Posts Tagged With: Anthony Joshua


This past Saturday Anthony Joshua took on Joseph Parker in a heavyweight title unification match.  Both men had already established impressive professional records, with Joshua being billed as the star, known for knockouts.  In past fights Parker has come in fairly heavy, showing lackluster conditioning, but for the fight against Joshua he was in top physical form, nearly as chiseled as his statuesque opponent.  His performance followed suit, demonstrating superior fighting technique, effective aggression and formidable power.  The fight had all the makings of a classic.

Unfortunately, the contest descended into the kind of chaotic spectacle you expect from MMA or professional wrestling.  The way the fight was conducted, not to mention how it was judged, was shameful.  The complete lack of regulation obscured both fighters’ abilities.  Parker’s skill was partially negated by the referee’s incompetence.  Some of the most notoriously bad performances by referees in all of boxing were better than his.  He interfered and disrupted action, yet he didn’t pay attention to fouls; he over-officiated and yet lacked any semblance of control.

Joshua’s signature win and career triumph (2017’s fight of the year) was brought about by what appeared to be a frantic exchange that ended in an unintentionally illegal blow (holding and hitting).  After an epic struggle that forced both men to perform at their best, flailing arms resulted in Wladimir Klitschko’s head being pushed down while Joshua threw a devastating uppercut.  Klitschko was one of the most successful heavyweights in the history of the sport, performing near his best, and probably would not have lost by knockout had he not been hit illegally.  Realistically, there probably isn’t anyone in boxing who could go through 11 rounds like that, and then get back up after Anthony Joshua holds them down and lands a huge uppercut.

That fight was judged and officiated fairly.  The holding looked unintentional and the damage was done.  This past Saturday’s fight, however, was more challenging to control, and the referee was completely unprepared.  Joshua leaned and held much about as any heavyweight would, but as the fight progressed, it became clear that he also consistently managed to make contact with his head and forearm.  The referee never issued a warning.

Even more unbelievably, after a few rounds of brawling, Joshua began brazenly setting up the illegal shot that ended the fight against Klitschko.  Over and over he looked for an opportunity to push down on the shorter fighter’s neck, step back, and throw a big uppercut.  The second, even the third time he did it, I’m sure a lot of viewers thought it was still a coincidence, but by the end it was clear.  Holding and hitting was part of Joshua’s game plan that night.

Having been an ardent supporter of Joshua for years now, I’m extremely disappointed in his behavior–especially given the self-righteous, wholesome image he projects.  It’s not Margarito-level cheating, but a man Joshua’s size making illegal punches part of his strategy is criminal.  Or it should be.

The fight ended the way many expected, a win for Joshua.  There were times in the fight that Parker probably should have thrown more punches to keep the cards closer, but the final scores were far from fair.  While the commentators from Showtime, on their unofficial scorecard, may have given more rounds to Parker than I would have, they showed a very close fight at the end of 12 rounds.  That’s an accurate description of the fight I saw, close and exciting with Joshua taking a few more rounds.

Instead, all three judges handed in blowouts for Joshua: 119-109, 118-110, 118-110.  True, Parker lost the fight pretty decisively, but who’s to say how it would have gone without the illegal blows and incompetent referee?  All things considered, Anthony Joshua’s two biggest wins–and in turn, his identity–should now be marked with asterisks: Anthony Joshua, Boxer* (And part-time MMA/street fighter).

Deontay Wilder is the logical next step, though no one is expecting it to happen right away.  The Brits would have you think Joshua is at a different level in terms of skill.  Wilder does gets sloppy in every fight, and he struggled in his most recent bout against Luis Ortiz, who was probably a lesser challenge than Joseph Parker would have been, but I judge any disparity between Wilder and Joshua to be negligible.  What Wilder lacks in skill, he more than makes up for in athleticism and heart.  I would have predicted a win for Wilder in that fight even before the revealing display from this past Saturday, but now I’d say luck and muscle are more responsible than talent for Joshua’s success.  Wilder is strong enough to withstand Joshua’s legal punches and large enough to have a chance to prevent him from using the tactics he used against Parker.

I really don’t want to see Joshua fight Tyson Fury, but even that would be interesting.  Joshua has never fought a powerful heavyweight with any mobility, so either Fury or Wilder would be a challenge.  The big showdown between Wilder and Joshua looms even larger than Joshua-Klitschko, given the difference in age in that fight.  Nobody wants to see Joshua fight Povetkin or Dillian Whyte, but that’s probably what we’ll get in the mean time.  Let’s just hope it’s not David Haye.

