By: Niki Ross
The latest instalment of the faux heavyweight renaissance is almost upon us. The Anthony Joshua franchise will roll out again next weekend to face off against the unbeaten Joseph Parker and with this fight we should move closer to a unification fight between Joshua and Wilder.
The fight against Joseph Parker feels very much like an interlude. To the casual fan this is an easy fight to sell as a legitimate challenge to Joshuas developing reign of supremacy. The media are onboard the AJ gravy-train, Eddie Hearn has secured the right deals, put him with the right endorsements and now Anthony Joshua is being pushed down our throats as a beacon of light for the sport. But things aren’t quite as they seem.
Boxing has been crying out for a heavyweight that everyone can hang their hopes on. Someone to bring back the good old days, the blood and glory days when the heavyweights were all that mattered. Times have changed, boxing is thriving and commercial appeal is not enough to be mentioned in a pound for pound conversation.
For all the hype, the heavyweight division is still nowhere near as exciting as the lower divisions. From featherweight up to middleweight there are some certified killers, and following on from the great 2017, we are seeing them looking for the career defining fights rather than the financially defining fights.
Joseph Parker, despite his unblemished record, is a limited fighter. Noticeably faster than the other current heavyweights, a little lighter on his feet, he is still exceptionally raw. He struggled with an aged Carlos Takam, he had it tough against the rusty Hughie Fury, he will probably come unstuck against Anthony Joshua.
Parker seems like he has failed to really develop as he’s gotten older. His punches are wild, he rushes in with reckless abandon and his defence is basic. If he was the least bit chinny, Parkers resume could look very different indeed.
On Sky Sports The Gloves Are Off both fighters came face to face. Joseph Parker did not look comfortable. He gave off the impression he was already psychologically beaten, simply happy to pick up his biggest payday. Even a little bit of an AJ admirer himself.
Maybe its the crushing weight of support Joshua has garnered, maybe its an understanding of his own limitations. Maybe I’m reading the situation all wrong. We will know for sure come the 31st of March, however Joseph Parker seems like a man accepting of his role as the supporting actor rather than a warrior coming to collect the scalp of a man standing in his road to greatness.
There aren’t many big fights left for Joshua at this stage. A fight with Wilder and then possibly a domestic dust up with the enigmatic Tyson Fury. But after that, theres nothing else that captures the imagination of the public at this point.
And these fighters, despite having public following, are nowhere near as fundamentally skilled as the men in the divisions which thrive below them. Tyson Fury may never even be the same fighter again, shifting such a mass of weight time and time again is not a sustainable expectation of the body and at some point he will have to pay the piper.
The heavyweight division is going to come to a crescendo sometime in the next couple of years and when its all said and done Anthony Joshua could be sitting in the throne for some time to come. He’s a good boxer, but a feeling deep inside gives the impression that he may not be able to cope when the time comes that a hungry young lion, with a dynamic boxing IQ comes knocking on the door.
Today its Joseph Parker, tomorrow it’ll be Deontay Wilder. And after that, the unknown quantities that lie in wait, the men who spot the flaws and are hungry beyond financial impetus, will be the ones who really rock the heavyweight division. Boxing is in a great place, the amount of talent on display week after week is refreshing. The cream always rises to the top and by the time this interludes are over, the landscape of the heavyweight division should look rather different.
In the meantime, bank on a Joshua late round stoppage. Nobody expects Parker to win, but Joshua doesn’t just need to win this fight, he needs to win this fight convincingly.