Carl Froch column: Anthony Joshua could retire if he loses convincingly to Oleksandr Usyk

By Carl FrochBoxing analyst
Win or lose: Bunce & Froch on what's next for AJ

Boxing analyst and former super-middleweight world champion Carl Froch writes for BBC Sport about Anthony Joshua's highly anticipated rematch against Oleksandr Usyk on Saturday.

Briton Joshua and Usyk fight almost 12 months after their first bout in which the Ukrainian upset the odds to win on points and claim the WBA (Super), WBO and IBF heavyweight titles.

Can Joshua now become a three-time heavyweight world champion or will Usyk's incredible unbeaten run continue?

If Anthony Joshua loses his rematch to Oleksandr Usyk and it's a bad defeat - a conclusive points loss or a heavy knockout - it could be the end for AJ. I just don't see where he can go after back-to-back defeats.

I wholeheartedly want him to win and I am not totally writing him off. He has all the physical attributes, he's big enough and strong enough, but I have to be brutally honest and say I don't think he will win.

If Usyk can land with the same power and accuracy as he did last time, I don't think Joshua will hear the final bell.

But the caveat is that this a two-horse race, anything can happen in boxing. Joshua is up against a smaller guy and has height and reach advantage.

Usyk was perhaps the best cruiserweight ever, but is not a great heavyweight fighter… yet.

We need to see the old, naive, AJ

Joshua (right) beat Charles Martin in 2016 to become IBF heavyweight champion in just his 16th fight

Joshua just could not get going in the first fight against Usyk and lost convincingly on points. You've got to get in there with mean intentions and Joshua was a little bit stand-offish - he didn't want to go forward.

He was trying to counter-punch, trying to box, trying to stay out of harm's way. You can't do that against someone as talented as Usyk.

Perhaps it was nerves or a bit gun-shy. Or, dare I say it, because he is still a broken man since being knocked out by Andy Ruiz in New York three years ago. That loss really took something away from Joshua, something we've not seen him get back.

In his fight with Dillian Whyte, when he got clipped with that hook and was on shaky legs, Joshua dug his heels in. You saw that too against Wladimir Klitschko, climbing off the canvas.

He needs to return to that mindset. He was naive, a bit wet behind the ears, but that got him the wins.

Joshua has to go in with an all-or-nothing approach. It's the art of pugilism but it's still a fight. Bottom line is you've got to get aggressive and you've got to get down and dirty in there to get the result you want.

Is AJ too content in silk pyjamas?

'I’ve got to change the narrative' in Usyk rematch - Joshua

AJ has got to go back to the guy who has got nothing but dreams, as if he has got nothing in his bank account, nothing in his pocket, no luxury items in his life. As if he is just coming up from the bottom, daring to be great.

It's got to be difficult because he's earned a lot of money and there's a lot of pressure on his shoulders with sponsorships now. I just feel he's become a bit of a commodity and he's looking more at the business side of it, rather than the actual sport itself and the love of it.

It is as if he's forgotten why he's fighting and what he's fighting for. Obviously we're prize fighters, we fight for a purse, we fight for money, but when I was boxing and when top fighters have talked down the years, we were not interested in the money.

As Marvin Hagler once said, it's hard to get out of bed and go for your morning run wearing silk pyjamas when you're financially secure.

You get punched in the head, you get knocked out. So if I don't need it, why am I doing it? And AJ does not need it.

AJ should not think of it as a rematch

Froch and Joshua were both trained by Rob McCracken

I know a thing or two about rematches. I lost on points to Mikkel Kessler in 2010, then beat him three years later.

Then there's the rematch with George Groves when I knocked him out in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned that?

Even though I got the win against Groves in the first fight, it did feel very much like a loss because of the reaction of the fans and the media.

Let's be honest, I got beat up for six rounds in that fight and was on the floor in the first. But I turned it around and forced a stoppage, although most people thought the fight was stopped too early.

Going into the rematch I was confident because I knew I was ill-prepared in the first one, but still managed to win. So I had to train hard.

For me, it helped having fought them before, because I wasn't outclassed in the first fights. For AJ, however, the less time spent thinking about the rematch the better.

Joshua will be thinking 'he's quicker than me, his counter-punching ability is second to none, his boxing brain is phenomenal, so how do I beat this guy? What am I going to do - what's the solution to beating someone like Usyk?'

Mentally, Joshua's got a mountain to climb before that first bell goes and I'm not so sure that first fight is going to help him, but he can take a bit of peace that he really didn't perform.

The first fight tells him it's pointless trying to outbox this guy. It ain't going to happen and that's an advantage.

McCracken split may be right for AJ, but wasn't for me

Joshua split with McCracken (left) this year and is now trained by American Robert Garcia

Joshua has split with trainer Rob McCracken and is now with Robert Garcia. You can bring in any trainer in the world, and Garcia is a respected coach, but it is down to the fighter.

Joshua suggested there were too many voices and he was getting the wrong instructions in the corner. I wasn't there and you don't always hear what's going off.

But I know McCracken would not have been saying to him, 'just keep doing what you're doing, yeah you're having a good night's work', because AJ was getting beat, he was getting out-boxed and Rob McCracken knows what to do when you're getting out-boxed.

I was with Rob throughout my career. Our relationship was similar to that of Mr Miyagi and the Karate Kid. Where you don't question what he does and if you do, you get shot straight back down and you get taught a lesson. I realised early on he was the master and I was the student.

'You cannot forget about it' - Usyk on war in Ukraine

I never considered leaving Rob, even after my losses, but I am not Joshua. If it makes AJ feel better and it makes him feel like he's got a fresh start and it's going to make him perform better then it is definitely the right decision.

Usyk is beatable - then Fury next?

We know what a talented fighter Usyk is, just look at his pedigree. He lost a handful of fights as an amateur in more than 300 bouts.

He became Olympic champion, turned professional and became the undisputed unified cruiserweight champion in a division that was really tough at the time. He just dominated.

Usyk played with Derek Chisora when they fought at heavyweight - just took his time. He's that clever I think he made that contest look close on purpose to get the AJ fight.

But Usyk is a bigger man now, he's heavier, and that could be a positive or a negative. Putting on weight, getting bigger and stronger, affects your speed. In boxing, speed kills. Speed and reach, in my opinion, are the two major advantages.

Usyk's got fast hands, his timing and shot selection is a split second ahead of everybody. I think if he loses that bit of speed, now he's put weight on, he'll be vulnerable and it's going to be easier for Joshua to maybe have an impact and get him out of there.

AJ is not up against a monster. If he wins, he will reaffirm himself as one of the world's top heavyweights.

Tyson Fury is top of the top, one of the best ever, the kingpin and the man to beat - if he isn't actually retired, that is.

Whoever wins between Joshua and Usyk, I'd like to see that man fight Fury. But I'd like to see them fight the best Fury, not one who has been sitting on the sidelines for a while.

If AJ beats Usyk and then someone like the 'Gypsy King', he will have silenced the doubters, shut them all up.

And if that happens, he is up there in the top 10 all-time heavyweights. Perhaps even top five.

Carl Froch was speaking to BBC Sport's Kal Sajad