After a long time in the doldrums, boxing’s heavyweight division is booming again, and much of the credit for its restoration into the public’s consciousness has to be attributed to Watford’s own Anthony Joshua. A gold medal in the super-heavyweight division at the Olympic Games in London back in 2012, set the foundation for what has so far been, a stellar professional career for Joshua. With a perfect record of 20 wins, all by knockout, three world titles sitting around his waist, and a fortune sitting in his bank account, Joshua can only be described as a juggernaut. But there are still naysayers and doubters who question the champion’s chin and stamina. On Saturday, March 31st, Joshua faces fellow world champion Joseph Parker, himself an undefeated fighter. Many a shrewd boxing aficionado have suggested that Parker can give Joshua real problems and potentially even take his 0, but are those reporters and presenters just hyping the fight, or is there a distinct possibility of the Kiwi upsetting the applecart?
Anthony Joshua is such a big draw that his UK contests are now exclusively held in stadiums. The 74,500 Principality Stadium in Cardiff is the venue for the unification showdown this time around and Joshua has been priced up as a prohibit favourite with all of the major bookmakers with odds on the win typically ranging from -1250 to -1000 . When the fight was initially announced, Parker was available in the win market at odds of as big as +1000 – huge for a fight between two undefeated world champions, but there has since been significant enough support to compress his odds into an industry-wide +600 . With such a fervent home crowd roaring on Joshua’s every landed (and blocked) punch, it will surely be difficult for Parker to leave Cardiff with a decision victory unless he knocks Joshua down several times, so does he have the ability to stop Joshua? Let’s look at the two fighter’s styles and recent opponents.
Anthony Joshua’s career defining fight was against former undisputed champion Wladimir Klitschko last April. In a back and forth classic, Joshua dropped Klitschko in the fifth round, was heavily put down himself in sixth and then rallied to close the show in the eleventh round. He followed that performance up by beating late replacement Carlos Takam late last year in what was viewed as many as a lacklustre performance. In all reality, Joshua operated in a controlled manner against an opponent he hadn’t trained for, and he displayed discipline and an improved defence, overcoming a broken nose early in the fight before forcing a controversial stoppage. A criticism that can be drawn from both fights was Joshua’s weight. He tipped the scales at over 250lbs for both bouts and seemed to fatigue (particularly in the Klitschko fight), carrying around 10lbs above his optimum. It has been widely reported that Joshua has shed weight for this contest and he can be expected to come in somewhere between 243-245, which should enable him to be faster and have better endurance.
Where does Joshua excel? Well, the question should maybe be where doesn’t he excel? He possesses a varied arsenal of punches which are thrown with ferocity, he is fast on his feet for a man of his stature, and perhaps most impressively, Joshua’s defence and counter punching has progressed significantly over the last year or two. But there is a perceived vulnerability there, and one that Parker’s team have been alluding to with unerring regularity. That chink in the armour is Joshua’s mandible. There have been many a rumour going around that Joshua has been dropped in sparring and of course he got rocked against Dillian Whyte and was dropped by Klitschko.
Joseph Parker’s last fight was back in September of 2017 when he won a decision over Hughie Fury. Even for the purists, the fight was an absolute snoozer as Fury utilized his slick footwork and defence to nullify Parker for the majority of the fight. The problem was that Fury barely threw any punches and although his work was sloppy, Parker picked up the decision based on work rate and output alone. Prior to that Parker won a stay busy fight, and back towards the end of 2016, he had perhaps his stiffest test against talented but rotund American Andy Ruiz Jr, picking up a majority decision that could have gone either way. Based on his most recent performance against Fury, the odds of success don’t look great for Parker, but in all fairness Joshua will not be running, he will be coming straightforward to Parker and that will suit the New Zealander who relies on his fast hands and decent footwork to get his shots off then evades the counters.
Much has been made of Parker’s granite chin and Joshua’s potential fragilities in that department, but ultimately it is heavyweight boxing and if a big shot lands, then anyone can go. While Joshua has become accustomed to performing on the big stage in front of huge crowds, this is the first time in the spotlight for Parker. It would be foolish to dismiss that as a potential factor in this fight, for all that Parker seems a laid back and composed individual. Joshua is a fast starter who is likely to be extremely explosive early and although the traders are citing the durability of Parker and are suggesting that this fight goes late, the bookmakers have actually got the fight to be over in the first six rounds as the favourite. In our view, that is correct and there is still value there. Will Parker connect with Joshua early? Maybe. But for Parker to avoid a big Joshua shot and the subsequent barrage of punches that will follow for more than six rounds seems unlikely in our opinion. The bookmakers have priced Joshua winning in rounds 1-6 as slightly under a 50% chance and we see it as being closer to 60%, so it has to be the bet at odds of +110 with 888Sport.
Anthony Joshua by KO/TKO/DQ Rounds 1-6
Saturday 31st March, 22:00 GMT