Tag Archives: unification

Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker: A Step Towards Unification

Posted on 03/27/2018

By: Ste Rowen

Two years ago, Anthony Joshua was deep into camp, preparing for his first world title shot against the newly crowned IBF champion, Charles Martin. A shot at one of the most prestigious belts made available due to Tyson Fury being stripped of the IBF strap almost immediately after ripping it from Wladimir Klitschko, along with the WBA and WBO belts in 2015.

It’s strange to think, just 27 months ago, 3 of the 4 recognized belts were held by one man and seemed so unattainable, then within a few months, for the first time since the early 2000s they were scattered across the division. It seems even stranger now then that we’re one weekend away from one man holding the IBF, WBA & WBO once again and, in theory, one fight away from becoming the first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis.

Photo Credit: Esther Lin/Showtime

Joshua did of course win the IBF belt that night from Charles Martin; the American who won the title by accident, after he watched Vyacheslav Glazkov tear his meniscus and ACL in the 3rd round and being unable to continue, meaning the history books will show that Martin won the IBF via 3rd round TKO. He had no such luck against Joshua though, when the 2012 gold medallist needed less than five minutes to wipe out the man who supposedly, ‘walked the earth like a God.’

‘AJ’ now, 20-0 (20KOs) will face a much sterner test this weekend in the form of WBO world champion, Joseph Parker. The New Zealander, 24-0 (18KOs) won his world title in his 22nd fight, as opposed to Joshua winning the IBF in his 16th; coming up against the Abel Sanchez trained, Andy Ruiz Jr, fighting for the vacant WBO. Parker’s earnt his straps in bouts including Joshua’s most recent opposition, Carlos Takam, winning via unanimous 12-round decision, impressive blowout victories over Alexander Dimitrenko and domestic rival, Solomon Haumono. Even when he’s failed to impress, including his most recent awkward encounter with Hughie Fury, Parker will have come away from the fight with a lot to learn from, but an accomplished trainer in Kevin Barry to enhance his style with.

Joshua has more than earnt his stripes on the road to this weekend’s unification clash. Almost eleven months ago, ‘AJ’ stepped into the ring with a future hall of famer, dropped him in the 5th, got dropped in the 6th and found an unbelievable second wind in the 11th to finish off Wladimir Klitschko, not just that night, but it was of course the prodigious man’s final bout after 66 professional fights.

It was truly one of the great heavyweight title clashes, arguably the best in terms of up-and-down action since Lennox Lewis took on Wladimir’s brother, Vitali in 2003. That night Anthony displayed more than just power, and the ability to stalk his opponent, attributes we knew he had in abundance going into the fight. The relevant clichés apply obviously, heart, determination, the will to get back up off the floor, but perhaps more importantly a skillset he hadn’t had to show he’s capable of yet in the pro ranks.

Joshua displayed the finesse to fight off the back foot from the first bell as Klitschko was the man doing the pressing early on and then almost entirely through rounds 6 to 10. Unless it’s been out of choice, never before in his previous 19 bouts had ‘AJ’ been forced into reversing, and time his counters to keep the Ukrainian away. We also saw Anthony’s chin properly and consistently tested for the first time. Of course, as proven in the 6th when Wladimir landed a wonderful straight right hand sending Joshua to the canvas for the first time as a pro, the Brit’s chin is not unbreakable, but it’s certainly not made of the soft stuff. And it’s not just the physical side of being landed on, but the mental fatigue that comes with being cleanly hit more than you have been in any previous bout.

From that ensuing fight, and an ugly tussle with Carlos Takam in October, which resulted in a dubious 10th round stoppage, Joshua, speaking to Sky Sports, believes he is the man responsible for reigniting a failing division,

‘I think I’m leading the pack and that’s the way that it’s going to stay. If I wasn’t leading the way, there would be no eyes on the division. The division was dead and we brought it back to life.’

‘One fight doesn’t define us, if it did I would be sitting back on the throne after my Klitschko fight. But I’ve got to keep on going.’

On this Saturday’s fight, Joshua isn’t shying away from the significance of the night, as he told BBC Sport,

‘This is history. This is a unification fight with two heavyweights undefeated…You know when you come here to fight myself there’s going to be blood, a fighter hurt and 20 times out of 20 I’ve been victorious so expect the same routine.’

‘He’s (Parker) a king where he comes from so he has that pride on his back as well. He has to represent the heritage and that’s important.’

Even with the rematch clause in place for Saturday’s fight, the outcome is so significant to how the next few years at the top of the heavyweight division plays out. Being a realist, if Joshua beats Parker, a fight with Wilder probably won’t happen next, but a defeat pushes it back even further, most likely into late 2019, early 2020 – that is of course as long as Joshua wins a potential rematch with Parker.

