By Cliff Rold
For all the talk of a world that moves faster than ever, much of the good stuff still takes time. A proper marinated steak has to sit for hours and then be cooked at the right heat. It still takes four hours to watch Lawrence of Arabia. Reading War and Peace goes at the pace of the reader and no faster.
The big fights are often the same way.
They almost never happen the moment they first sound great. Instead, as soon as a big fight becomes THE big fight, a sort of invisible clock starts. Sometimes the clock runs quickly, as it did with Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns taking a couple fights each in 1982, including a shared card, before facing off in a classic.
Sometimes it runs too long, as was the case with the five-year wait for Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao.
And, sometimes, the clock seems like it ran too long and then it turns out okay in the end; think Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson.
Right now, the clock appears to be running at heavyweight. Anthony Joshua-Deontay Wilder has never been hotter coming off of Wilder’s dramatic stoppage of Luis Ortiz. If Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KO) defeats, especially if he knocks out, Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KO) in this Saturday’s heavyweight unification fight (Showtime, 5 PM EST), the showdown will hit another level of anticipation.
It would be boxing malpractice to make fans wait much if any longer given the uniqueness of a Joshua-Wilder showdown. Since Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier engaged in the first heavyweight title clash of undefeated men, we’ve seen that happen plenty more times. Never before have we seen a heavyweight title fight where both men have never lost and have a stoppage win over every opponent on their ledger.
That’s a serendipity even boxing shouldn’t screw up.
We’re not there yet.
The good stuff takes time and the good stuff isn’t always what we thought it would be.
Despite the building frenzy, Joshua-Wilder can’t really be THE fight until after this weekend. Along with the knockout statistics, there is also the matter of belts. Parker has the WBO, Joshua the WBA, IBO and IBF, and Wilder the WBC. Parker is, at the moment, the least regarded of the three titlists but he’s still critical .
A couple years ago, it looked like it might turn out a little different. There was a time when Parker and Joshua looked to be head and shoulders above the heavyweight prospect crowd while Wilder was just coming into his own as a professional. Parker and Joshua looked like they were on a long-term collisions course.
It turned out they were but Parker hasn’t impressed as he stepped up his competition and is a decided underdog this weekend. They’re still pack over 70,000-plus fans into Principality Stadium in Cardiff. This isn’t a small fight by any stretch.
Anthony Joshua doesn’t do small fights right now.
Parker just hasn’t arrived as the sort of strong B-side that really kicks a big fight into overdrive. None of that matters once the bell rings. We don’t know yet if we’ve seen the best Parker can be and Joshua still has room to grow.
We have two young, undefeated heavyweights ready to throw leather.
For at least the next few days, what might or might not be coming afterwards shouldn’t matter. The sport happens one fight at a time and this is the fight we have now.
Joshua-Wilder is probably where we’re going.
But what if it’s not?
That’s part of the drama this weekend. Joseph Parker is an underdog but he’s far from prohibitive. No clash between the top of the heavyweight division right now should be seen as forgone. Joshua, Wilder, Parker, and a returning Tyson Fury all have question marks still. Parker has the biggest because he doesn’t have the sort of gut check Joshua and Wilder got against Wladimir Klitschko and Ortiz, respectively.
That’s still not a deep well of proof on anyone. If Parker comes to win this weekend (and the scale may tell us a lot about that), he has enough hand speed to trouble anyone.
This is plenty of fight for now.
If Joshua pushes Parker to the back of the line, he further cements his place as the central superstar of the future with Wilder standing in his way of global domination. If Parker wins, we have an even deeper, more unpredictable pool going forward. Both outcomes work out well for the sport.
It’s all unfolding one fight at a time and, at least for the last year or so, that’s working out just fine.
This whole Alvarez-Golovkin mess is one terrible spectacle for the sport. However, assuming this doesn’t all blow over, maybe this is a chance to clean up the Clenbuterol problem for good. Either it’s a banned substance or not, and allowing exceptions for areas with ‘tainted meat’ can’t hold water. If it’s really not a big issue, why is it banned? If it should be banned, then that can’t be an excuse. It’s not an issue of whether folks knowingly do it or not. It’s about what kind of standard the sport will demand and how universal it will be. This is what happens when a decentralized sport built on singular drawing cards tries to define rules that might hurt bottom lines…The Krypton pilot was at least interesting…This year’s Wrestlemania is stacked silly, but will they have anything as compelling as last week’s Golden Lovers-Young Bucks match? That’s a fun debate…
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 [email protected]