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Younger, Not Better

This past Saturday Deontay Wilder, the top American heavyweight, took on Cuban veteran Luis Ortiz.  Their first fight was canceled due to Ortiz failing a drug test, but this time the event went on, bringing two of boxing’s biggest punchers together for the WBC title.  The fight started slowly, and as predicted, Wilder showed better movement than Ortiz but less precision and far less activity.  While Ortiz managed a slight reach advantage, Wilder is three inches taller, and made no use of his height (except to cheat).  In the end, , Wilder claimed he was just working on his inside punching and showing what he could do because he’s known as an outside puncher.  It’s not really true, but it’s plausible enough.

There’s been so much hype recently about the showdown between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder (with so little else to talk about)  that you would expect Wilder to be looking like a man at the top his sport, but he didn’t look that way for most of the fight on Saturday.  I was immediately disappointed in Wilder’s volume and accuracy, and simultaneously impressed by his opponents’ demonstration of skill in those areas.  Ortiz was measured with his punches, using good straights to work inside, and then landing effective shots.  About halfway through the fight, Wilder started to look fatigued and desperate, winging shots as if he were trying to live up to his surname.  Ortiz took some punishment for having his hands too low, but was generally able to handle the onslaught and land a couple of much more effective counter shots.

At 38, Ortiz is nearing the end of his run in the sport, whereas Wilder, a former Olympian, is only 32 and has plenty of time to make his megafight and, if he wins, enjoy his reign.  That might explain why, when given the opportunity to prove himself ready for an Anthony Joshua–or even a Tyson Fury, Wilder treated it like another tune-up fight.  After about two rounds of taking multiple counter punches for every punch he landed, Wilder got wobbly and was unable to return fire.  Using all of his skill, he managed to lean, hold and push enough to get the ref to give him a knockdown in round 5, but by round 7 it was clear Ortiz was the stronger of the two in every way.  Had that round lasted a few seconds longer, or had the timekeeper let the round go a little long (as so often is the case), Ortiz would be the new WBC champion and Wilder would be on the defensive, trying to pick up the pieces of his once-lucrative career prospects.  Sadly, that wasn’t the case.  Everyone besides the referee was on their job, and the round ended.

Admittedly, Ortiz did not pursue the knockout enough in round 8 to make a convincing attempt, but there was enough in round 7 to call the fight for him or at least give his opponent a couple of standing eights.  Two standing 8 counts would have considerably changed the momentum and the scoring of the fight, but instead, Wilder was given extra time in his corner between rounds to recover.  Then, in round 9, his leaning and holding got him a few good shots as Ortiz began to tire.  In round 10, Wilder’s ability to manipulate the rules peaked when he held his opponent’s head down as he landed an uppercut equal only to the one Joshua used to fell Elder Klitschko.  Similarly, Ortiz made a valiant recovery but was unable to regain his balance completely.  Knockout for Wilder.

There’s no arguing that Ortiz was too hurt by the illegal punches and too exhausted from holding up 215 pounds of dead weight for 10 rounds to continue any further, but the ref could have prevented the fight from getting there.  If he had only resisted Wilder’s increasingly brazen attempts to flout the rules, the momentum would have stayed with the more skilled fighter.  It could even have held true despite the referee’s conduct, given Wilder’s condition, if Ortiz weren’t approaching 40.  His performance up until that point was impressive enough, but to expect him to pull out another stoppage-worthy round would have been unrealistic.

I would say this is a repeat of Joshua-Klitschko, except that I think Joshua would win the rematch.  I think Klitschko really was done, and probably got lucky to do as well as he did, even though he was actually beaten by an (accidental) illegal blow.  I’m not 100% sure Wilder’s shot was unintentional, and I’m not convinced he fought competitively enough to be compared to Joshua’s performance against Klitschko.


In the undercard, an overmatched Andre Direll finally lost without being bludgeoned after the bell.  It may be the beginning of the end for him, or at least, part of the process, which was probably initiated by the notoriously underhanded Arthur Abraham.


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Risk, Reward and Real Boxing

This weekend boxing fans will be witness to the conclusion of another exercise in delaying the inevitable.  Lamont Peterson will be challenging (if you can call it that) former Olympian Errol Spence Jr.  Spence has been rolling through opponent after opponent since his pro debut in 2012.  Admittedly, his early opponents were low risk by any standard, but when he decided to make the transition to legacy-making fights, he jumped right into the deep end, taking on Kell Brook.  In that fight, Brook was thoroughly dominated for his second consecutive fight.  His only previous loss, however, was a fight in which he moved up two weight classes and fought one of the best in the sport, Gennady Golovkin.  Spence had always looked good, but it was the fight against Brook that really made him shine.  It was a showcase both for Spence’s talent and his limitations, but it was clear that his future held big things.

