Anthony Joshua aims to move one step closer to history when he meets Joseph Parker in the ring on Saturday night.
Anthony Joshua is gunning to become the heavyweight division’s first ever four-belt king, but has a tough task ahead of him. A sold-out Principality Stadium will once again host Britain’s most worshipped boxer and New Zealand invader Parker is determined to stop the AJ hysteria with one blow.
Here we go through the key points for the fight and try to determine who will be crowned the WBO, WBA (Super) and IBF champion.
There has never been a heavyweight unification fight on these shores, and although British boxing fans would prefer to see Joshua take on WBC champion Deontay Wilder, the Parker fight is still a massive moment for the young Brit.
Joshua can stake his claim firmly as the world’s best heavyweight and Wilder will be the heavyweight champion left standing if AJ can strip Parker of his belt. The quest to win all four major world titles is a historic and difficult task, made all the more dangerous by the fact Parker and Wilder are both big punchers.
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Thirty years have passed since the last time two undefeated heavyweight champions went toe-to-toe. 600,000 Americans bought the pay-per-view to watch Michael Spinks take on Mike Tyson in 1988.
Tyson would emerge victorious from the richest boxing event at that point in history. The fight lasted 91 seconds. Joshua and Parker will not be hoping to break new ground in terms of revenue, but it will still be the best performing fight on British soil this year, assuming Wilder vs Joshua does not happen in 2018.
A win will bring Joshua one step closer to his ultimate goal, while a loss will leave the once young king of the heavyweights out in the wilderness for the first time in his pro career.
No heavyweight has ever unified the division by winning all four major world titles. The feat has only been achieved three other times across all weight divisions. The Parker fight has somehow become the appetiser to the fight everyone wants to see, but Joshua cannot afford to let his focus slip.
Anthony Joshua is the strong favourite and so he should be. AJ boasts a power, reach and size advantage. Joshua also has the added bonus coming through a war with one of the best ever, Wladimir Klitskcho.
It’s hard to imagine what kind of Parker we will see when the bell goes. Will the Kiwi attempt to go toe-to-toe with Joshua? That would be ill-advised considering Joshua has knocked out every single one of his 20 pro opponents, regardless of whether Parker has an ‘iron chin’.
Will it be that Parker out-works Joshua, uses his footwork and drags the muscular IBF and WBA (Super) champion into the later rounds? This seems the best route to victory for Parker, but it’s difficult to say whether Parker is capable of doing it.
Parker has shown he has good speed and some admirable footwork. His speed and footwork certainly matches Joshua’s at the very least, and AJ can be guilty of going through the motions rather than thinking on his feet.
The WBO champion will attempt to out-box Joshua, just as Hughie Fury tried to do to him when they met last September. Parker came through that test, but took half the fight to settle and then seemed to run out of ideas.
Surgery on both elbows late last year poses the question whether Parker will have rediscovered his power or lost his edge. His last three fights have gone the distance, an indication his power has deserted him as he has stepped up in quality of opponent.
It seems Parker will come in significantly lighter than Joshua, enabling him to take over the speed advantage. Joshua has demonstrated his chin is there to be hit, and Parker will aim to exploit that weakness. And if Parker can tire Joshua out, he could stop him.
But, AJ has shown his gas tank has a second bottom, and is dangerous in every second, even if low on energy. Joshua believes Parker’s fitness will not be able to withstand his firepower for 12 rounds and expects to knock out an exhausted Parker after the eight round.
Anthony Joshua has a remarkable reach advantage too. A six-inch difference will allow Joshua to keep Parker at a distance. Parker will want to get in close, do some damage and dance back out, but he will have to get past Joshua’s jab first.
The height difference is actually more of a concern for Joshua than Parker. The Brit struggled to account for the massive height difference between him and Carlos Takam last October.
Although Joshua effectively beat Takam up for most of the fight, his fluidity and usual flair was stunted by being unable to adjust to fact he was significantly taller than the Frenchman. That said, there’s only a two-inch difference between Parker and Joshua.
Anthony Joshua’s last outing was not as straightforward as the Brit would have liked. He had to work to break Takam’s resistance down and seemed slightly out of sorts in his debut at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.
That said, AJ won every round and was in total control when the referee stopped the action in the tenth. It was not a bad performance, but the display was a far cry from the explosiveness of Joshua’s previous 19 knockouts.
While Anthony Joshua’s last performance lacked fire, Parker’s was missing action. The Kiwi made his British debut against Hughie Fury in Manchester and laboured through a dull encounter.
Parker was out-boxed in the first half of the fight and then more effective in the second period, always looking to wind up a power shot. The WBO champion looked far from spectacular but was never seriously threatened by Fury, earning a majority decision. One judge saw it a draw, while the other two gave it 118-110 to Parker.