In boxing’s strange community, it is apparently becoming more important to know the outcome of fights before they happen. The potential fight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder is the perfect breeding ground for such nonsense, as the fans of both men clash on internet forums and Facebook pages in an effort to prove to each other why one champion is a sure winner and the other doesn’t stand a chance. This attitude is a problem in the sport, and if we are not careful, it will turn once-interested newcomers away to leave the rest of us to argue on our own, a truly pathetic state of affairs.
However, the ‘big issue’ here is one that risks being clouded by all this; the era of the heavyweight super fight is finally back upon us. The division was turned on its head after Tyson Fury dethroned Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, and since then has been responsible for sold out arenas, broken records, and Box Office events worthy of the money. We now find ourselves close to another one, and I break down the important parts below.
Both have been accused of patchy records, and this is partly true. Joshua probably has the stronger thanks to wins over Wlad Klitschko (a fight of the year contender) and WBC No.1 Dillian Whyte, while Dominic Breazeale, a former Olympian, also features. Wilder hasn’t quite faced the level of opposition Joshua has; Bermane Stiverne (first fight) and Chris Arreola are the best names on his resume, the rest reasonably fall somewhere between contender and gatekeeper. He does, however, have the longer of the two slates; his 39 fights to Joshua’s 20 gives him a great advantage when it comes to experience in the professional ring.
The Last Fight
Both were facing stand-in opponents. Joshua took longer than expected to eventually knock Carlos Takam out with a stoppage many considered to be early, as the visitor, though losing widely, had managed to keep matters competitive. Joshua had his resolve tested in the second when an accidental head butt broke his nose, but maintained his composure (and his stamina) until the referee called it off in the 10th. Wilder, on the other hand, taught neither us nor himself anything new as he blasted out a poor Bermane Stiverne in a single round. Overweight, under prepared and without a competitive win in two years, the 39-year-old was ripe for the knockout, and Wilder feasted on him. To spin both matches positively, Joshua learned something, Wilder proved he needs better opposition.
One of the big questions. Fans of both are adamant that their man will blast the other into next week, and quite simply, both could be right. Wilder throws the big shots early, and when they connect, they detonate; 29 opponents failed to see the end of the third round, and some of the others only managed to do so through survival tactics. Joshua has a more precise power; he picks his shots intelligently, keeping opponents at the end of a stiff jab before an opportunity presents itself, and when it does so, he pounces, and it is often final. Like Wilder, he is more than capable of ending matters early, and 16 of 20 opponents who haven’t made it out of the third will testify to that. Both have their flaws, but power is most definitely a mutual upside.
Massive power poses the risk of not teaching a fighter an awful lot about the sport. Joshua has been accused of stamina issues by his detractors, who point to his vast muscular frame as a huge drain on his energy, and despite a more sprightly showing against Takam, huge lulls against Klitschko and Dillian Whyte still have people worried. His increasing weight, although natural for a man his age, will only fuel such concerns. Wilder can appear almost desperate for a stoppage, and when he senses it, pursues it with such ferocity that all notions of style and balance are sacrificed for the sake of the big finish. Those who have survived the onslaught and dragged Wilder into the fourth round and beyond have exposed weaknesses in his repertoire that, on recent evidence, are yet to be addressed. Thanks to frightening punch power, both men, undefeated world champions who have perfect or near-perfect knockout ratios, are still learning on the job.
Nearly all the noise about a future fight is coming from Wilder, yet he also appears to insist that Joshua make him an offer rather than the other way around. Joshua, who holds more of the cards, may yet make one, but expect it to represent his interests if he does so; the purse split will go in his favour, the TV rights will go in his favour, and the location of the fight will be somewhere in the UK, most likely in London. Wilder, in response, will probably reject the initial advances in the hope of something more lucrative. For now, put this one on ice; an optimist might hope for news early in the new year, a pessimist would say they will face different opposition entirely in their next contests. Watch this space.