By Terence Dooley
IBF World, WBA Super World and IBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) faces WBO counterpart Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 early) at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium later tonight live on Sky Sports PPV in a fight that could lead to a showdown with WBC holder Deontay Wilder, who has expressed an interest in meeting the winner to unify the division’s mayor titles.
Joshua beat Carlos Takam at the same venue in October (W RSF 10) yet Liverpool’s Tony Bellew believes that Joshua is still a work in progress going into his 21st fight despite a coming of age win over Wlad Klitschko last year. Bellew is preparing for a rematch with David Haye at London’s O2 Arena on May 5 but took time out from his busy training schedule to talk to BoxingScene about Joshua-Parker.
“I fancy Anthony, however I am worried if it goes past eight because that means that Parker is very durable and it will be a long, hard night from there,” he said. “If he is as durable as Takam it will be tough because it is hard if you have the stature and the muscles of someone like Joshua to carry a fast pace into the late rounds.
“Anyone who goes beyond eight with Joshua will be a problem to him. Don’t get me wrong, Wilder will also be a threat but that one will be a shootout. On the other hand, Parker will come across someone who won’t stop coming for the first time in his career—he’ll face real adversity for the first time against Joshua.
“Someone like James Toney was a fat fella who could glide through the rounds, but some amazing athletes like Joshua tire later in a fight despite all the training—that is down to relaxation in the ring, to practice making perfect. There are so many factors why fighters fade in fights. Anthony is a very fit fighter, but if you load up on punches in fights you will ultimately tire.
“Experience is everything. Like I said, a guy like Toney wasn’t created by being a great athlete, he was relaxed and enjoyed fighting, which is why he could show us how great he was. Anthony expends a lot of energy, but he is very fast and powerful. Ultimately, he’ll need that gas tank, to be able to go round after round when things get tougher. He’s done everything asked of him so far yet if Parker is as durable as he says he is then this becomes a very hard fight.
“That side of things will improve as Anthony goes on, as his career progresses, because people forget how much has already achieved in such a short space of time. He’s unifying titles in only his 21st fight, won an Olympic gold medal, and he’s done all that with only about 40 amateur fights—his rise to stardom over such a short time is unprecedented in boxing. He could hold the unified title to add to his gold medal in the space of about 60 fights. He is now the face of boxing worldwide.
“If anything, he is at the stage where he should be the finished article, but he’s been too good for his own good so isn’t there yet—and he’ll tell you that himself. A 12 round fight would be good for him at this stage. He wants to deliver the knockout but, for me, what would be impressive would be a 12 round shutout behind the jab. He has boxing ability, make no mistake about that, but he needs someone who can let him show it.”
As mentioned above, Bellew believes that the 28-year-old would benefit from a distance fight if Parker is up to the task. “Bomber” also feels that “AJ” was unfairly criticsed for his last performance, arguing that switching his attention from Kubrat Pulev, who withdrew from their October showdown due to an injury, to Takam was a shift that would have wrong footed anyone.
“Takam took him rounds, but he was coming in late and he had to adjust from a guy who was 6' 4'', and he had sparred for that, to someone who is 6' 1'' and has a different style,” stated Bellew. “People reading this will say ‘You are just up Anthony Joshua’s arse’, but it is very hard to get your head around changes when your opponent changes in such a short space of time.
“Don’t get me wrong, he won every single round against Takam and no one has beaten Takam up like that, he is difficult for anyone in the world. I saw things for Anthony to improve on but it is nice to see different things from him. At times, he looked a lot more relaxed. His defence needs working on but the big thing now is that on social media people just hate on people who are successful and criticise them. No one is perfect yet the lad is going out there and getting the job done.”
Indeed, Bellew believes that Joshua will prevail and continue his inexorable match towards Wilder. He also maintains that the Londoner is the most exciting heavyweight to grace the division since Mike Tyson was ripping things up in the late-1980s, only without the out-of-the ring baggage that Tyson brought with him.
“Anthony always delivers, he knocks people out and that is what people are interested in,” he said. “It is just like Mike Tyson in the 1980s, it didn’t matter what he said and did outside the ring because once he was inside it he knocked f***ers out.
“Joshua is the exact same only without the controversy. People get mad when that comparison gets made. I’m not saying he is Mike Tyson, because in my opinion Mike is one of the best who ever did it when in his prime, but what I am saying is that he gives us the same things that Tyson once gave you.”
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