By T.R. Lewison
A good fight is a good fight. Nobody cared for what prize Ward and Gatti battled nor did they fuss that Benn and Eubank contested lightly regarded belts or that they were technically inferior to contemporaries James Toney, Roy Jones Jnr. and Michael Nunn. The equality of fighters make fights great, fighters make belts important. Belts do not a great fighter or fight make. To laud a unification is also to contradict our greater aspiration for a single champion in each of the 17 weight classes.
But, we don’t live in that unreachable nirvana. Nobody appears to have visited the mythical Republic of Boxing Utopia where such clarity is natural and if they have, they’ve not sent so much as a postcard, although Marcus Maidana’s Instagram account suggests he may be living nearby, and we must, therefore, respond to the boxing landscape as we find it. When the World Boxing Organisation’s champion, Joseph Parker, strides across the ring to tackle Anthony Joshua, recognised by the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association as their champion, it will be important.
Two young, unbeaten heavyweights, who, by consensus, are two of the top three in the division despite their respective flaws, fighting other is a rare thing. The fact both carry world title straps, while oxymoronic, adds to the occasion. And the modern boxing fan loves an occasion.
The fight, which will be watched by another huge crowd of more than 70,000 in Cardiff, Wales, and viewers from across the globe, takes place on March 31st 2018. It will represent a hostile environment for the New Zealander to succeed in, though unprecedented riches and renown await him if he does. Both fighters still have much to prove, despite their lofty profile, and could find a degree of career definition in victory or defeat.
A successful union of the three belts contested could yet lead to a rematch too, if the contest is close and entertaining, and the subsequent negotiations with Deontay Wilder, who is the current custodian of the World Boxing Council’s belt, prove difficult to progress.
Certainly for Parker, for whom this fight represents a career high purse, perhaps by a factor of 20, it would be hard to find a more lucrative alternative even in victory. A defeated Joshua could still prove more commercially viable than an awaiting Wilder.
The path for Joshua, if he is victorious, seems more linear and direct to that ultimate unification with the gangly American. As a man driven by larger goals, Joshua is aware collecting all four of the principle championship belts would be a first. In a sport of such long and rich history, finding a new mountain to conquer is a rare prize.
Naturally, with their respective records analysed and the advantage of being the home fighter, Joshua is an overwhelming favourite with bookmakers, AJ vs Parker betting, Paddy Power has AJ 1/12 and Parker 11/2 for the match betting. The only direct comparison available, in terms of common opponent, is their respective struggles with teek-tough Carlos Takam, Joshua snatching a contested stoppage victory, Parker on points. Neither result is particularly instructive.
Despite the odds, Parker is convinced he will challenge Joshua to a rematch later this year. Parker feels he has a lot to prove after Joshua made a recent appearance on The Graham Norton show, where Norton labelled Parker ‘The King of Pies’. Parker is out to prove he is in great physical shape for the fight ahead.
“I feel like I’m punching sharp, I’m moving well, making a lot of angles, movements, fitness is good, so everything is on track.”
Parker and his handlers, led by trainer Kevin Barry, who guided David Tua, the last significant heavyweight from New Zealand before their messy, legal divorce, secured the Joshua bout, in part at least, by taunting Joshua about his punch resistance. During an interview on Sky Sports’ ‘Gloves Are Off’, Anthony Joshua addressed the accusations about his ‘glass’ chin, insisting Parker lacked the power to succeed where Wladimir Klitschko had failed.
Check out the graphic above for more insight into how the two champions compare.