But it’s safe to assume ‘AJ’ won’t allow himself to be distracted by the potential future bouts, his trainer, Rob McCracken certainly won’t, especially when they look back on how quickly the Klitschko fight turned on it’s head.

More Columns

Just How Big Will Canelo-GGG Be?

Posted on 06/29/2017

Just How Big Will Canelo-GGG Be?
By: Sean Crose

People were all kinds of excited when news was announced that Canelo Alvarez would finally be facing middleweight terror Gennady Golovkin in the ring. Not only was it THE fight serious boxing fans wanted to see, but the bout had the potential to cross the margins and make its way into the mainstream consciousness, where boxing rarely sees the light of day. There was a lot to look forward to that night in a Las Vegas ring, when Canelo, after easily beating Julio Caesar Chavez Jr, made it clear he and GGG would finally be getting it on. Boxing, much on the upswing in 2017, would have a bright shining object to show the world when middleweight supremacy was battled for in September.


Unfortunately, another bright, shining object, nothing more than a trinket, really, seems to have taken all the mainstream potential Canelo-GGG may have promised. That particular object, which is honestly not worth mentioning, is said to be an affront to what is essentially the best bout in boxing. It may well be. But boxing fans shouldn’t care. For the truth is that Canelo and Golovkin were never going to break records when they met in Vegas. This was a one-to-two million buy pay per view event, at most. Enormous to be sure, but nowhere near groundbreaking.

So don’t get too upset. Sure, the circus has pushed Canelo-GGG back to the margins. Yet it’s a pretty well-known fact that Canelo has an enormous Mexican fan base behind him that’s VERY interested in his bout with Golovkin. Let’s also not forget about the serious fight fans who won’t be wasting money on a circus but, rather, will be gladly coughing up money for Canelo-GGG. Here’s something else worth considering – boxing, with our without the circus everyone is talking about – is in a VERY good place. Canelo got good PPV numbers for beating a guy few expected to win last time out. Anthony Joshua beat Wladimir Klitschko in front of close to one hundred thousand people in London. The Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia battle owned the night when it appears on network television. Things are going strong.

And as long as fights like Canelo-GGG are made, the sport will continue to prosper. A pop culture event can’t beat steady growth when it comes to the health of boxing. Circuses come and go. Great fights are timeless. Canelo-GGG will do excellent business in September. And if the fight is good, things will continue looking up for the sport.

More Columns

Unification for the Heavyweight Division within Reach?

Posted on 11/07/2016

​Unification for the Heavyweight Division within Reach?
By: Eric Lunger

​With negotiations with Wladimir Klitschko fizzling out late last month, Eddie Hearn and Matchroom have announced that Anthony Joshua (17-0, 17 KO’s) will defend his IBF Heavyweight title against Eric Molina (25-3, 19 KO’s) of the United States on December 10th in Manchester, England, on Sky Sports PPV. The reaction in the British media was muted, with one prominent observer, John Dennen of Boxing News, characterizing Molina as “not an appealing replacement” for Klitschko.


Molina, 34, most recently traveled to Poland and knocked out Tomasz Adamek (50-5, 30 KO’s) to win the vacant IBF Intercontinental heavyweight title. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the Molina matchup makes sense in two ways. First, Molina has traveled to his opponent’s home ground and boxed very well, making him an attractive candidate to travel to England to face a very popular Anthony Joshua in front of Joshua’s home fans. And second, let’s remember that Joshua is relatively young and inexperienced. With his undefeated record, his IBF title, and his potential earning power, it makes sense to let AJ face another good heavyweight before stepping into the ring with the hugely experienced Wladimir Klitschko.

​For their part, the WBA gave their blessing to the Joshua vs. Molina bout last week by granting “special permission” for Klitschko to fight Joshua, “at a date to be determined, with the WBA Super World heavyweight title at stake.” In short, the WBA is allowing Joshua a tune-up against Molina in order to sanction a future Joshua vs. Klitschko super-fight that would unify the WBA and IBF titles. Also in the wings is Luis Ortiz, (25-0, 22 KO’s), trained in Cuba but now based in Miami. The powerful and slick southpaw recently joined Matchroom, and is finally back in action this weekend against Malik Scott (38-2-1, 13 KO’s) for the WBA Intercontinental title.

That leaves WBC world champion Deontay Wilder (37-0, 36 KO’s) in an interesting and potentially advantageous position. Wilder, 31, won the belt in January of 2015 by defeating Bermane Stiverne in a 12 round unanimous decision. Since then, Deontay has racked up four successful title defenses, including a 9th round KO of Eric Molina in June of 2015. Most recently, Wilder stopped Chris Arreola in eight rounds in July of this year, breaking his right hand in that bout.

