Last weekend, we were treated to an exciting night of action in Cardiff, as IBF and WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua saw off the challenge of Cameroonian-Frenchman Carlos Takam. Joshua was both impressive and dominant, controlling the pace throughout until the referee called a halt to proceedings in the tenth round, rendering the challenger defenceless to the onslaught delivered by the British star.
Referee, Phil Edwards came under attack from Takam, his team and fans alike, being slated for prematurely ending the contest with Takam still clearly in the fight. However, "AJ" went on to propel his record to a very impressive 20 wins without defeat, all ending within the distance.
A class below?
You are the holder of two of the four heavyweight belts, with a perfect record and a win over one of the all-time greats in Wladimir Klitschko; which is a pretty great achievement regardless of how you look at it. However, if you scratch beneath the surface, it is clear to see that not all is as it seems. Anthony Joshua is not yet in the class of some of the best to have graced the ring at heavyweight and still has a lot to do in order to rub shoulders with such prestigious company.
Many of his predecessors began their careers in equally blistering fashion, dispatching their first 20 opponents with relative ease. The likes of Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield all burst onto the scene in a not too dissimilar fashion to the British star, but each of those competed in a significantly more competitive era. This was a time where some of the all-time greats were consistently taking on one another, delivering the sort of high-level heavyweight contests that boxing today is heavily lacking.
Protecting their 0's
The heavyweight titles are all held by young, undefeated talents with Joshua in possession of two of the four belts. American powerhouse, Deontay Wilder is the current WBC champion while New Zealand's Joseph Parker has his hands on the WBO strap. All good and well except the fact that none of the above have fought anybody of genuine world-class quality (if you take Klitschko out of the equation). No disrespect to some of their opponents as many are high-quality fighters, but none would be considered among the elite. As boxing fans, we are expecting the champions to beat and challenge everybody…
Outside of the champions, there are very few challengers that will set the world alight. Tyson Fury is a huge part of the recent heavyweight shake-up and would be seen by many as a rightful world champion – after all, he did have to reliquish a number of those titles following his (for want of a better word) 'meltdown' last year. Prior to said meltdown, he was out there on his own as the best heavyweight in the world, and should he return to the form and fitness of better times, could regain that mantle.
Best of the rest
If a Fury return was not enough, Tony Bellew and David Haye are other names in (some) conversations as potential challengers for the belts, while Bermane Stiverne, Kubrat Pulev and even Dillian Whyte are capable of big performances.
However, outside of those names, there is an evident lack of depth in the heavyweight division in regards to genuine elite fighters. Back to my point; the champions are looking so impressive in this generation due to lack of real competition. Tyson (the real one), did it fighting 'killers', and never seemed to duck the challenge; something that cannot be said of the current crop of heavyweight boxers.
Don't get me wrong, Joshua, Wilder and Parker are top talents but through no fault of their own are competing in an uninspiring era of heavyweight boxing, that we all believed was making this huge comeback. Joshua looks the pick of the heavyweights and certainly has the star quality to go all the way, however if he is to find himself in the same conversation as the greats, he needs to continue to work on his game.
With a one-dimensional and rigid defence, Joshua needs to become an all-rounder boxer, and through challenging the best in the business it should enable him to hone his skills to another level. Until then, we should be encouraged by the start to his career and as he eases into his prime, look forward to him fulfilling his huge potential when the big fights come knocking.
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