AN INTRUSIVE referee can ruin a decent heavyweight scrap, as PETER COSTER reports:
THERE WAS more concern in the Anthony Joshua v Michael Parker fight over the Italian referee getting through 12 rounds than whether the protagonists would go the distance.
Giuseppe Quartarone spent more energy than either fighter in separating them when they got too near to each other in their world heavyweight championship bout.
It made for a clean fight, but not one the 78,000 crowd in Cardiff paid to see.
If the ref had been officiating in one of Rocky Marciano’s fights or Jake LaMotta’s wars back in the day, everyone would have gone home.
Marciano had to get inside because he had short arms and LaMotta was the “Raging Bull” of deeply personal combat.
In Cardiff, the ref either thought he was officiating at an amateur bout or he was an integral part of Joshua’s ring strategy.
The undefeated Joshua, who now holds four of the five major world championship belts, boxed “clever”, as old pugs used to say, for what would have gained him another Olympic gold medal.
He jabbed his way to victory and declared after the sparring session that “the right hand can take you around the block, but a good jab will take you around the world”.
It could take him to the United States and Las Vegas to fight Deontay Wilder who holds the only major world title belt Joshua does not have and one that would make him the undisputed heavyweight champion.
This is a megamatch made in promoters’ heaven and likely to bring in the equivalent of 100 million pounds with Joshua taking some
70 million and Wilder the rest.
That fight will happen, but more likely in Britain than America where Wilder has knocked out 39 of 40 opponents.
Wilder styles himself the “Bronze Bomber” in memory of Joe Louis, the “Brown Bomber” who sadly ended life as a “greeter” at one of the Las Vegas casinos.
The American has led a colourful career and only last year fell foul of the law down in Alabama where he was arrested for marijuana possession.
He was pulled over because police claimed the windows in his Cadillac were too heavily “tinted”.
The Caddy failed to pass the “sniff test” and Wilder’s excuse was the usual one. The weed wasn’t his and someone must have left it in the car when he was on a trip to Georgia in his other car, a Rolls-Royce.
Wilder wants to add Joshua’s IBF, WBA and IBO belts to his WBC title just as much as Joshua wants the remaining belt to make him the first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis.
Joshua is undefeated after 21 bouts and 19 knockouts compared with Wilder’s 40 bouts and 39 stoppages.
There is an age difference of four years. Wilder is taller at 201 cm than Joshua at 198 cm, but Joshua is heavier.
He came in at his lightest weight for the fight against Parker who also stripped down for the fight, belying his nickname as the “King of Pies”.
Both boxers moved freely although there is still something robotic about Joshua and a concern that his chin might not be made of the same stern stuff as Parker’s.
The New Zealander showed he could take a punch and retained his record of never having been knocked off his feet although he was behind on each of the three judges’ scorecards.
The only real damage was a cut to his left eye from a Joshua elbow that escaped the attention of the referee.
While the niggling Giuseppe Quartarone was quick to pull the boxers apart when Parker was trying to get inside Joshua’s encircling arms, he took little notice of the tape flying from one of Joshua’s gloves in the later rounds.
Parker did look clumsy when he was pursuing Joshua but was stopped short by Quartarone whose stoppages had started to annoy even Joshua, who was glancing towards his corner.
The referee’s interference clearly disrupted the flow of the fight. Also, according to Parker, he couldn’t speak English when he came to his dressing room before the fight and communication was a problem in the ring.
But Parker was largely uncomplaining and volunteered that Joshua was the better fighter on the night.
Tyson Fury, another boxer trying to talk himself back into the championship mix, could be the New Zealander’s next opponent.
Fury, known variously as the “Gypsy King” and “The Furious One” held the IBF, WBO and WBA belts after defeating Wladmir Klitschko in 2015, but lost the titles because of personal and so-called medical issues and failing to meet mandatory defences.
The Furious One has strong religious views and once said he would “hang” his own sister if he found her to be “promiscuous”.
In the past few days, Fury has labelled Joshua and Parker as “bums” who would not live with him in the ring.
All this is the usual trash talk that precedes big fights and even the mild-mannered Joshua has joined in, telling promoter Eddie Hearn that he will “eat” Deontay Wilder because of the expected weight difference.
Like Joshua, Wilder has just come off a win, having knocked down challenger Luis Ortiz three times in a heavyweight championship bout last month before the referee stopped the action in the tenth.
But the fight showed Wilder is far from unbeatable. He was staggered in the seventh and his corner called for a time out at the start of the eighth to examine “facial” damage.
That gave him an extra 20 seconds to recover and brought back memories of Angelo Dundee cutting Muhammad Ali’s glove after he was knocked down by Britain’s Henry Cooper.
Replacing the glove gave Ali another 20 seconds to recover from the left hook known as “Enry’s ‘Ammer.”
Ortiz said he thought he would have knocked Wilder out had the bell not saved the Bronze Bomber in the seventh.
It was a near thing and the unexpected can always happen in the heavyweight division. Even a losing fighter can find one blow that if it connects will end the fight.
When, not if, the Joshua v Wilder fight is scheduled later this year, there is almost certainly the likelihood of a knockout by either fighter.
Joshua has proved himself a ring tactician, as well as a knockout specialist, and Wilder may just be on the way down the other side of the hill after 40 fights at the age of 32.
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.