One of those things arrives this weekend in the form of the perfect opponent.  Lamont Peterson has enjoyed extreme devotion from his hometown fans, enough that their loyalty and enthusiasm swung the judges’ favor his way when he fought Amir Khan.  He would likely have lost a rematch.  I have always been a fan of his, and not just because of his boxing ability.  He’s a classy, admirable guy outside the ring, and he just so happens to be a hell of an athlete who’s fun to watch.  Lately, though, his ambition seems to have left him, and he’s got a list of excuses for everything that goes wrong in a fight.  He’s always fallen well short of the mark against big opponents (Danny Garcia, Lucas Mathysse, Tim Bradley), but some of his less noteworthy challengers have given him trouble as well.  In his two past fights he’s struggled against David Avenesyan and Felix Diaz Jr.  Neither one is likely to hold a title any time soon, and while the record shows that Peterson won those fights, you wouldn’t know it to watch them.

One of the biggest reasons to see Lamont Peterson fight has always been his incredible stamina, but recently he’s seemed lazy and sluggish, and has chosen to fight less frequently.  I sat in a stadium full of Lamont Peterson fans the night he fought Felix Diaz Jr., and all of us expected the decision to go against him.  We all actually wanted him to lose that night, not because we weren’t fans of his, but because that’s what his performance deserved.  His most recent win was more convincing but similarly disappointing.  When he meets Spence this Saturday, he’ll have fought only three times since 2015.  Let’s hope he got the rest he needed, because stepping back up in competition so suddenly against someone so young and talented is a good way to end your career.  Lamont will come up with his formidable jab and hold Spence off for the first couple rounds, and he might move his hands enough to win one or both.  If he’s in good form, he’ll throw consistently for two or three rounds and defend well, but then he’ll slow down and stop throwing.  Once Spence feels comfortable letting his hands go, he’ll push Lamont to the ropes and they’ll call it.

In the heavies there’s been a lot of hubbub surrounding the showdown between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker.  Mostly because Parker has a big mouth.  It’s become a real trend in boxing for untalented, uneducated Brits to essentially rant their way to a contract.  I’m fine with Sky Sports using their airtime to broadcast David Haye-Tony Bellew 5, but let’s not pretend these exhibitions have anything to do with boxing.  Haye, Bellew, Chisora, Fury–none of them were ever relevant, yet they felt comfortable claiming they were going to easily defeat opponents with much greater experience, even threatening to kill them, then shamelessly taking the easy way out once in the ring.  Reminds me of Trump, actually.  Haye-Bellew?  That’s fake news.  Fake boxing.  It cheapens the efforts of the real athletes to allow guys like that to Paris-Hilton their way to a televised title shot.  (Sure, Fury beat Klitschko, but we’ll never know how the rematch would’ve gone.)

We spent so many years suffering through a total drought in the heavyweight division (save for the Klitschkos) that it’s now possible to become a known entity with very little experience.  In fact, it worked both ways, in that when we had no one else to compare them to, many fans were even critical of the Klitschkos.  Tyson Fury was a sideshow when he started his campaign to get a fight with Wladimir, the biggest win on his resume over Dereck Chisora, but suddenly he was a name.  The same thing has happened with Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, their considerable reputations preceding their success and being met with a stubborn but well-founded skepticism.  Joseph Parker is yet another, possibly even more extreme example of the phenomenon.  The difference being that Wilder and Joshua actually have proven themselves.

How Parker was chosen as the opponent, I can’t imagine.  Aside from a unanimous decision over Joshua’s last opponent (who Joshua knocked out), and a much closer one over Hughie Fury, he has no credentials that would justify his selection.  I guess height is now considered a talent supplement in the heavyweight division (Parker is 6’4″).  Actually, that does show that we’re learning–we’ll never have to sit through another Klitschko-Haye, but I have a feeling the talent deficit for Parker will be similar.  There’s no doubt that Parker is an impressive athlete, but it’s unlikely he’ll dethrone one of the best British heavyweights of all time.  It’ll be a good learning experience for Joshua and should be entertaining to watch, but merely a formality.  There’ll be several more to come, I’m sure, before we get what we’re really waiting to see: Wilder-Joshua.  Given that both of them are young and the division is relatively vacant, their meeting seems inevitable.  I’d be surprised if both don’t end up carving out a place in the history books.

