Like, I think, most fight fans I expected the first Haye vs Bellew fight to be over pretty quickly. Haye was, I felt, just too big, too strong, too quick and too good for Bellew. Given that Bellew had often been unable to handle the power of Light Heavyweights, and Haye is notoriously a monster puncher I just couldn’t see past an easy Haye victory. I was imagining an pair of smoking boots in the middle of the ring a la a scene from Asterix.
Clearly this was an opinion that David Haye shared and it was clear from the outset that he didn’t really consider it a challenge, hadn’t prepared properly, and wasn’t in any way ready for what happened in the ring. The loss that ensued has clearly hurt Haye more than anything else in his career.
I like Bellew a lot, I know he is a bit marmite for some fans but I love listening to him talk about boxing, even when I profoundly disagree with him. I think he has a great analytical boxing brain and how he thinks about the sport is often full of fascinating insights.
Of course he called the first fight pretty much right. Almost all of what he described and predicted, pre fight, ultimately came to pass. Now it has been very interesting listening to him break down what he thinks is going to happen in the next fight.
He contends, very convincingly, that even though David Haye is going to be better, and better prepared the result will be no different. That his superior boxing brain, and his superior ability to adapt in the ring (both things are true for my money), combined with having a style that is all wrong for Haye mean that not only will he repeat the feat of the first fight but he will do so more impressively whether or not Haye gets injured this time.
He is big on the styles thing. He rightly talks about how if it was always just the biggest, most skilled fighter who won the sport would be dull. But that boxing excited because it isn’t always a case that if (A beats B), and (B beats C) then (A beats C). Different styles sometimes mean that the “on paper” superior fighter can’t get past someone who has their number. And Bellew absolutely believes that he has Haye’s number.
Truth is when I listen to Bellew I come away almost convinced. Almost, but not quite. You see I think that whilst his win in the first fight was very impressive. I do think that he is telling himself some fairy stories about what happened and engaging in some historical revisionism.
I think that even David Haye’s biggest fan (that almost certainly being David Haye) would admit that he was god awful in the first few rounds of the first fight. He looked every inch the man who had not had a meaningful professional boxing match in 5 years (I’m not counting the De Mori and Gjergjaj exhibitions as real fights). He was inaccurate, rusty, disrespectful and sloppy. He was even breathing worrying hard by the end of the third.
My suspicion is that Bellew chooses to suspend his critical faculties from this point onward though because for my money from the end of the third onward Haye starting bucking up, showing some of his skills and the rust was coming off. He starting landing more and landing better. I honestly believe that had Haye not received the injury he did then he would have landed hard and some point in the next couple of rounds, which I suspect would have been lights out for Bellew.
But he did get that injury, and a ruptured achilles tendon is not some minor little hurt that a pro sportsman can shrug off. And this is really, for me, where the wheels start falling off Bellew’s analysis of the first fight and the prospects for Saturday’s bout. Because despite suffering a career threatening injury Haye managed to hang around, and still pose a modicum of threat, for another six rounds.
Ultimately Tony Bellew was unable to put away a one legged David Haye, who clearly hadn’t had a proper camp and hadn’t taken the fight seriously. In the end the fight required Haye’s corner to throw in the towel to stop the fight that Bellew couldn’t.
So for me, in what constituted a career highlight performance, Bellew couldn’t quite get over the line in what turned out to be the most benign possible conditions for him in a fight with David Haye.
Now Haye’s body can’t be relied upon any longer. It is, I think, eminently possible that he will suffer another injury that allows Tony Bellew to repeat the trick of the first fight. I actually think that this is a seriously likely possibility, I might even drop a few quid on this happening.
But, I think if Haye is fit throughout the fight, if he has taken his camp more seriously (as it seems he has) I think his superior size, strength, skill and power will tell in the later rounds. I think Bellew is a canny enough boxer that he will make things difficult for several rounds; but I just can’t see him preventing a fit Haye from landing clean for 12 whole rounds. Bellew has to get lucky for 36 minutes constantly. Haye has to get lucky for 2 seconds once.
Haye via KO in the seventh.
Early in the evening yesterday when asked by my mate Hatchy if I thought it was going to be a good fight I replied:-
“But given the respective styles of the two boxers I can’t see how it isn’t going to be entertaining. Especially as they have both come in light and fit so should both have energy”
Tag yet another great prediction up to Mystic Ferrett™! Yeah so it definitely wasn’t the most thrilling and exciting title fight I have ever seen but that isn’t to say it wasn’t interesting in it’s own way.
