Anthony Joshua was taken as far as the seventh round for only the second time in his short professional career at London’s O2 Arena last night.
In the first defence of his IBF heavyweight title, he faced the brave, but extremely limited Dominic ‘Big Trouble’ Breazeale from America. The first heavyweight title bout since the passing of Muhammad Ali, there was the tolling of a memorial ten bells prior to the fight in honour of ‘The Greatest’. Joshua paid his own tribute to his idol by donning white gloves and white shorts.
Both fighters went into this bout with unbeaten records, with ring announcer Michael Buffer proclaiming ‘Somebody’s ‘O’ has to go’. This was not new territory for the champion, whose last three fights all featured previously unbeaten opponents, namely Charles Martin, Dyllian Whyte and Gary Cornish. The fact that you may never have heard of any of the above is an indicator of the dire state of the division currently.
Breazeale only took up boxing in his early 20s and this was clear to see in his poor head movement and slow feet. Joshua dominated from the outset, clearly winning the first six rounds with English referee Howard Foster calling a halt to proceedings after sixty one seconds of the seventh, after the Californian was knocked down twice. The challenger was on the receiving end of some very accurate, hard shots throughout and must be given a lot of credit for his durability.
David Haye was a co-commentator at ringside and made a case for being the next man to face Joshua. Certainly this would appeal to the British public and would almost certainly provide the champion with his sternest test to date. However, Haye is 35 and has only recently returned to the ring after a near four-year hiatus.
While such a fight would be an undoubted money spinner, Joshua may cast his eye across the Atlantic to current WBC champion Deontay Wilder, who is unbeaten with a 36-0 record, as a start in his quest to unify all of the titles. In his post-fight interview he also made reference to what he had envisaged as a possible winter bout against the winner of Tyson Fury vs Wladimir Klitschko, initially scheduled for the 9th July.
However, an ankle injury to Fury, the current WBA, IBF, WBO, IBO, The Ring magazine and lineal heavyweight champion means a likely re-scheduled date of October 29th. In any event, Joshua now faces a likely mandatory title defence against 24-year-old New Zealander Joseph Parker.
Parker is currently ranked number 1 by the IBF as well as being the WBO number 1, WBC number 4, WBA number 8 and IBO number 6. He has an unbeaten professional record of 19 straight victories.
James Neville, Pundit Arena