In March a fight will be held to determine the mandatory challenger for Sergey Lipinets.  More tantalizing is the co-feature, a bout between Viktor Postol (KO over Mathysse) and Regis Prograis.  Both are up-and-coming talents looking to establish their place on the ladder.  Plus, Prograis wears a werewolf mask to the ring.  While neither fighter has managed a career-defining win, Postol has taken on Terence Crawford, and a win here would go a long way to getting him back to the top of the division.  Expect real entertainment from this one.


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A Full Card

It’s hard not to speculate wildly when there are so many great fights just around the corner.  Two reasons these fights are even more interesting now: Alvarez-Chavez is out of the way, and Joshua-Klitschko surpassed all our expectations.  It’s hard to see past such momentous fights before the dust settles, but now that we’ve gotten a satisfying conclusion to the Klitschko reign, and a stamp of approval for Canelo’s run at middleweight, we can sit back and appreciate this year’s bountiful spring and summer offerings.

Tomorrow, Delvin Rodriguez will be working to regain his place in the junior middleweight division after taking a series of unwinnable fights against division mainstays like Cotto, Lara and Trout.  He was the warm-up for these three superior fighters, all on their way to lucrative losses to Canelo.  The soft-touch contest against Courtney Pennington (10-4-1) in Connecticut won’t be televised, but we can guess how it’ll end.

This coming Saturday, May 13th, AWE will broadcast a WBA junior bantamweight title fight.  It’ll likely be as thrilling as most junior bantamweight fights, so nothing to set your DVR for.  Also that night, in Michigan, James Toney will be fighting.  Fortunately, it won’t be televised.

While not a thrilling prospect, it’s always interesting to see Diego de la Hoya in the ring, and he’ll be headlining the ESPN card on Thursday May 18th, building his record against relative unknown Erik Ruiz.  The following Saturday begins a big weekend for boxing with a heaping helping of interesting fights, some not so interesting.  The most tantalizing prospect coming from HBO, we’ll be treated to Terence Crawford-Felix Diaz for Crawford’s WBO and WBC titles.

I watched Diaz, the 2008 gold medal winner from Dominican Republic, lose his last major match in October 2015 when he took on hometown favorite Lamont Peterson.  This was the main event of the same card as the tragic final bout of Prichard Colon’s career.  The whole crowd in attendance was puzzled by Lamont’s inactive offense and ineffective defense, at times booing his performance.  Those who stayed for the end the fight were even more shocked when the scores were announced in favor of Peterson.  May 20th will be the night for Diaz to redeem himself in dramatic fashion, but going up against a force like Terence Crawford, it’s unlikely he’ll get the victory needs.

The same night (May 20th) on Showtime, we’ll get three Gary Russells including the famous Jr., plus Rances Barthelemy and Andre Dirrell all taking on unknowns for transitional fights, and top top it all off, Gervonta Davis and Liam Walsh in the main event.  It’s unlikely anyone will do well against Davis at this stage of his career, but Liam Walsh will be a legitimate test.  If we’re still hungry for more, FS1 will be serving up a few tomato cans to clang around the ring too.

May 27th we get Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr. just a week removed from Terence Crawford’s next stepping stone fight.  Hopefully, the winner of the more highly celebrated Brook-Spence contest will be facing Crawford soon.  All three are names with enough longevity to take boxing fans into the next era, but two in particular, Crawford and Spence, seem to have the most potential.

June 3rd we get Adonis Stevenson-Andrzej Fonfara.  This should be an exciting fight with a lot of good exchanges, settling any unanswered questions from their first close fight.  Fonfara is talented and his style matches up well against Stevenson, but it’s likely Stevenson will adapt better the second time around and close up any gaps.  Also that night, Fres Oquendo, whose last fight was a loss to Chagaev in 2014, will “fight” Shannon Briggs.  Appropriately, the fight will take place in Hollywood.  Briggs has fought steadily but met his last significant opponent, Vitali Klitschko, seven years ago.

June 16 Claressa Shields will be in the ring again, but of course, it won’t be televised.  To be fair, most of Shields’ fights are painfully one-sided.  Still, there are other exciting female boxers and these fights can’t draw any viewers if they aren’t accessible.

