Anthony Joshua has split the boxing community after delivering an impromptu outburst following his defeat to Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk.
After the split decision was announced in the ring, Joshua grabbed two of the heavyweight championship belts and dumped them over the side of the ropes, before storming off towards the changing room.
However, he did return to the ring and grabbed the microphone to deliver an impromptu, impassioned speech.
He told the stadium in Jeddah: “If you knew my story, you would understand the passion.
“I ain’t no amateur boxer, from five years old that was an elite prospect from youth. I was going to jail, I got bail and I started training my a*** off, I wanted to be able to fight.
“This guy beat me tonight, maybe I could have done better, but it shows the level of hard work I put in, so please give him a round of applause as our heavyweight champion of the world.”
Joshua came in for criticism in the aftermath for failing to let his opponent speak first and throwing the belts over the side of the ring.
Professional boxer Frazer Clarke said Joshua’s outburst was “out of character” for him, telling Sky Sports: “As a gym friend and a friend in general, for anyone offended in general by what happened, I think I can apologise on his behalf for the outburst.
“His team might be mad at me for saying this, but I feel he was hung out to dry there. Somebody should have saved him from himself.
“It’s words, but in the true reflection of boxing, that was Usyk’s time to celebrate that victory, and he didn’t get to do it straight away, and I don’t think that was right.
“Anthony is a great person and has done a lot for a lot of people, a lot for me, but I feel like he had a bit of a bad one there, and it was out of character.”
He added: “Someone should have jumped in there. Someone should have stopped him and saved him from himself. It was only words, but it was the wrong time.”
Meanwhile, former middleweight champion Carl Froch defended Joshua, saying: “He didn’t say anything that would have offended anybody too much.
“He was just trying to speak off the cuff. He put his heart on his sleeve and hopefully didn’t offend anybody, but he did steal Usyk’s moment, and it was a bit strange.
“I think he was so emotionally built up to win that fight, the way in which he lost… I didn’t like the way the belts got thrown. It was a great boxing match, I thought it was a great performance.”
Addressing the speech in the post-match news conference alongside promoter Eddie Hearn, Joshua said: “When you try and do things from your heart, not everyone’s going to always understand.
“It was just from the heart, I knew I was mad at myself… and I thought ‘I’ve gotta get out of here’.
“Then I realised – this is sport.
“I’m a hustler, so I try and put things together… but it comes at a cost, and it’ll never break me, and it takes real strength not to break me, and tonight there’s a little crack in the armour because I took a loss.
“Let’s not forget about the champ… credit to him.”