer and in total control.
In the fifth round, Joshua landed a right followed by a big left hook that left Wallin, 32, staggering across the ring. With blood streaming from various wounds, Wallin’s corner called the fight off before the start of the sixth round.
It was Joshua’s best performance in at least five years, and arguably his best since he stopped former long reigning world champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2017.