In a world where anything can happen, it’s dangerous labeling anybody the “next great” this or that. Particularly in the Boxing world. Less than two weeks ago, an undefeated “2016 Prospect of the Year” was stretched on the canvas in the opening round, removed from his senses by a man he was favored to beat. As such, it’s usually wise to be guardedly optimistic about a fighter’s chances of living up to his billing. But every so often a pugilist emerges seemingly destined, preordained to reach the highest heights of our sport, checking all the requisite boxes, possessing the designated criteria of those who successfully made that climb before him. Great Britain’s Anthony Joshua just might be that man and this Saturday, October 28th, SHOWTIME broadcasts “A.J.’s” next step (4PM CST, replayed at 9:40PM CST) towards becoming the fight games most globally renown practitioner since Mike Tyson.
Like a D-cup in a sports bra, a perfect knockout ratio captures the attention immediately, and to paraphrase Smokey, from the cult classic, “Friday”, Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KO’s) has literally knocked everyone “the fuck out”. He’s gone to the 7th round just twice and the 11th round once, with all the rest ending in 3 or less. There’s no feeling out process for this native of England and he doesn’t get paid for overtime; the earlier he can finish you, the better. But despite Joshua’s propensity for inflicting punishment on opponents, he’s as affable, loquacious and thoughtful as can be, outside of the ring. A 6’6”, 250 lb. teddy bear with a comic book physique, who’s easy-to-smile and lights up a room. Simultaneously, Joshua’s that dude men want to share a beer or three with and women want to sleep with. If you want a living, breathing personification of “charisma”, just look at and listen to Anthony Joshua engage a captive audience.
“A.J.’s” rise to pugilistic fame started innocuously, at the relatively late age of 18, when he first entered a boxing gym on the recommendation of a cousin. Joshua was unusually athletic for his size, previously excelling at Soccer, Track & Field, and parlayed that into amateur Boxing success, culminating in a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Just like that, a mere five years after walking into a gym, Anthony Joshua was a national sporting hero, a viable mainstream entity to his English countrymen. Joshua turned pro in 2013, under Eddie Hearn’s MatchRoom Boxing promotional outfit, was on pay-per-view undercards from his pro debut and regularly garnered main event status by bout ten. All the while British endorsers and fans lined up to invest dollars.
The first true test came in bout fifteen, against British nemesis, the undefeated Dillian Whyte. Whyte not only beat Joshua as a novice, he deposited him on the canvas and took every opportunity to remind him of his presumed superiority, in the build up to their punch for pay meeting. In round 2, Dillian even wobbled Anthony with a left hook to the temple, but Joshua regrouped by the 7th, and left Whyte defenseless, draped across the bottom rope, courtesy of an uppercut. Adversity weathered, “A.J.” breezed in his next three outings, requiring all of 2 rounds to snatch the IBF Heavweight title from the grasp of Charles Martin, and 10 combined rounds to stop Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina.
Undoubtedly, Joshua’s signature win to date was his changing of the guard affair against former world champion, Wladimir Klitschko. By now, the Joshua hype was such that American network, SHOWTIME, was televising his bouts and in an unprecedented move, even HBO signed on to broadcast the Klitschko fight via tape delay. 90,000 fans filled Wembley Arena in London to witness what will likely be 2017’s “Fight of the Year”. After decking the future Hall of Famer in the 5th, Joshua was knocked on his ass in the 6th. Naysayers have questioned “A.J.’s” punch resistance, but he ate a flush right hand from a man with 53 KO’s in 64 of his wins, and lived to tell about it. Shaking off his inaugural trip to the mat, Joshua worked his way back into the fray and retired Klitschko in the 11th. “This isn’t all about jab, 1-2 and move and hope. If you have to get down and dirty, I’ll go to the trenches. I can box smart, but if you’re smarter than me, I’ve got heart, I’ve got determination. I’ll break you down”, Joshua said.
In the Klitschko aftermath, Joshua has become that dude and the world has awaited his next move. The intent was to make an IBF mandatory defense against Kubrat Pulev, who pulled out due to injury. In steps Carlos Takam (35-3-1, 27 KO’s), who’s known for his durability. On the heels of the whopping attendance for the Klitschko bout, Joshua’s plan is to draw at least 70,000 to Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
It’s been said heavyweights mature late and Joshua, 28, has only been boxing for ten years now. He’s aggressive, possesses a good assortment of punches, jabs well, hooks off the jab, looks to counter incoming jabs, fires in combinations and loves uppercuts. He has good hand speed for a man of his size and musculature, he works the body more than most in his division and he’s obviously a good finisher. Regardless, Joshua is still learning and will get even better, which is frightful.
From Jack Dempsey to Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano to Cassius Clay, Mike Tyson to Lennox Lewis, up to and including the Klitschko Brothers (Vitali and Wlad), there’s been dominant heavyweight champions. Some more transcendent and famous than others. If all goes to script, Anthony Joshua will assume a comfortable spot among the upper echelon of that ilk.