By Hector T. Morgan
Whilst Cardiff’s Principality Stadium lacks the salty history of Madison Square Garden or the indoor sunglasses of Las Vegas it is fast becoming a mecca for big time boxing. On March 31st it will provide a vociferous and rousing back drop to Anthony Joshua’s defence of his status as the consensus number one in the division. The potential unification of three of the four major belts, against New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, should enhance his stature as the sport’s most recognisable active fighter and position him for even greater reward and contractual control of contests with Deontay Wilder and the galvanised Tyson Fury.
A fight between unbeaten champions, or title holders to pedantic, is a rare occurrence and in the era in which the World Boxing Organisation is more widely accepted, it represents a penultimate step to the first time all four belts have been held by one fighter. The small matter of Wilder’s World Boxing Council belt representing the last step on Joshua’s path to undisputed status…..until someone mentions he still needs to overcome Fury of course.Promotion, as the fight draws near, will lean on the old boxing adage – ‘Someone’s 0 has got to go’ – which is always to over look the potential for a draw of course. The draw will be unlikely to attract much interest with punters, given the knockout records and aggressive style both possess.
Joshua is betting favourite as we approach the first bell, with traders at William Hill expecting the 28-year-old Londoner to extend his record to 21-0-0 but there’s no more than 1/8 available in the fight betting, against the 5/1 of Parker. Joshua to get out of this one with his 100% KO average intact is 2/7, and via points win, 4/1.
It’s difficult to argue against those numbers, given the British ‘golden boy’s’ record and a flick through it shows why he’s hot favourite. Here are his three best performances to date and what punters can learn from them.
Wladimir Klitschko – 29-04-2017
Joshua critics, and there are many, said the all-conquering Londoner didn’t have a chin and would fall flat when an opponent stood up to his power, but he proved that wasn’t the case when climbing off the canvas to beat hard-hitting Klitschko in this spring sizzler.
Dr Steelhammer was dropped in the fifth by Joshua and looked there to be finished, but knew enough to get through the onslaught and replied by downing the local in the next. That was that – Joshua had been found out, hadn’t he? Well, no. The champion did what champions do and cleared his head before dropping his more experienced opponent twice in the 11th. Wlad was unable to continue, the fight called to a halt by referee David Fields. Questions were answered that night as finally passed the type of test pugilistic ancestor Frank Bruno, to whom Joshua has frequently been compared, failed more than once.
Dillian Whyte – 12-12-2015
A grudge match that caught the imagination of fight fans and one in which Whyte more than played his part at the 02 Arena. The long-running feud was settled with a seventh round TKO win for Joshua, but it was far from plain sailing, the victor hurt and looking out on his feet earlier in the night.
Many thought if Dillian had been able to keep his composure and time his shots a bit better, he would’ve knocked his rival out. Careers are made or ruined with such fine margins, but the fact remains that Joshua came through and, when the roles were reversed, he didn’t need asking twice.
Gary Cornish – 12-09-2015
This bout lasted less than a round and won’t feature too highly on many lists of Joshua’s best fights but fans loved the performance. It showed AJ was the real deal — a cut above his domestic rivals — and proved beyond all doubt if an opponent is foolish enough to stand and trade with the 6ft 6inch wrecking ball, they’ll regret it.
He demonstrated fight finishing power in both hands, assets that would help him escape from darker moments in his clashes with Whyte and Klitschko. This bout also highlighted the finisher’s instinct which lays beneath the red-carpet smile.