Anthony Joshua has said he let himself down during an outburst in the ring following his heavyweight title defeat to Oleksandr Usyk.
The Ukrainian fighter won on a split points decision after the pair went the full 12 rounds in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, which ended with Joshua throwing two of the title belts over the ropes and storming off.
Writing on Twitter, the 32-year-old Briton acknowledged his emotions “got the better of me”.
“I wish @usykaa continued success in your quest for greatness. You are a class act champ,” he said.
“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 my self 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.”
Joshua’s erratic behaviour saw him return to the ring after he had stormed off, grabbing the mic to address the crowd inside the King Abdullah Sports City stadium.
“If you knew my story, you would understand the passion,” he said.
“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.”
The impromptu, impassioned speech split the boxing community, with some reacting in bemusement.
‘That was Usyk’s time to celebrate’
Joshua also received criticism for not allowing Usyk, who a few months ago was fighting on the front line of Russia’s invasion of his homeland, to speak first.
Fellow boxer Frazer Clarke told Sky Sports: “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.”
Addressing the speech in the post-match news conference, 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’.”
The defeat was his second consecutive loss to Usyk.
Read more: Who is Oleksandr Usyk?
Joshua has not offered an apology for his behaviour, but paid tribute to Usyk – and briefly posed with him holding the Ukrainian flag in a stand of solidarity in defiance of Russia’s ongoing assault.
Usyk said he hoped his win, which was free to view on Ukrainian TV, would raise more awareness of the war.
“I want to say that some people in the world are underestimating what is going on in Ukraine,” he said.
“Please open your eyes and see what is happening.”
Zelenskyy warns of ‘vicious’ Russian attack – live updates
Usyk, 35, also teased a potential clash with Tyson Fury after the fight.
Fury seemed keen, saying in a now-deleted Instagram post that he would “relieve the Ukrainian dosser of his belts”.