Anthony Joshua has admitted he let himself down with his bizarre post-fight antics in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's split decision defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia.
Following the announcement he had failed in his bid to become a three-time heavyweight champion, a furious Joshua grabbed Usyk’s WBA and Ring Magazine belts and dropped them outside the ropes before he stalked towards the changing in a fit of rage.
The 32-year-old Briton then returned to the ring in Jeddah and confronted Usyk, saying: "You’re not strong, how did you beat me? How? I had character and determination", before addressing the crowd with a confused rant about his past and his own shortcomings as a boxer.
Taking to Twitter on Sunday evening, Joshua posted: “I wish @usykaa continued success in your quest for greatness. You are a class act champ.
“Yesterday I had to mentally take myself into a dark place to compete for the championship belts! I had two fights, one with Usyk and one with my emotions and both got the better of me.
“I’ll be the first to admit, I let myself down. I acted out of pure passion and emotion and when not controlled it ain’t great.
“I love this sport so so much and I’ll be better from this point on. Respect.”
Many observers accused Joshua of stealing Usyk’s moment, with the Ukrainian clearly emotional himself at his victory which he dedicated to his compatriots in their fight against Russian invasion.
Hours after the end of the fight, as he reflected on a third professional defeat that places him on the periphery of the heavyweight division’s elite, Joshua choked back the tears before holding his head in his hands to mask his anguish.
“Am I proud of myself? It’s really, really hard for me to say I’m proud of myself. I don’t feel anything … just … I’m upset. Deep down in my heart. Ah man … ah,” he said.
Once he had regained composure, he attempted to explain actions that have drawn heavy criticism.
“It was just from the heart. I was mad at myself. Not at anyone, just at myself. I’ve gotta get out of here because I’m mad,” Joshua said.
“Like anyone, when you’re angry you might do stupid things, so I was mad. But then I realised, ‘oh s*** this is sport, let me do the right thing and come back’. I just spoke from my heart."
He added: “Let’s not forget the champ Oleksandr Usyk who put on an incredible performance. I can’t remember what I said in the ring because I felt so passionate, but I want to say thank you to him for taking part in a great, historical fight as well. It takes two to tango.”
A much-improved Joshua can take heart from his performance against a fighter regarded as one of the pound-for-pound best in boxing.
Eleven months after surrendering the WBA, IBF and WBO belts to Usyk in London, Joshua came up just short in Sauda Arabia, with two judges awarding the fight to the Ukrainian 115-113, 116-112 with one judge scoring it 113-115 in Joshua's favour.
Usyk’s movement, hand speed, ring craft and work rate underpinned an impressive victory, which came after he served as a military volunteer in Kiev following Russia’s invasion of his homeland.
“What you saw was raw emotion. A real person who was feeling the pressure and who wanted to win so badly,” said promoter Eddie Hearn as he addressed the negativity that has stalked Joshua’s career.
“You live in an online world where it’s opinion, stick, abuse. He will never tell you that he sees that pressure or feels it, but it’s impossible not to.
“I just want AJ to be happy. He’s given his whole life since he started boxing and people don’t realise what a bubble it is.
“Everybody in the country knows who he is. Everyone has got an opinion on who he is. He’s in the gym all the time with his team.
“There isn’t anyone I know who is more dedicated to the sport than him and sometimes people don’t understand the pressures that are on people’s shoulder. But he’s never ducked a challenge.”