On Parker first, I’d just like to say what a class act he is. From start to finish I couldn’t help but warm to him and he gave a creditable performance against a better and bigger boxer. At 26 he can definitely come again; and I for one would like to see him fight AJ in a rematch some time with a ref who actually allowed them to fight (more on that later).
His hand speed looked good, and he took a couple of bombs, not too many so we don’t know if his “Granite Chin” claims quite stack up. And on the few occasions he showed ambition he made AJ look very messy in defence. But mostly what he did well was spoil; he made AJ look bad and that isn’t a criticism it was a skill. I hope he continues to get matched well and stay busy I’d like to see where he is in 3-4 fights.
On that ref then… sigh. It is always a shame to see ant sporting contest where the main topic of conversation is the referee. But honestly I just cannot understand what he was playing at. I suspect Parker will feel the more aggrieved; and actually being able to get in close may have given him some opportunities to hurt Joshua. The flip side being though I really think had he got in close and taken AJ into a war then, for this writer at least, he’d have been stopped. But both he; and the paying public, deserved the chance to see that and it was denied.
So AJ then. I’ve already seen loads of people BLT (why do I ever read BLT I do not know…. The Interweb is a sewer) criticising AJ for being a boring hypejob because he didn’t get the KO… Sigh…
Now I’m not going to pretend it was the most fun to watch bout I’ve ever seen. In some respects I’d argue that as a spectacle it was even worse than the Takam fight. But as a boxing performance? As that, AJ did really well.
Because of his profile, and his promoter, I think a lot of people are intolerant of AJ learning on the job, but having won the title in his 16th Pro bout that is what he has had to do. We saw something new last night from AJ.
Firstly his jab, whilst far from perfect, was excellent. It was accurate, had snap, and Parker didn’t know how to handle it. A lot of boxers with less durability than Parker would have been hurt by that jab last night leading to openings for AJ to jump on them. Now I’m not saying he was jabbing like Lennox or Larry Holmes or anything. But he had the beginnings of what looked to me to be an elite level jab. If he keeps on working on that there won’t be many Heavyweights in the world that can get near him.
Secondly he showed really impressive ring generalship. He was in a unification fight against a risky, strong, younger, undefeated champion and he ensured that he controlled the pace, and the distance of the fight; AND the terms of engagement for virtually the whole bout. I gave Parker 3 rounds (5,6,7; and honestly I think 5 is generous to Parker). It might not have been thrilling, but it was impressive.
Thirdly he proved he has a 12 round engine and can pace himself throughout a fight. I think now he has done that he will know better how to expend energy and when; and I think his future bouts will be more entertaining as a result.
Lastly he showed an, albeit slight, improvement in his head movement. I think he is always going to be a static fighter, and this is likely to be his achilles heel throughout his career. But he had clearly worked on it and he was better; if still pretty poor.
I wasn’t entertained last night. But I was impressed. AJ keeps learning, keeps adding to his repertoire. Keeps getting better. And he was pretty good to start with.
I think he will need to better balance control and aggression in the future. But up too last night we’d not seen if he could do control, and if the exam question was “How do you use your superior jab and skills to control the ring, and cut your opponent off” then AJ passed with flying colours.
So what next? For the purposes of this blog I’m going to assume Tyson Fury is at least a couple of tune up fights away from AJ so that means Deontay Wilder. I was so disappointed he didn’t show up. Given his biggest issue is poor profile, and given the billing this fight had world wide (televised in 205 countries and live on Showtime Stateside) I’m astonished he ducked the chance to build his profile, and the fight. It makes you wonder how much he really wants it outside of Twitter and YouTube interviews.
I think you genuinely have to question him on this. Apart from forced mandatories he always takes the path of least resistance; which whatever you think of AJ you can’t accuse that of him. Wilder is talking about fighting Breazeale next… c’mon…..
Having said that I suspect he will take some positives from watching last night. AJ looked, messy, when retreating and Wilder will feel with his reach he will negate the biggest advantage AJ had over parker. Wilder probably doesn’t have anything like the hand speed that Parker has; but he is definitely quicker on his feet and around the ring so will believe he can close the distance better, And unlike Parker he will know (as will AJ) that he has the power to end it in one punch at any point in the fight.
But… he doesn’t have anything like the technique of Parker or AJ. His defence is much more porous than Parker’s and his chin isn’t nearly so rock like. He is going to ship powerful jabs going in and I for one think that will be his undoing if he fights AJ.
