Joshua vs Parker
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.”
Also published on Medium.