Tim Smith (vice president for communications at PBC, Wilder’s promoter) told me on Friday that the hand is healed and that Deontay is in the gym working out with both hands. Deontay is “staying ready and is on track” for whatever bout appears for him on the horizon.

​Right now, Deontay is planning to fight in the first quarter of 2017, according to Smith, and, as the belt holder, he “will abide” by whatever the WBC mandates. Inexplicably, the WBC currently ranks Alexander Povetkin of Russia as the number one contender (despite testing positive for meldonium last summer), and Stiverne as number two, essentially jumping the line ahead of several worthy contenders. Asked whether PBC’s newly announced big slate of fights, combined with Deontay’s popularity with American fans, could work to Deontay’s benefit in accelerating the path to unification, Smith’s optimism was tinged with a bit of skepticism: “This is boxing, if the fans made the fights, we would have a different slate of fights.”

Even so, Smith mused aloud on this scenario: if Joshua (IBF) defeats Molina as expected, and then takes on Klitschko in the first quarter of 2017 for the IBF and WBA Super, then Wilder (WBC) vs. that winner could unify three of the four major belts (IBF, WBC, and WBA). Pretty heady stuff, granted.

​That leaves the vacant WBO title. Joseph Parker (21-0, 18 KO’s) of New Zealand is reportedly set to face American Andy Ruiz, Jr. (29-0, 19KO’s) for the vacant title on December 10th. Parker, a dynamic and exciting fighter, but not especially well-known to US fans, is currently ranked first by the WBO, and Ruiz third.

​Think about it: a plausible path to three champions all with undefeated records. 17-0, 21-0, 37-0. Joshua, Parker, Wilder. England, New Zealand, USA.

More Columns

Kell Brook, Jessie Vargas, To Meet In Welterweight Title Unifier

Posted on 06/01/2016

Kell Brook, Jessie Vargas, To Meet In Welterweight Title Unifier
By: Sean Crose

IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook is finally getting the kind of opponent fans will be satisfied seeing him face. For the talented Brit is now set to battle the WBO welterweight champ, Jessie Vargas later this summer – an official date has yet to be set – in Sheffield, England, Brook’s home town. What makes this match particularly notable is the fact that the winner will actually hold two world title belts in the same division, something that isn’t nearly as common as it should be in contemporary boxing (there’s a reason middleweight Gennady Golovkin is considered a refreshing oddity these days for wanting “all the belts” in his division).


To be sure, Brook (36-0) is known as one of best welterweights in the world at the moment. Indeed, some see the man as being THE best welterweight in the world now that Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao have “retired.” Fans have been frustrated, however, that Brook hasn’t faced a major foe since besting the terrific Shawn Porter in 2014. Truth be told, however, that may not entirely be Brook’s fault. Significant matches against the likes of Tim Bradley (what a fight that would be) and Brandon Rios having fallen through in discussion. What’s more, fellow big name British welterweight Amir Khan doesn’t appear deeply interested in facing Brook, for whatever reason.

Brook’s certainly up against a legitimate foe in Vargas (27-1), however. For this is the same Vargas who obliterated rising star Sadam Ali by knocking the man out just a few months ago. This is also the same Vargas who almost knocked out Tim Bradley in the closing seconds of their bout last summer. Will Vargas be up to the challenge of facing Brook, though? It wasn’t as if Bradley hadn’t been dominating his fight with Vargas up until the very end, after all. What’s more, Ali was a rising star rather than a proven commodity – a fine distinction – when Vargas introduced him to the canvas.

Then again, there are still question marks circling Brook, as well. This writer pegged him to be a serious threat at welterweight well before he won his title off of Porter, but Porter is the only true “name” the man has faced. While he’s truly big and talented, it’s hard to deny that Brook is still somewhat untested. That being said, it would be quite a surprise if Brook were to lose this fight. Oh, it wouldn’t be upset of the year material, but Brook heretofore has proven to have a more impressive skill set than Vargas does.

Taking a wider view of things, it appears that the welterweight division is in movement at the moment. In other words, roles are actively being defined in the post Mayweather-Pacquiao era. WBC titlist Danny Garcia may be less than enthralled with the prospect of proving he’s the best, but other major welters like Brook, Vargas and Bradley are ripe and ready to compete. Furthermore, WBA welterweight champ Keith Thurman will be facing Porter this June in what’s an extremely intriguing matchup.

A pecking order will soon emerge.

More Columns