By Alex Harding: I’ve followed British boxing for some twenty years now, so there are few things I haven’t seen before. But undefeated heavyweight contender Anthony Joshua (13-0, 13 KOs), including that performance Saturday night in knocking out 35-year-old journeyman Kevin Johnson (29-7-1, 14 KOs) in the 2nd round at the O2 Arena in London, UK, is one of them.
I foolishly thought we’d see him taken into the later rounds for the first time and potentially see that he was quite raw, and not ready for a step up yet. I was wrong. He bullied and blitzed a man who’d got through several world class punchers, 36 fights, 200 plus rounds never being stopped.
And I’m adjusting my outlook on the back of that performance. I don’t think you can beat him by backing up. You’ve got to take the centre of the ring and command his respect with a world class jab and world class power. To that point I already believe there are only a handful of heavyweights out there who can beat him.
To say that when he’s only had 13 fights and is a mere heavyweight teen sounds like hyperbole but feels right.
I’ve not seen a British fighter who, seemingly effortlessly, brings together size, strength, power, speed, accuracy, excitement and a humble focus quite like Joshua. The buzz around him is huge, he has got so many people talking about him; people packing the pub out to watch him, then disperse before the intended main event starts. In terms of the British public recognizing and clamoring for him he’s near where the best British fighters of the last ten years where/are in less than two years in the paid ranks. The 2012 London Olympics obviously helped, but Khan and Degale won Olympic medals and haven’t made this impact on the British conscious. The man is ready to headline fights and I imagine will be headlining pay per views in the not too distant future.
That said there’s still no need to rush him, but do keep fighting him regularly; that will only benefit his learning and increase this public demand for him.
On the British scene there’s only Tyson Fury who I think could cause him problems at present because when he chooses to fight like a 6ft 9inch boxer he looks very good at it. But that’s only if the fight happened shortly, otherwise I think Joshua gets better, fights similar big guys and works them out. Chisora, Price and Haye or all big and very winnable fights for him, and if the latter of those three took place Britain would come to a Stand still for it.
In signing off I hope the beginning of my article is right and that Anthony Joshua is genuinely something I haven’t seen before because I have unfortunately seen a lot of British talent fail reach their potential. But something tells me I need not fear here.