Sky Sports Box Office is again the place to see their premier attraction, as Anthony Joshua takes to Wales’ National stadium to try and get a third piece of a four part jigsaw, when he takes on Joseph Parker this Saturday.
Here I preview a stacked card.
Anthony Joshua (20-0, KO20) v Joseph Parker (24-0, KO18) – 12 Rounds for the WBA (Super) IBF, WBO & IBO Heavyweight Titles
Come the end of Saturday night, inside the magnificent Principality Stadium in Cardiff, we will have a Champion at Heavyweight holding three of the four major World Title belts. The ideal scenario for the man who is successful, is to unify the whole division by taking on WBC King, Deontay Wilder following this bout. However, after Dillian Whyte’s explosive beat down of Lucas Browne on Saturday night, this may have manoeuvred the Brixton man into a WBC mandatory slot.
Anthony Joshua, the 2012 Olympic Champion, and current WBA (Super) IBF and IBO Champion undertakes a big test against a man who has the same ambitions as him, and is also an undefeated, reigning World Champion, in Las Vegas based New Zealander, and WBO Champion, Joseph Parker. It’s a great match up for a division that looks to finally be stirring into life after a fair few years in the wilderness.
After a stellar amateur career, culminating in the Gold Medal at the London 2012 Olympics, Anthony Joshua turned professional in October of 2013, and duly knocked out Emanuele Leo inside a round at the O2 Arena in London. Paul Butlin, Hrvoje Kisicek and Dorian Darch were all despatched in two rounds each from October 2013 to February 2014, as Joshua toured all parts of the UK, taking in England, Scotland and Wales. After knocking out Hector Alfredo Avila in Glasgow in the first round, Joshua met Matt Legg on the massive Carl Froch v George Groves rematch at Wembley Stadium. Another first round knockout was banked with a devastating uppercut. Former World Title challenger Matt Skelton followed in two rounds in Liverpool, before Konstantin Airich (TKO3) was vanquished in Manchester. This lead to a challenge for the WBC International Heavyweight Title against Denis Bakhtov back at the O2. Only two rounds were needed to lift the title. The experienced Michael Sprott was then stopped in a round at the back end of 2014, Jason Gavern was knocked out in three, and Raphael Zumbano Love was stopped in two in Birmingham in May 2015. Three weeks later Eddie Hearn then decided a step up was needed, and put “AJ” in with the experienced and never before stopped former World Title challenger Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson on the Kell Brook v Frankie Gavin bill. Joshua passed the test with flying colours, stopping the American within two rounds.
Next up was a challenge for the Commonwealth Heavyweight Title, against fellow unbeaten foe, Scotland’s Gary Cornish. Cornish had no answer to Joshua’s power and the bout was over within a round before it had even got going. This lead to a Sky Sports Box Office debut, and grudge match against his former amateur conqueror Dillian Whyte. The O2 was again the venue, with the British and Commonwealth titles on the line. Joshua was tested and even hurt for the first time, but eventually came through, stopping Whyte in the seventh of a bruising contest.
Joshua then became the beneficiary of the mess that occurred following Tyson Fury’s points win over Klitschko in Germany in November 2015. Fury was stripped of his IBF title for failing to agree to defend against the mandatory challenger, Vyacheslav Glazkov. As a result of this, Charles Martin, the next available challenger, won the vacant belt by beating Glazkov, when the Russian suffered a leg injury and the fight was stopped in the third round. Three months later Martin cashed in his belt for a large payday at the O2, defending his newly won crown against Joshua in his first defence. Martin was essentially a sacrificial lamb for the Joshua juggernaut to take off, and did exactly as expected in succumbing to defeat inside two one sided sessions. Joshua became IBF champion in just his sixteenth fight.
Joshua has made four defences since, firstly against Dominic Breazeale in June 2016. In a slightly subdued than normal performance, Breazeale was stopped in seven. In his last fight at the end of last year, Joshua effectively marked time on a mooted clash with Klitschko by knocking out Mexican American Eric Molina in three. “AJ” and Wladimir Klitschko took to the ring after the fight to talk up the future clash and the stadium super-fight was made for April 2017.
