by Cliff Rold
They can’t all be classics.
They were never all going to be knockouts.
For now, through 21 fights and the collection of three major alphabet titles, they have all been wins for the UK’s Anthony Joshua who added the WBO belt to the WBA, IBO and IBF straps. Joseph Parker didn’t make it easy last weekend.
He didn’t make it hard enough either. Parker gave a good showing but ultimately he acknowledged with class what was apparent to the world at the final bell. Joshua was the better man.
Can he be the sport’s best man?
Joshua is already making a case as the biggest attraction in the sport. While he doesn’t have the global pay-per-view dollars yet, he’s raking it in at home and the ticket sales are staggering. In his last three starts, Joshua fights have put approximately a quarter of a million butts in the seats. These are rare numbers.
Almost, but not quite yet, Jack Dempsey numbers.
In Dempsey’s final three fights, two against Gene Tunney and a knockout of Jack Sharkey, Dempsey sold over 300,000 tickets. Joshua has enough opponents out there that it looks like he can keep doing this for awhile.
If he keeps winning and holds on to all those straps, Parker might get a chance to improve on his performance and avenge his first defeat. It won’t be coming too soon.
There are bigger things out there for Joshua.
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Joshua: There remain rumors of a Joshua-Jarrell Miller fight later this year. Joshua also has mandatory defenses looming, notably against Alexander Povetkin (WBA) while the IBF has ordered an eliminator between Dillian Whyte and Kubrat Pulev. Whyte already has a loss to Joshua and Pulev was forced to pull out of a shot at Joshua last fall.
None of those are the name the most people want. The biggest money is one of two places: a returning Tyson Fury and WBC titlist Deontay Wilder. Fury can’t be considered available until he proves he’s fighting again. That leaves Wilder. It should be next. At the latest, it should be in the fall. The two best active heavyweights in the world are Joshua and Wilder. The television ratings in the US for Joshua-Parker show that Joshua still needs help to make a splash in the US market. He may say he wants the world to come to the UK and that’s fine but to go from the monster money he’s already making to a chance at Mayweather money, Joshua is going to have to find a way into the US pay-per-view pool. For now, the best and only real option for that is Wilder.
That it happens to be the most exciting heavyweight fight in years on paper makes it just as important as sport. Any future that doesn’t include Joshua-Wilder soon should be a mark against both men.
The Future for Parker: An awful lot of folks wrote off Parker after some sketchy performances in recent outings. He proved he belonged and fought Joshua on close to even terms for most of the night. There was debate about the wide Joshua scores at the end, and merited criticism of a referee who didn’t seem to understand that infighting is okay, but Parker didn’t have a case that he won. Parker lost most of the second half of the fight and never really found his offense in the fight. He did a lot of things right: his feet, head movement, jab, and initial game plan were good. Parker doesn’t appear to be a big puncher above the prospect level and so further refinement of his game is going to have to happen as he continues. If he’s going to play the boxer, a bit more body work, and risk taking in his combinations, would serve him well. Parker is still a player and has every reason to think he can earn his way to a rematch.
Rold Picks 2018: 7-4
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org