Anthony Joshua labelled ‘mentally fragile’ and ‘in decline’ by opponent Otto Wallin

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Anthony Joshua’s next opponent Otto Wallin has claimed that the British heavyweight is ‘mentally fragile’ and ‘in decline’ ahead of their fight this month.

Joshua will box Sweden’s Wallin, a former opponent of Tyson Fury, in Saudi Arabia on 23 December. The bout will mark Joshua’s third outing this year, after the 34-year-old beat Jermaine Franklin and Robert Helenius.

“AJ” outpointed Franklin in April and knocked out Helenius in the seventh round in August, but he came under criticism for having a tentative demeanour at times in both fights. Wallin, 33, believes that those performances were indicative of a fighter past his ‘peak’ and lacking confidence.

“I would say he is still one of the best heavyweights out there, and he's made an amazing career for himself,” Wallin told the Daily Mail, before continuing: “There has been a decline, and I think he has reached his peak already.

“I think he is mentally fragile, he's not sure of himself. He's changed trainer, and I think things can be very tough for him. People are very critical of him, he's got a lot of pressure. So, I think that weighs on him.


“I think it's the perfect time to face AJ. He was a seek-and-destroy kind of guy, he was very aggressive. When he first started, he had a short amateur career. He was knocking people out. Turned pro, knocking everybody out. Knocked [Wladimir] Klitschko out, and I think he felt invincible pretty much.

“And then he lost to [Andy] Ruiz, he got stopped. He lost to [Oleksandr] Usyk twice. I think he knows now that he's vulnerable. He knows he can lose and he can get hurt, and he doesn't like that. He doesn't like getting hit or getting hurt.

“He cares a lot about what people think of him, and I think it's hard for him when people are being critical or there are boos in the crowd. I think that's really hard for him.”

In Joshua’s corner on 23 December will be Ben Davison, who coached Fury to a points victory over Wallin in 2019. That result remains the only loss of the Swede’s professional career, and he nearly secured an upset that evening after badly cutting Fury.

Davison will be Joshua’s fourth coach in five fights, after the former unified heavyweight champion split from Rob McCracken and went on to team with Robert Garcia then Derrick James.

Joshua faces off with Otto Wallin, whom he beat twice in the amateurs and later sparred with

“I think it's a problem for him, for sure,” Wallin said. “I've had my trainer now for 10 years. We know each other really well. We trust each other in and out of the ring.

“He's been with me for all of my pro fights except two, so it's really been a good journey together, and it's fantastic we get this chance now to prove to everyone what we've been working on.

“For Joshua, it's hard. When you keep changing trainer, it's usually a bad sign – and I think it's a bad sign for him, too.”

Joshua split from his longtime coach McCracken after losing to Usyk on points in 2021, before suffering the same result under Garcia in 2022. Joshua lost the unified heavyweight titles in the first of those fights and failed to regain them in the rematch.

He then teamed with James for his wins over Franklin and Helenius and is expected to work with the American again in the future.

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