Just 20 fights in to his professional boxing career and having been a world champion for a quarter of that time, Anthony Joshua is bidding to add the third of boxing’s four ‘major titles’ to his card as his journey towards the undisputed label continues.
Standing in his way is New Zealand-Samoan Joseph Parker. He too is unbeaten, and has held the WBO title he brings to the table since 2016.
Will the weight of expectation be too much? Will Parker cause a surprise? And what will the implications be if he wins or, god forbid, suffers his first defeat.
Profile: Joseph Parker
After representing New Zealand at the Commonwealth games, failure to qualify for the 2012 Olympics led Parker to going professional at the age of just 20 in July of that year. Just over four years after that debut, the Kiwi had raced to 21 victories. That’s more than Joshua has in his entire career.
The no. 3 ranked heavyweight earned his world title by beating Andy Ruiz in late 2016 after it was vacated by Tyson Fury. He has since defended it twice, but has not knocked out an opponent since before that win against Ruiz.
But the fact that he’s had 6 fights that have gone the distance means there are none of the stamina questions that hang over Joshua. Add to that the fact that he has never been knocked down, unlike his British opponent, and he seems to have the edge on durability.
He’s not just tough though. He’s got speed and skills and with a 6’4 frame has the potential to shake anyone. Back from surgery and in the fitness of his life, he will pose Joshua a threat.
Joshua looks to take next step in ‘road to undisputed’
After taking the IBF heavyweight title in only his 16th contest, Joshua added the WBA and IBO crowns in April 2017 with that epic win over Wladimir Klitschko.
He laboured to a ten round win against Carlos Takam six months later, but has dropped nearly a stone for this fight, and says that will enable him to be “a lot sharper.”
There is a consensus that this will benefit Joshua. It will allow him to remain mobile and accurate into the later rounds. It will be key that he responds to the threat that Parker offers, and learns the lessons from his last two fights, both of which offered many.
Win, and Joshua takes the next step towards his goal of being undisputed champion. Since the WBO became recognised as a major belt, there hasn’t been a heavyweight to hold all four belts simultaneously.
He will likely have to face Alexander Povetkin or David Price before a fight with Wilder though, and the pair go head to head on the undercard, with the fight likely to finish 30 minutes before the walkout at around 22:30.
Lose, and Joshua does have a rematch option. But such is the effect that defeats have in boxing on an individuals’ reputation that it will be a huge blow to his confidence and the momentum he currently holds will be massively affected.
What happens next?
As I explored at the start of the year, whatever the outcome of this fight, this is going to be some year for the heavyweight division, with a lot going on around this fight.
As already mentioned, for Joshua, it’s just another step, but should Parker win, he will suddenly be propelled to being the #1 heavyweight, and face a lucrative rematch with the Briton.
Who will win?
It’s hard to see past a Joshua knockout, but that is reliant on him showing improvement from his last fight.
Against both Klitschko and Takam, he showed that he can have a tendency to gas out. Whilst that didn’t matter against the latter, it almost proved his downfall against Klitschko.
And if he gives Parker an opportunity, the Kiwi will take it. Parker has shown in the past that he really has the potential to finish people off, and Joshua has yet to face a fighter so skilful and ruthless in his career so far.
Joshua to win in the mid to late rounds, having worn down his opponent, with his greater size and experience proving vital.
Where to watch it
Sky Sports Box Office will once again be showing the fight for €24.95 (£19.95).
Coverage starts at 6:30pm, the fight itself will not be until 10:30pm. Once again it’s going to be a superb undercard, so make sure you tune in as early as possible to get your money’s worth.