1. Wladimir Klitschko
Even though he was entering the ring as a world champion, with two defences under his belt, Joshua had yet to be tested by someone with the experience and elite skills of Wladimir Klitschko.
Klitschko had been inactive since losing his titles to Tyson Fury, but still represented the toughest test of AJ’s career. Joshua was dropped hard and on shaky legs more than once before taking over and stopping Klitschko in round 11.
2. Andy Ruiz II
Joshua regrouped, trained hard and focused all of his energies at righting the wrongs of a shock KO loss to podgy Ruiz. Joshua showed a new dimension to his game, taking advantage of a large ring to jab and move his way to a points victory.
Joshua’s task was made slightly easier by the fact Ruiz came in heavy (even for him) and was unable to set a pace of cut off Joshua’s escape routes.
3. Andy Ruiz I
A memorable Joshua outing for all the wrong reasons. Joshua’s big American debut was set up for New York and Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller was supposed to be the opponent. Miller failed a drugs test and was unceremoniously ejected from the contest.
In stepped Andy Ruiz who used his fast hands and punching power to great effect, taking full advantage of a lacklustre AJ to power home in seven rounds.
4. Charles Martin
Unknown southpaw Charles Martin is likely to go down as one of boxing’s worst world champions. Martin was engaged in an eliminator for the IBF title vacated by Tyson Fury. Ukrainian opponent Vyacheslav Glazkov fell on his knee and was unable to continue; inadvertently crowning Martin a world titlist.
Joshua’s team saw “Prince” Charles for exactly what he was and went about setting up a world title fight with the Californian. Predictably, Martin offered nothing and was a sitting target for Joshua’s punches as the Londoner won his first world strap via a second round knockout.
5. Joseph Parker
New Zealander Parker had shown flashes of quality during his rise to prominence including taking home the WBO title after a narrow points win over Andy Ruiz. Parker’s skills were not in question, yet his gas tank had slightly faltered at times, although to this point he always found a way to win.
Joshua played it safe for 12 rounds. Neutering Joshua’s rushes, adopting a jab and grab strategy that saw the Italian referee criticised for not letting Parker fight an inside game.
6. Dillian Whyte
Settling the score against old amateur rival Whyte was a no-brainer for promoter Eddie Hearn who put the two together in a British domestic dust-up reminiscent of Lennox Lewis’s brawls with the likes of Frank Bruno and the late Gary Mason.
After a chaotic opening round inexperienced Whyte buzzed Joshua badly with a left hook before running out of gas and getting stopped in the seventh round. Whyte has since gone on a solid run of wins and would represent a formidable challenge to Joshua should they meet again in the future.
7. Alexander Povetkin
Russian veteran Povetkin was a proven world-level operator who still had enough in the tank to compete at the top level despite being close to 40. His fast handed combinations were enough to cause Joshua significant issues early on, as he bloodied the champion’s nose with some rapid shots.
As Povetkin wore down so Joshua took over. Ahead on the cards going into the seventh and final session, Povetkin was dropped twice and stopped by referee Steve Gray.
8. Kevin Johnson
Cagey survivor Johnson had a reputation for lasting the distance with the bigger names of the heavyweight division, including former WBC king Vitali Klitschko. Joshua was in no mood for enhancing “Kingpin’s” reputation and proceeded to blast away at him from the start.
Heavy shots from both hands rained in on the American who was dismissed emphatically in two rounds.
9. Gary Cornish
Scotland’s Cornish was unbeaten in 21 fights but severely untested. A landmark occasion saw Joshua headline a Pay-Per-View attraction for the first time. Joshua picked up the Commonwealth title for his troubles.
10. Emanuele Leo
After claiming heavyweight gold in the 2012 London Olympics Joshua made a natural progression into the professional ranks. On paper Leo looked decent with an 8-0 record but in reality he had been feeding on the depths of the division.
Joshua wasted little time in smashing through the Italian and ending his undefeated streak with a crunching first round knockout. Leo never fought again.
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