Wilder will always have a puncher’s chance against anyone. He is genuinely the most devastating one punch KO artist in the world. But I increasingly think he is a paper champion who is likely to get dethroned by the first really good fighter he faces. Old Man Ortiz nearly did it. I think Parker would do it. Fury would definitely do it. And when it comes down to it I expect AJ will.
My guess? Wilder doesn’t actually want that fight at all, except in a “cash out” sense.
We shall see huh?
There exists a funny kind of situation around Anthony Joshua. Outside of America and Mexico (where a certain Cinnamon topped boxer holds this mantle) Joshua is the biggest boxing star in the world. He holds two version of the world heavyweight strap and is a heavy favourite to make that three on Saturday. Virtually every reputable boxing source who compile ratings think he is the number 1 Heavyweight in the world.
Certainly in the UK he is a mega star who sells out huge stadiums in minutes, breaks PPV records and has a cross over appeal where everyone, even non fight fans knows who he is. His bouts fills pubs up and down the land and he dominates the back pages.
But at the same time he generates a huge amount of negativity a lot of people don’t like him and a lot of people don’t rate him. Have a look “below the line” on any article on the net about AJ and you’ll find vast numbers of commentators slating him royally. Going on about how over hyped he is. What a weak boxer he is. Rubbishing his record and pointing out his supposed myriad flaws.
I often wonder about the oppromum toward him. Olympic gold medallist. Pretty clean cut image with a good “redemption” story. Genuinely explosive fighter who thrills as much as entertains in his bouts. What is not to like?
I think a lot of people probably don’t like him because he is promoted by “Fast” Eddie Hearn. Cards on the table I personally like Fast Eddie a lot, I think he is fun, has done wonders in the promotional world, and is great entertainment (see his wonderful roast of Wilder and Frank Warren here). But I think it is fair to say amongst fight fans, and particularly hard core fans he is a bit divisive to say the least. I really think that part of the anti AJ feeling is simply because he is associated with Eddie Hearn.
Another thing I guess is that some people have a feeling that he doesn’t really deserve what he has got. A lot of people question his Gold Medal (I think he got a home town decision in a close bout early doors but other than than legit won every fight). People wonder about his winning of the world title. And yes I agree that Charles Martin was the worst Heavyweight champion in my lifetime.But subsequent to that AJ has been matched against proper world level fighters, and had a genine world level fight against Wladimir Klitschko that he won in amazing, fight of the year fashion.
And, as I come to the end of my incredibly laboured introduction, I think a lot of people just think he is overrated and not that good. And the question of how good he is or isn’t and how the fight this saturday will go is the subject of this blogpost.
So Joshua clearly isn’t perfect, his flaws are real but, at least in the opinion of this writer they aren’t always the ones people say they are.
I guess the big one that is being talked about a lot after his last couple of fights is that AJ has some stamina issues. The common complaint is that he is a muscle bound bodybuilder rather than a boxer. And that carrying all that excess muscle, and spending so much time doing weights mean that he is neglecting his aerobic fitness and his boxing skill. I think that this is definitely legit criticism. AJ was far to big and heavy against Carlos Takam; you could see his muscles were getting in the way of his jabbing at times. And in both the Takam and Klitschko fights he was definitely gassed or gassing.
If he continues to condition himself as he did particularly for the Takam fight I think it will pose big questions for him in the future but particularly in the Parker fight. Whilst I’ll talk about Parker later in the blog I think this feeds into one of the really big question marks for Joshua….. Namely if someone is quick and nimble around the ring can AJ actually chase them down? How good is he at cutting off a ring? So far in his career everyone he has faced has either got KTFO really early, or has stood in front of him for a fight. Stamina could be a huge thing for him.
Having said that it looks like he has taken the criticism to heart and tried to deal with it. Watching the footage of the public workout as we speak and AJ looks noticeably lighter, slighter and quicker. Will be interesting to see how this looks on fight night.
The other big criticism of his is around his lack of head movement. And for me this is the 100% spot on humdinger of criticism. He really is upright and static and that means he is going to be hittable, which when in against someone like Deontay Wilder is potentially going to be a big problem.
The one I really don’t get though is the “weak chin” argument. Because I think the evidence shows the complete opposite. My understanding of the argument is that because Dillian Whyte hurt AJ, and Wladimir Klitschko put him on the deck. But that just seems mental to me.
