The undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world is the most coveted prize in all of Sports. Earth’s Fastest and Strongest man doesn’t quite measure up, nor does league MVP in Baseball, Basketball or Football. As history shows, the straightest, most abbreviated path towards universal athletic respect is via fist-fighting; Pugilism. Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, etc.; the list of those who’ve reigned supreme at the top is a who’s who of the very best to have ever laced ‘em up.
Lennox Lewis was Boxing’s last undisputed heavyweight kingpin and now another Brit, Anthony Joshua, is within smelling distance of being next. Saturday, March 31st is the date, 4PM CST is the time and Showtime Championship Boxing will broadcast live as Joshua risks his IBF and WBA belts against WBO titlist, Joseph Parker. Nearly 75,000 assembled masses will pack Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales as our sport’s glamour division becomes 75% unified.
Of Samoan heritage, Lupesoliai La’auli, a.k.a., Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KO’s), resides in New Zealand. He was introduced to Boxing at the age of 3 by his father, Dempsey. It’s no coincidence Parker’s ol’ man bears the surname of one of prizefighting’s more storied legends, Jack Dempsey. Joseph also admired fellow Samoan fighters David Tua and Maselino Masoe growing up, and he wears his culture’s warrior pride and spirit on his sleeve. He won’t relinquish his “0” quarrel free, and he also claims to have never been knocked off his feet as a pro or amateur, neither in a sanctioned fight nor in sparring. After a promising start, Joseph captured the vacated WBO slice of the heavyweight pie in December 2016, with a majority decision over Andy Ruiz.
Parker’s team has created a bit of drama, openly questioning the punch resistance of Joshua, in the build-up to fight night. Seems to be an obvious ploy, yet it’s left “A.J.” visibly agitated. Team Parker is undoubtedly hoping to rattle their upcoming foe, but only time will tell if they’ve poked the wrong bear in this instance. Some bears don’t need to be poked or prodded.
This tact wasn’t the Englander’s cup of tea at all, he was even defensive about it, swearing “hand over heart” he’s been dropped 3 times total in his Boxing life. Considering Joshua’s only professional visit to the canvas was courtesy of a brutal Wladimir Klitschko right hand, it seems premature to question “A.J.’s” whiskers just yet. After KO’ing 18 of his first 21 victims, Parker has gone the distance in his last three outings. The level of competition increased and though still victorious, Parker’s ability to hurt a man has to be questioned.
With each ensuing about, Anthony Joshua’s light shines brighter and brighter. Case in point, his last fight was also held in Cardiff, Wales, at Principality Stadium. That affair, against Carlos Takam, sold 70,000 tickets in just 8 hours. Since the 2012 London Olympics, where Joshua won a gold medal, each step has built upon the last. And to the surprise of no one, paid attendance for Joshua-Parker eclipsed 70,000 even more rapidly.
At nut-cutting time, it has to be said, Parker is a sub-par defensive fighter. He has good hand-speed, when punching in combinations, but he’s wide as hell in his delivery. Having boxed to the degree he has, it’s surprising Parker isn’t more nuanced. To be fair, Parker also has a decent uppercut when in range and a very good pull counter for a man his size. Fire a lazy left jab towards Parker at your peril, and a pull-counter, lead right hand will quickly follow.
But that's defense though? Less than stellar D is never on the menu for a successful fighter, particularly when faced with a 20-0, 20 KO’s badass like Joshua. Not only will Parker get stopped, he’ll visit the canvas a time or two and force trainer, Kevin Barry (who also trained Tua) to eventually stop the proceedings. Either way, Joshua will have e 3-1 heavyweight title ownership advantage over Deontay Wilder.