The following night on June 17 we’re already set for the rematch between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, with the undercard featuring Guillermo Rigondeaux.  While no one is likely to disturb Rigondeaux’s reign, his opponent is undefeated and could provide some resistance.  Fans are hard set on their picks for the Kovalev-Ward rematch, as they were for the first fight.  It’s a rational argument either way, and I would still make the case that Kovalev could easily have taken the cards in that match.  If past evidence is any indicator (think Cotto-Margarito II, Mayweather-Maidana II, Rios-Alvarado II), the fighter who relies more on mental agility, ring IQ and technique will refine his strategy and come away with the win.  Ward has been so smart in all his fights in the past that he’s not only undefeated, he even managed to win landslide decisions against fighters who specialized in making slick fighters look clumsy.  Kovalev is a force, to be sure, but he doesn’t seem to have many dimensions to his style.  If something isn’t working, he works harder at what he does well and usually something gives.  In this case, that won’t cut it.  He’ll have to find a weakness in Ward’s game, or he’ll have to sure up one of his own, so that he can keep the offensive points from going to his opponent.  We know Ward will best him in defensive technique, but if Kovalev can hurt Ward or keep him from working actively, we could see a trilogy in the making.  Ward will likely take the win by decision, but Kovalev will make it very interesting.

The crown jewel in the summer lineup will be the epic clash between Saul Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin.  There’s enough to speculate about with that fight to fill a book, so for this post we’ll just acknowledge that the biggest treat of all still awaits us, ready to offer solace for the bittersweet arrival of fall.

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Giants of the Times

Image result for nikolai valuev

A lot has been made in the past week of Tyson Fury’s return to Trump-style communication, that is, harassing people on Twitter without using factual statements.  He used this strategy before with Klitschko, and it worked.  He got his shot at the title, and the big lazy manic-depressive actually pulled it off somehow.  He won.

Hey, it shocked me too–but now people who claim to know boxing are making a big deal about Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder avoiding Fury.  They treat a potential rematch between Klitschko and Fury as a foregone conclusion, that Klitschko will lose.  I’m pretty puzzled as to why anyone would feel that way.  Have you not been following heavyweights for the last 11-14 years?  Because that’s how long the Klitschko name has adorned the top of the division.  Sure, it was a lackluster era for the heavies, but the same was said about Floyd Mayweather before he started fighting Cottos and Pacquiaos.  While the first fight between Fury and Klitschko was one-sided, the sheer absurdity of the circumstances (Fury sang “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” after his victory) made it clear that a rematch would be worth seeing.  Joshua-Klitschko will undoubtedly be less exciting to watch than that fever dream was, but it brings gravity and competition back to the division.

We have to keep in mind that Wladimir Klitschko turned 41 a few weeks ago while Tyson Fury is still only 28.  The older Klitschko gets, the less he’ll be able to compete with any young, large, skilled opponent, and the more likely it becomes that his successor will be just another pudgy Russian or technical Slavic fighter whose name will fade as quickly as it appeared (we’re looking at you, Ibragimov).  Remember Nikolay Valuev?  Do you remember how big he was?  A 7-foot tall 330-pound monster with enough chest hair to weave a bathroom mat.   He lost to David Haye (a man with a 100 pound weight disadvantage) 8 years ago.  Haye went on to fight Klistchko just 6 years ago, and was humiliated, unable to compete on any level.  In other words: just because you’re the biggest, or have the biggest mouth, doesn’t mean you’re competitive.

Fury is slightly less bound by his lumbering physique than Valuev, but no more talented.  It should come as a shock to everyone if he manages another win over Klitschko, and an even greater shock if he gets a match and can even compete with the other two, younger, more talented, more physically impressive champions.  Joshua probably isn’t as skilled as Wilder, but both are so far beyond Fury physically that skill won’t be as much of a factor, if they ever meet him in the ring.  It’s certainly impressive that Fury managed a win over a Klitschko, at any age, and he did it while suffering from mental illness.  I’m not saying Fury got lucky, but there’s a reason no one expected the fight to go the way it did.  Just as it was for Lennox Lewis-Oliver McCall II, the rematch is a clean slate for the more talented, and more physically and mentally fit fighter.

That being said, Joshua and Wilder are no small potatoes themselves.  I would expect either of them to handle everyone in the heavyweight division easily, except each other and Klitschko.  There are others on the periphery; Luis Ortiz comes to mind, but then so do the allegations of doping and use of banned substances.  As far as I’m concerned, however well it was concealed, there’s as much likelihood that Fury was using PEDs leading up to Klitschko as there is that Marquez did leading up to the last fight with Pacquiao.  As far as Helenius and Price, the behemoths seemed to have a better shelf life than Fury, but have faded out of the picture so completely that it’s not worth speculating about the reasons why.

When Klitschko and Joshua meet this Saturday, expect a real test of Klistchko’s viability and his skill.  If he can get past Joshua or even put up a convincing fight, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him solidly defeat Fury in a rematch at some point in the future.  If not, and they never meet, it’s very likely that Wilder and Joshua, in that order, will lead the division head and shoulders (no pun intended) above everyone else.

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