I mean firstly against Whyte he managed to weather the storm and comprehensively win the fight. Against Wlad he was able to climb off the canvas, ship a good dozen or so more massive whacks from lets remember a monstrous puncher who had an awesome record of KOs and finishing. People with weak chins don’t climb up off the canvas against people like Wlad and win. Personally I take the complete opposite lesson from this, AJ has decent whiskers, excellent powers of recovery and knows he can pass a serious gut check.
So that is his weaknesses but boy oh boy has he got some strengths. AJ might not quite have the one punch finishing power that Deontay Wilder has. But he has dynamite in his gloves all the same. He has a rapidly improving jab that is starting to become a weapon in of itself.
And I personally think AJ has really underrated accuracy, which combined with his heavy hands is a powerful record. However AJs career goes I don’t think he is ever going to give judges at ringside too much use of their score cards.
But I think his biggest asset is that he is still learning. And still getting better, It is easy to to forget given how long he seems to have been at the top the degree that he remains a relative novice in the pro game. Twenty eight is still pretty young for a heavyweight; he could conceivably have another 10 years at the top. More than a third of all the pro rounds he has boxed have come in his last two fights. And both of those would probably have been fights he learned more in than the rest of his pro career combined. He is going to be a better fighter in the future then what we have seen so far; and I for one think that should be worrying for those hoping to fight and beat him.
My view is that right now the best Tyson Fury that we have so far seen beats the best Anthony Joshua we have so far seen, but I wonder for how much longer than will be true?
On Parker it is an interesting one. I find myself warming to him a lot. I’m an AJ fan but his public persona often seems a little bit staged and stage managed. Whereas Parker’s public perosna, to me at least rings absolutely true. Every time I listen to the guy I like him and I want him to do well.
When he was coming through there was a lot of buzz. We didn’t get to see him much and he was very much for me at least a youtube fighter. And for his early career those YouTube highlights looked spectacular; like many I was very excited about this prospect. The quality of opponents was hard to judge mind; I can’t attest for the quality of the antipodean club fight scene.
I didn’t really get to see any of his fights until he started getting close to world level. The first of his actual fights I saw was his Carlos Takam bout. It was a difficult fight for Parker but he won it clearly, if closely (in contrast to AJ who in one of his worst recent performances dominated every minute of every round against Takam). He was much better in demolishing Dimitrenko (early on considered a potential champ.
His recent ourve has been very disappointing mind. I’ve watched his title fight again Andy Ruiz Jnr a couple of times and I remain convinced that had that fight happened anywhere other than New Zealand then Ruiz would have been the new young undefeated champ. The less said about the Cojanu fight the better as it was a stinker. And my oh my did Parker look bad against Hughie Fury. Many fight fans I respect thing Hughie won that fight; I don’t personally I feel Parker did just enough in a dreadful fight but Parker was made to look like a second rate club fighter either way.
I think it is definitely fair to say that on recent form Parker deserves to be getting the ridiculous long odds he is getting for a two horse race.
But, I’m not sure that tells the whole story. If the stories about his elbow injuries are true then that can really inhibit a boxer’s performance. I remember Calzaghe in his early career often failed to show his form because of his hand problems and if you are a boxer whos primary weapon is your hand speed like Parker then having problems with your elbows is going to hugely hinder your performances.
On that hand speed Parker really is pretty special for a heavyweight. Doug Fisher recently quoted Carlos Palomino as stating hand speed was god’s gift to special boxers. It is one tihng you cannot teach, you either got it or you haven’t and parker has got it. Joshua as discussed earlier has got a static head, and he can be hit. It is a big change for Parker.
Also you have an issue that Parker is at his best utilising speed and moving in and out, and firing quick combos as he circles around opponents. In his last few fights where he has been heavy favourite expected to come forward, dominate the ring and dictate the pace. For the first time in ages he will get to fight his natural fight.
So what do I reckon. I think Joshua is rightly the heavy favourite. He is bigger, stronger, and has boxed at the higher level. We know he can handle the big stage, we know he can deal with adversity. And we know he has elite level stopping power. For those reasons I think he is probably going to win and win handsomely.
But if Parker can box and move and keep Joshua chasing him, and still be a live dog throwing in the 9th I think he has a real chance if Joshua starts to gas. And think if AJ is ever in trouble then Parker will really jump on his.
Ultimately though to get there Parker will really need to be able to take some hits and we don’t know if he can. Parker and his camp have been telling everyone who will listen that that Parker has a granite chin. We shall see.
I’ll end by misquoting Mike Tyson.
“Everyone has a granite chin… Until they get hit.”