Anthony Joshua checkpoint: Where do we stand with the British Heavyweight hope?

Anthony Joshua’s days as a boxing prospect are done.

To call a fighter like Anthony Joshua a “prospect” demurs what is simply reality. He’s not “one to watch,” nor is a fighter whose best days await him. Anthony Joshua could contend for a world championship right now; there are absolutely no questions about his ability to knock down the gatekeepers put in front of him. So much, that, not even the television commentary team dared spill any rhetoric when he fought Kevin Johnson at “Rule Britannia.” As well as the viewership at home, they knew what to expect from the very beginning.

A single reservation — none more — came in Anthony Joshua’s latest ring appearance. Would he go the distance for the first time in his career? The expected melodramatics were nonexistent in this fight apart from that single deviation. His opponent, Kevin Johnson, boxed a number of fighters known in the boxing world for their punching power; those being former WBC Heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko, undefeated countryman Tyson Fury, and fan favorite Dereck Chisora. He went the distance with each one so a knockout on the part of Joshua would be impressive, even if a win was all but certain.

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An inept puncher, Johnson was never a serious threat to Joshua in any other way, but to his composure in going the full thirty minutes of this scheduled ten round match-up. The import from Atlanta hit the floor in the first round, and had to be lifted onto his stool by his cornermen at the intermission. He would yield at 1:22 of the next round, having not succeeded in taking Joshua, a former Olympic gold medalist, five minutes, much less thirty.

The roundabout that has been the first twenty months of Joshua’s career began with a first round knockout over then-unbeaten Italian Emanuele Leo in October 2013. He fought again eighteen months later, annihilating journeyman Paul Butlin, and once more on November 14th he would score a second round TKO, and his year was done.

Joshua went 7-0 in 2014, being pushed past the second round only once (Vs. Konstantin Airich) and boxing only twelve rounds, over half of them capped by a knockout, in that span. Injuries sidelined him for a couple months to start the new year, but he would soon find his footing and stop American journeyman Jason Gavern over the course of three rounds in April. Brazilian Raphael Zumbano would fall in two just over a month later, with “Kingpin” Johnson his latest victim, offering only deference to fate and not a single clean blow to the 6’6 WBC International titleholder’s jaw.

Full grown men trifled at the sight of his musculature. At best, they’ll blather the press with their plan to exact the first defeat on Joshua; said reporter meanwhile struggles to withhold his guffaw but pens the story anyways. Said fighter wishes he could remain seated at the sound of the bell.

Anthony Joshua needs someone to last the rounds with him, and to give him invaluable experience in an actual professional fight, not a sparring match. At 25 years old, he has room for leeway, but won’t at 27 when he’ll be looking to succeed Wladimir Klitschko as boxing’s next Heavyweight champion.

I don’t see any reason why Joshua, after what will inevitably be another dawdle on just over a month’s notice, couldn’t fight the first available contender ranked by the WBC or IBF in October or November.

In the IBF, that would mean Bermane Stiverne, a hard-hitting Southpaw currently set to box once yearly as one of the last relevant fighters on the Don King Promotions roster. If you exclude him, and Mike Perez, who’ll be looking for an easier bout to spring back into contention after a first-round knockout at the hands of Alexander Povetkin, you have # 12 ranked Dereck Chisora.

Why not Chisora?

He has had six months’ rest since his last contest, an uninspired defeat at the hands of Tyson Fury. In a fight with Anthony Joshua, Chisora would have a chance to regain the form he had in the ring prior to that — winning five bouts in a row (four by knockout) and the EBU title in the process.

The WBC route sees # 6 ranked Joshua shuffle past Bermane Stiverne again, and behold # 4 Vyacheslav Glazkov. Glazkov, an athletic Ukrainian with decent punching power, would set a good pace, and make Joshua think more than he’s had to in all previous fights. His win over Steve Cunningham in an IBF eliminator, however, could shift him averse to any fight which may wager his shot at Wladimir Klitschko.

Anthony Joshua is also ranked by the WBO (# 7) and WBA (# 14), and it might be in his best interests to walk along the lines of their rankings in the coming years, as he’ll look to make it big on the world stage.

The most important tests to come over the next two years will be that of Joshua’s ability to think and adjust in the ring, as well as his ability to take a punch. Accomplished boxers like Tony Thompson, Steve Cunningham, and Chisora stand on the lower-end of the world rankings, but could function well to either purpose. To a lesser extent, boxers such as Malik Scott, or 6’5 Frenchman Johann Duhaupas, could work towards this, while the likes of David Price and John McDermott have been around the block and could give him a passive “chin check” in bouts which make more money-sense than some of the previous ones I’ve discussed.

If only we stop calling him a prospect, or a hope. Anthony Joshua is pretty terrifying, not in five years, but right now. He’s ready for whomever is willing to give him a go. Without any reluctance, Eddie Hearn should do right by his fighter, and give him the best match-ups available after having been on a dry run times thirteen.

According to Hearn, “Anthony is going to beat every single heavyweight in the world,” and he is good enough to “fly the flag for Great Britain.” Have him show it for all to see.

Stephen Smith Photography: SwSmith Photos


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