In a modern great Heavyweight clash. Joshua floored the giant Ukrainian great in the fifth, only to suffer a knockdown of his own, the first in his career. Joshua did well to come through the adversity, and eventually caught up with the ageing Klitschko, dropping and stopping him in the eleventh round of a classic. In Joshua’s most recent outing, in October 2017, he stopped the rugged and teak tough Carlos Takam in ten inside the same huge outdoor venue where Saturday’s bout will take place. Takam was a late replacement for original opponent, Kubrat Pulev.
Joshua comes into Saturdays contest with an expectation to win, but his Southern Hemisphere opponent will have other ideas.
Joseph Parker had a decent amateur career, and has been matched well thus far during his professional career. He turned over in July 2012, and, following five straight wins, he was cleverly matched with the ageing former four time World Title challenger in South African Frans Botha. Botha was overwhelmed and stopped in two rounds.
He then enjoyed wins over respected journeymen, Marcelo Luiz Nascimento (TKO7) Brian Minto (RTD7) and Sherman Williams (Unanimous). Seven straight stoppage wins followed, including wins over countrymen Bowie Tupou (KO1) and Kali Meehan (TKO3), before a career best win in a keenly contested unanimous points win over the aforementioned common opponent, Frenchman Carlos Takam. This was also an eliminator for the IBF Title.
Instead of waiting for a shot at Anthony Joshua, the IBF Champion, Parker instead went down the WBO route, retaining his WBO Oriental belt by stopping Solomon Haumono in four, and Alexander Dimitrenko in three. With Tyson Fury vacating the WBO Title, Parker found himself in a vacant Title bout against Andy Ruiz Junior in December 2016. Parker became the first heavyweight boxer from New Zealand to win a world title, as he won via majority decision. Two of the judges scored it 115–113 in favour of Parker, and the third judge scored it a 114–114 draw. Ruiz started off the better boxer and was the main aggressor throughout the fight. Parker picked up the pace in the middle rounds winning most of them but Ruiz got back into the fight during the championship rounds, but ultimately Parker prevailed.
Since then, Parker has defended his Title twice, firstly against late notice substitute, and regular sparring partner Razvan Cojanu, following the withdrawal of Hughie Fury. In a scrappy and hold filled affair, Parker won a wide points decision. He backed this up with another largely unimpressive affair against the younger Fury in Manchester in September last year. Parker won by eight points on two cards, but third judge, Rocky Young called the fight a draw. Parker retained, but Fury’s team were unhappy with the result. Parker seemed to win the fight handily enough.
And so Team Parker have now negotiated a deal to bring the WBO Title to the table, and Parker has what “AJ” wants. But Joshua has three belts that Parker will certainly have his eyes on, and this makes for an intriguing contest. I can see Parker coming forward regularly, but being stopped in his tracks by a ramrod Joshua jab, and this leads me to think that although Parker may have chinks of success, I feel that he will eventually be broken down, disheartened, and pulled out somewhere between rounds seven and ten. This will then lead, we hope, to a first undisputed Champion at the weight since the great Lennox Lewis.
Liverpool’s as yet unfulfilled talent, and 2008 Olympic Bronze medallist, David Price (22-4, KO18) has agreed to face a former WBA Heavyweight Champion, and still formidable talent, in the 2004 Olympic Champion at Super Heavyweight, Russia’s controversial Alexander Povetkin (33-1, KO23). Povetkin’s management reportedly want their man on the card in Wales to put him right in line to face the winner of the main event. But facing Price may be a no win situation for the Russian. Win and he does what everyone expected him to do. Lose and his career, at the age of 38 lies in tatters.
For Price this really does represent a final chance at fulfilling his massive potential, having now been worryingly stopped four times. There is no doubt he has all the tools to succeed, possessing a booming jab and frightening one punch knockout power. But too often he has looked like his tank empties alarmingly quick, allowing his opponents to overwhelm him and eventually have him out on his feet and stopped.
Price turned professional in March 2009 on the back of his successful Olympic campaign in Beijing. He signed terms with promoter Frank (now Kellie) Maloney, and was eased in to the professional ranks on a diet of journeymen, racking up eleven straight wins. He moved into decent domestic class by knocking out John McDermott in under two minutes of the first round in January 2012 at the Liverpool Olympia. He followed this up by knocking out Sam Sexton in four rounds at Aintree Racecourse to capture the vacant British and Commonwealth Heavyweight Titles. This was expected to be lift off for him, and he duly despatched Audley Harrison inside a round and Matt Skelton in two to cement his ever growing promise.
