THERE is action aplenty on the way among the heavyweights. PETER COSTER runs his tape over the big boys:
MY FIRST thought on seeing Anthony Joshua step into the ring, against selected fighters who would do him no harm, was his overwhelming physical presence. The now undefeated holder of three of the major world heavyweight titles, and soon to add a fourth, reminded me of a fighter I had never seen.
My grandfather had been at the Sydney Stadium at Rushcutters Bay, appropriately on Boxing Day in 1908, when Jack Johnson toyed with Tommy Burns over 14 rounds before the police invaded the ring, not so much to save Burns from further punishment, but to end the white champion’s humiliation.
Jack London, the American author and journalist, wrote that the black man’s victory had started a search for a “Great White Hope”, who would restore the white man’s supremacy.
Jack Johnson was not only black, but big at more than six feet to Tommy Burns’ five feet and seven inches, and referred to by the newspapers as a “capering negro.” More than 20,000 people packed the open-air stadium with police pulling the non-paying customers from underneath the bleachers.
Johnson was in superb physical condition as was Anthony Joshua when I saw him begin the demolition of pugs put in against him to build his career as an undefeated heavyweight.
No flab hung over his trunks. His body the shape of a wedge, with an upright stance, also reminded me of Johnson as described to me by my grandfather. When “AJ” started knocking them over in the early rounds with a punch Muhammad Ali would have envied, I began to be a believer.
The Anthony Joshua you see in the Instagram picture he has posted of himself shows a boxer in his prime at 28 years of age, standing 198 centimetres and weighing some 113 kilograms.
Joseph Parker, the Maori he will fight next month, is 193 centimetres tall and weighs 112 kilograms. Physically, it’s a good match-up. Joshua is undefeated in 20 bouts versus Parker undefeated in 24 fights.
That’s probably where it stops. Parker is a seven-to-one outsider. Joshua is a 14-to-one on favourite to add Parker’s WBO belt to his WBA, IBO and IBF titles.
Parker looks slow compared with Joshua. But he does have a punch, with 18 of his 24 victories coming from knockouts.
Carlos Takam took Parker the full distance in 2016 before losing on points and endured 10 rounds of punishment from Joshua last year before the fight was stopped on a TKO.
The 38-year-old Takam surprised everyone, including Joshua, after taking the fight on 13 days’ notice when Joshua’s scheduled opponent pulled out. He believes Parker is faster than Joshua, which doesn’t say much for Joshua with Parker looking listless in his fight against Takam.
The real test for Joshua came in his fight against Wladimir Klitschko, the former world heavyweight champion, last year.
Having been knocked down in the sixth, Joshua came back to send Klitschko to the canvas in the 11th before the referee stopped the fight with the Ukrainian unable to defend himself against a flurry of punches after being knocked through the ropes.
Then there is Deontay Wilder, the undefeated WBC heavyweight champion, who has won 38 of his 39 fights by KO and has named himself the “Bronze Bomber” after his hero, Joe Louis, the “Brown Bomber”
Joshua told his manager, Eddie Hearn, he would “eat” Wilder if the American stepped into the ring weighing what he did last title defence against Bermane Stiverne. He knocked Stiverne out in the first round. No contest there.
But Joshua is likely the best opponent he might face. Wilder was 15 kilograms lighter than Joshua in his fight against Takam. He is taller than Joshua at just over two metres, but two to three centimetres will make little difference.
While Joshua is not known for trash talk and made the remark about devouring Wilder to his manager, the American has been talking up a fight with Joshua should he put Parker to rest at the end of next month in Cardiff.
“Joshua is afraid to meet me”, says Wilder, but that is money talking with a unification bout between them likely to bring $100 million.
Parker has also joined in the trash talk, calling Joshua the “King of Steroids”.
Parker has also criticised Joshua’s training methods, which he describes as “new age”.
Parker’s training regime, in fairness, might be described as “old age.” He admits to being known as the “King of Pies.” Meat pies, that is.
Joshua laughs it off, paraphrasing the Olympic motto: “I gotta run further, I gotta punch harder, I gotta jump higher.” He was an Olympic gold medallist in the super heavyweight division.
Of course, you can never be sure with heavyweights, who need only one punch to reverse an expected outcome, but what should happen in the ring in Wales next month, and later in the year, is this:
Joshua knocks out Parker and goes on to knock out Wilder, whose training methods might involve hoochy-koo, as well as koochy-koo with his female admirers, if his bust for marijuana possession last year is an indication.
Nosey cops approached his car in Birmingham, Alabama, because they thought the windows were too dark. Nearing Wilder’s car, a Cadillac, they detected a strong smell of “weed’’ and arrested Wilder on a “window-tint” charge and for possession of a small amount of marijuana they found after a brief search.
Wilder’s attorney was equal to the task of defending the champion, explaining that his client had returned home from a few days in Georgia in his Rolls Royce, deciding to swap to the Caddy to give himself a rest from the Roller.
Of course, his client didn’t know the marijuana was in the Caddy, in spite of the miasma that drew the cops to the car after they found difficulty in peering through the windows.
The lawyer could have beaten the window-tint charge by saying it was the fug from the dope that was obscuring the view of the police. But that would have been to admit the marijuana charge.
The way to avoid such issues in future may be for the “Bronze Bomber” to wind down the windows when he is sitting in the Caddy.
Author: Peter Coster
PETER COSTER is a former editor and foreign correspondent who has covered a range of international sports, including world championship fights and the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.