📸 Duco / Lawrence Lustig
From the primitive death-matches of Ancient Greek stadia to the glamour bouts of grandiose stateside arenas, every boxing match in history has been won and lost long before the ceremonial touching of gloves that precedes bloodshed.
Right now, the heavyweight division is dominated by two goliaths that must surely meet soon in the theatre of conflict – Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker.
Tyson Fury has also been mooted as an opponent for Joshua. Yet, while previous cancellations of a bout between the two have produced a rich back-story, the prospect of a clash between two unbeaten goliaths of the heavyweight division often proves the irresistible trump card for promotion. Deontay Wilder v Anthony Joshua
has also been identified as a very real prospect, though WBC title holder Wilder is strongly linked to a clash with Tony Bellew.
Joshua must remain focused
As widely predicted, eighteen knockout wins became nineteen for Anthony Joshua, as he defeated Wladimir Klitschko in ten to unify the IBF, IBO and WBA heavyweight belts. Such was the confidence in Joshua, several boxing betting sites
even saw fit to offer free bets ahead of Saturday’s epic clash.
However, the lateness of that victory, combined with his shock knockdown at the Ukrainian’s hands has delivered Joshua a much-needed wake-up call. With tougher opponents now lying in wait to make an attempt on his belts, Joshua must ignore the hype and focus solely on becoming psychologically stronger in the ring when faced with a truly cultured opponent.
In the event of his expected victory over Romanian challenger Răzvan Cojanu, current WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker will become a firm favorite to be Joshua’s next challenger. Any billing as a “superfight” would be an understatement, with the winner becoming a holder of four belts. Meanwhile, the loser would finally concede his unbeaten record, along with any hopes of emulating the heavyweight record of 49-0 held by Rocky Marciano.
On a more local scale, Parker himself must also prove that he is indeed New Zealand’s best pugilist since David Tua. He can only truly do this by succeeding where Tua failed seventeen years ago, when, in an all-commonwealth bout, Tua lost to Great Britain’s Lennox Lewis on 11 November 2000.
Tale of the theoretical tape
Joshua’s vastly superior reach would make him the marginal favourite against Parker. Although the New Zealander boasts a formidable 22-0 record, a thorough scouting report – albeit one conducted before his hard-fought victories over Carlos Takam (UD) and Andy Ruiz (MD) – states that the trajectory of his improvement pales against the other leading lights of boxing.
The report identifies guarding, footwork and stance as prime weaknesses, but there is more to this than meets the untrained eye. Takam and Ruiz bouts aside, Parker has enjoyed relatively easy victories, rendering a conservative battle plan unnecessary. Furthermore, despite his forthcoming status as underdog against Joshua, Parker would be in a determined and bullish mood ahead of fight night in this scenario.
Parker was, after all, overlooked in favor of Eric Molina as Joshua’s most recent “genuine” challenger for the IBF belt. Whether or not his Oceanic origin was the telling factor remains contentious, but realistic alternatives are now running thin to non-existent.
If nothing else, a boxer must at least be fuelled by efficiently-challenged rage at the status quo, and Parker has every right to include himself in that category. Ultimately, Joshua’s underestimation of Parker would be his undoing.