Maloney decided to step Price up, but the step would be way too far. He went from fighting faded domestic forces to mixing in World class. Former two time World Title challenger, Tony Thompson would be the name Maloney went for in order to help Price gate-crash the World scene. On a big night at the Echo Arena, Price would be felled by a right hand to the side of the head in the second. A wobbly Price was clearly unable to continue, and the fight was waved off. This was shrugged off as a minor blip and a stroke of luck for Thompson, and a rematch was less than five months in the making, and at the same scene as the February 2013 loss. After scoring a knockdown in the second round, Price went for broke in the third and went toe to toe with the Washington resident, and subsequently “punched himself out”. After being in serious trouble at the end of the fourth, the fifth round was painful viewing. Price took a bad beating and ended up being slumped over the turnbuckle, defenceless, and Thompson again forced the stoppage. It must be also noted that Thompson failed the post-fight drug test.
Price was forced back to the drawing board, and joined forces with the Sauerland’s. He won three fights in Germany and one in Denmark, all against low key opposition, deep down on undercards. These morale boosting wins set up a shot at the vacant European Heavyweight Title against Erkan Teper. Price would be spectacularly knocked out in the second round in Baden, Germany, leaving his career in tatters. Teper would become another Price opponent to fail a drugs test. Although the German authorities eventually bowed to pressure and declared the bout a no contest, EBU rules were applied and the contest result remained the same, but the European Title stripped from Teper.
The rebuild from the Teper defeat was again a slow affair. Price returned at the home of his favourite football teams rivals, Everton’s Goodison Park, way down the card on his good friend, Tony Bellew’s WBC Cruiserweight Title triumph against Ilunga Makubu. Under new trainer, Dave Coldwell, he scored a stoppage win over the 9-2 Vaclav Pejsar. Ivica Perkovic was then stopped in Germany before Price was stepped up once again to challenge for the WBO European Heavyweight Title against Christian Hammer, who was European class at best, but had outpointed Erkan Teper in his previous bout. Again Price’s tank would alarmingly empty, but stunningly managed to produce a fifth round knockdown. But when rice was caught by multiple hooks in round six, the writing was on the wall. Even though the bell saved him, there was not enough time to recover, and Hammer’s non-stop assault in the next round mercifully forced the stoppage of a drunken looking Price.
Price would be forgiven for calling it quits, but has now aligned with George Vaughan, Derry Mathews and Joe McNally. as his new training team, following the split with Coldwell. He returned in January, easily outpointing Polish journeyman, Kamil Sokolowski over six rounds in Brentwood.
And so to Povetkin. On the surface, this looks like a mismatch and should result in a stoppage win for the Russian. Povetkin has mixed in World class for some time, and in his most recent fight, he easily handled Christian Hammer over twelve, so the form lines don’t point to a Price win either. Povetkin will be the much smaller man, and this could benefit Price. Price needs to use his boxing skills and not panic under pressure, which he is prone to do. My hope is that Price can gain confidence by running the Russian close and taking him to the wire. Price will hope that age will catch up with Povetkin, and his best chance is early on when the tank is at full, but I can only envisage an early to mid-stoppage win for the Russian. I hope I am wrong as the likeable Liverpudlian certainly deserves an upturn in fortunes.
Ryan Burnett (18-0, KO9) defends his WBA “Super” Bantamweight Title on the bill against Venezuelan, Yonfrez Parejo (21-2-1, KO10). Burnett is on the rise, but now only holds one Title after having to give up the IBF strap he won from Lee Haskins last year. I fully expect him to do a job on the visitor.
Anthony Crolla (32-6-3, KO13) gets a run out before an another assault on World honours, as he meets little known Mexican, Edson Ramirez (18-2-1, KO8) and hot prospects Josh Kelly (5-0, KO4) and Joe Cordina (6-0, KO5) feature against the well-schooled Carlos Molina (28-8-2, KO8) and late sub Hakim Ben Ali (19-5, KO1) respectively.