By Michael Rosenthal
Anthony Joshua: Yawwwwwwwwwn.
A fighter who supposedly is taking the world by storm is supposed to lift fans out of their seats, not put them to sleep. And that’s what Joshua did on Saturday night in Wales, although he had a lot of help from Joseph Parker and an overly zealous referee.
Joshua earned a unanimous decision – the first of his career – to unify three major heavyweight titles but could never catch a reluctant Parker enough to inflict meaningful damage, which made for a dull, tactical fight before an estimated 78,000 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Of course, Parker played a role. The then-WBO titleholder gave a good account of himself, jabbing effectively and keeping out of harm’s way for the bulk of the fight. That’s not a bad strategy against an opponent with crushing power. However, the Kiwi fought so defensively that he sucked the life out of the fight and gave himself no chance to win.
Referee Giuseppe Quartarone did his part as well. The Italian, who apparently has little experience in major fights, inexplicably separated the fighters every time things started to heat up. Advice to referees: Let the fighters fight.
How could Joshua look good when his opponent and the ref wouldn’t cooperate?
Joshua was also to blame, though. Showtime analyst Al Bernstein used the term “flat” to describe Joshua’s performance mid-fight; that was accurate. He didn’t fight with the fire one might’ve expected, although he picked up his pace in the closing rounds. He was the aggressor but gave a measured performance, at least in part because he couldn’t figure Parker out.
In the end, Joshua did more than enough to win. He simply didn’t do enough to generate excitement, which wasn’t ideal for a fighter building an international brand.
That said, Joshua (21-0, 20 knockouts) can take solace in the fact that even the greatest boxers have flat nights. He beat a decent opponent handily – 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109 – on his off night, which says something positive about him.
If he faces Deontay Wilder in his next fight, though, he had better be better than he was on Saturday.
NSAC and Canelo Alvarez: I’ve never been more pleased to be wrong, assuming the Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin fight is off.
I wrote last week that I thought the Nevada State Athletic Commission would be lenient on Alvarez, who failed two tests for the performance-enhancing drug Clenbuterol. He blamed tainted meat and, if reports are to be believed, only traces of the drug were found in his system. Plus, he was a first-time offender.
That, combined with the money Alvarez-Golovkin II stood to generate for Las Vegas, added up to leniency in my mind. I thought Alvarez would be fined and the fight would go on.
The NSAC evidently had different ideas.
Executive Director Bob Bennett filed a formal complaint against Alvarez after an investigation, a move that seems to portend an extension of the fighter’s temporary suspension. That means Alvarez and Triple-G are unlikely to fight as scheduled on May 5.
First-time doping defenders face one-year suspensions under NSAC regulations, although that can be reduced to six months if they cooperate with the commission. If Alvarez were suspended for a half year, the rematch could be rescheduled for Independence Day weekend in September.
I support the commission’s apparent decision.
Boxing has a PED problem. Go to the Wikipedia page titled “doping cases in boxing” and you’ll see what I mean. One commission or another had to take as strong a stand as possible against doping.
And this appears to be it. The NSAC is expected to suspend arguably the biggest moneymaker in the sport and kill a superfight in the process, clear evidence that no one is exempt from doping regulations. The commission is saying what I will continue to preach: Fighters are responsible for what goes into their bodies, whether intentionally or inadvertently.
Let’s hope that this is only beginning, that other commissions follow the lead of the NSAC and that fighters get the message: No more cheaters.
I really don’t know what the U.K. authorities or referee Quartarone were thinking. Why would he be assigned to such a big fight given his reported lack of experience? I understand the value of a neutral ref but there were other options. And why was he so intrusive? He arguably ruined the fight. Maybe that was his way of trying to take charge, maybe that’s how he was trained. Either way, his performance was regrettable. … I don’t believe anyone should think less of Joshua after his performance on Saturday. Parker (24-1, 18 KOs) was better than many expected. And, as I said earlier, every fighter has an off night. I think he remains the best heavyweight in the world, although Wilder and possibly Tyson Fury aren’t far behind. … Alexander Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs) gave the fans in Cardiff the knockout many expected in the main event. The longtime heavyweight contender hurt David Price (22-5, 18 KOs) with a right and then, with his prey helpless, followed with a left that put Price flat on his back and out. Doping violations have hindered Povetkin’s career but he wins when he fights. He has eight consecutive victories since he lost a wide decision to Wladimir Klitschko in 2013. If Povetkin, 38, can stay clean, he’ll probably get at least one more shot at a major title. … I remember when Price was a hot prospect. That was in 2012, when he was 15-0 (with 13 knockouts). He is 7-5 since, with all five losses coming by knockout. If Price is finished, he has nothing to be ashamed of. He had the guts to keep climbing through the ropes in spite of his setbacks as he pursued his dreams. You have to respect that.
Michael Rosenthal is the winner of the 2018 Boxing Writers Association of America’s Nat Fleischer Award for excellence in boxing journalism.