Stop and ask any British boxing fan in the street who they believe our next great hope for winning the world heavyweight title is and you will more than likely hear a variety of answers, but one name that will crop up time and time again is Olympic Gold medalist and undefeated powerhouse Anthony Joshua (11-0, 11ko).
If that is a name that is unfamiliar to you then I suggest you read on, because in his column for the Independent newspaper this week, veteran British promoter Frank Warren offered his thoughts on the fighter he tried to sign after London 2012 and leveled some criticism at the way he believes Joshua’s career is being handled under the guidance of Warren’s promotional rivals Matchroom Sport.
Since his debut back in 2013, just over a year after his Olympic glories, Joshua’s progress has been nothing short of meteoric. His natural athleticism, ability and blistering power have been evident each and every time he has boxed. In fact, after just 11 fights, Frank Warren has now joined the growing chorus of admirers who believe that Joshua cannot be held back much longer and that its time to let him off the leash against some serious competition.
” I am one of Anthony’s biggest fans, however I am disappointed that the opponents he has faced so far in his career have not been of sufficient quality to test either his durability or his chin – the two big questions that need answering.”
“Joshua talks the part, looks the part and so far punches the part. But can he act the part when the curtain goes up on the real show once the auditions are over? In my view, he fought better opposition as an amateur and certainly in the Olympics, than he has as a pro.”
From a man who is fully aware of the mechanics of building the career of a young prospect, Warren continued;
“Of course it’s not unusual for young heavyweights to be initially fed a diet of soft touches, but the 6ft 5in Joshua has faced a string of much smaller and older opponents who have punched well below their weight. The combined age of the last three was 112! He has yet to meet anybody under 30 and three have been in their forties. Matt Skelton was 48!”
“Joshua is 25, just a year younger than Tyson Fury, who is mandatory for Klitshcko’s WBO title and who won the English title in just his 8th fight. Leon Spinks only had seven pro bouts before he fought – and famously beat- Muhammad Ali.”
Among fans of Joshua on social media, the consensus seems to be that Joshua IS being stepped up in May, when he will face veteran American Kevin Johnson, a man known for his durability. Yet Frank is also mildly critical of this choice of opponent for Joshua, evidently not viewing “Kingpin” as ENOUGH of a test;
” Kevin Johnson is 35, a well seasoned warhorse. Although he’s lost four of his last five and is not a noted puncher, he has never been stopped, so hopefully he can take Joshua more than just a round or three so we can finally see what he’s made of.”
Warren then ends by making the point that is glaringly obvious to the rest of us, and that is that domestically there are fighters who could provided AJ a sterner test, in particular old amateur rival Dillian Whyte, himself unbeaten in 14 fights.
“After Johnson, surely Britain’s golden boy should be stepping up in class to tackle, say, either Dereck Chisora, David Price or new kid on the block Dillian Whyte, who at 26, knocked down and beat Joshua in the amateurs. As I say, I really like Big Josh. But it is time he started fighting men nearer his own age – and size.”
Whether or not you believe the comments by Frank Warren are a sly dig at Eddie Hearn and his father Barry, with regard Joshua it is hard to disagree with him. Particularly with regards to where Joshua goes next after Johnson.
When you think that WBC champion Deontay Wilder knocked out a consistently lower calibre of fighter 30-odd times before getting his crack at Bermane Stiverne and winning, the progress of Anthony Joshua really isn’t bad at all in comparison. Although Wilder himself answered questions of his own against Stiverne, the Haitian born fighter was not an elite champion. His best fights were the two with American gate keeper Chris Arreola, and there is a belief among some that Joshua is already ready to face, and beat, a guy like Deontay right now.
Whether I personally would go quite that far is another matter, although in a year or so I think its a perfectly reasonable assertion. If Joshua really wants to prove his class then he needs to take a risk. In my opinion a perfect risk and test would be to match him with Tony Thompson (40-5, 27ko), the man who beat our own David Price on two occasions and twice challenged Wladimir Klitschko.
Yes, by Frank Warrens logic he is an older fighter (at 43) but he is the same height and a very wily, tricky opponent with a sound ring IQ.
Either that or the inevitable clash with South Londoner Whyte, as that is already a fight that has generated a lot of interest among fight fans on social media. Whatever happens, the eyes of the country will remain upon Anthony Joshua, watching his every move and keenly anticipating the next one.
Thanks for reading. I’m on twitter @undilutedpoison