It can be taken for granted at last that British boxing has two heavyweights capable of creating maximum excitement – inside and outside the ring – and the career curve that will eventually bring Anthony Joshua and the triple-belt world champion Tyson Fury together has become ineluctably fixed.
They might meet towards the end of next year but more likely the following summer because boxing is a business of more variables than a climate change summit. “We’ll do it in our own time,” Joshua said after knocking out Dillian Whyte at the O2 Arena on Saturday night to win the British title vacated by Fury.
“I’d fight Tyson Fury now but it would be a hard fight. When I’m ready, I’ll make it an easy fight. But I’d fight Dillian again. He might give me a few more rounds. That’s what I need.”
In stopping Whyte so emphatically Joshua answered two key questions: he can take a punch and, against a determined and dangerous opponent, he can deliver them.
After surviving a brief assault by Whyte in the second round – not to mention a disgraceful invasion of the ring at the end of the first by half a dozen of his opponent’s thuggish supporters – he felled the previously unbeaten Brixton fighter along the ropes in the seventh round with a near-perfect uppercut to bring a mile-wide smile to the face of Eddie Hearn. The promoter will headline a 9 April bill with Joshua on pay-per-view again and, it would seem, for the rest of the fighter’s career. He is now, as Hearn keeps reminding everyone, “a genuine superstar”. Dereck Chisora or David Price are possible opponents.
There is then the likelihood of a more rigorous test, against the former world champion David Haye, who returns to the ring after an absence of three and a half years next month in the same arena, against the untested knockout artist Mark de Mori. Hearn later posited an alternative route to a world title: against the winner of a planned bout between the little-known American puncher Charles Martin and the almost equally obscure Ukrainian Vyacheslav Glazkov for the vacant IBF belt. Purse bids for that are due on 18 December, the result of the IBF stripping Fury for sidestepping Glazkov in favour of a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko in April or May.
Fury, though, is the ultimate prize for Joshua. If the swaggering holder of the WBA, WBO and IBO belts can beat Klitschko, he can take his pick of a wide variety of opponents from any of those organisations. Joshua will, in all probability, be the most obvious and lucrative choice before long. The Olympic gold medallist is in no hurry, though. Taken past three rounds for the first time in a pro career that began only two years ago, he is a realist who listens. While this was a devastating finish to an impressive and controlled performance he admitted: “I learned more tonight than in all my 14 previous fights. No matter how much you train to be a boxer, when you’ve got someone you don’t like in the other corner you go to war. I had to clear the red mist. My coach, Tony Sims, was not too impressed yet. He wants me to work on other stuff. He’s the critic I’ve got to listen to.”
He added: “This was more about bragging rights after all the talking – all the way back to 2009 [when Whyte beat Joshua as young amateurs]. I’ve been patiently awaiting this moment. I enjoy being victorious and showing that talk is cheap. He was tough. I hurt him in the first round. He hurt me in the second round. I proved a few things to myself. I felt I carried the right engine right the way through the fight. Even though we were in there trying to kill each other boxing is a thinking man’s sport. That’s why I took a round off, regrouped and picked up my boxing again.”
The other star of the evening was Chris Eubank Jr, who produced a world-class performance in a domestic sitting by pummelling Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan into submission in seven rounds to earn a mandatory shot at the WBA middleweight champion, Daniel Jacobs. The American, however, is making noises about fighting the winner of next weekend’s fight in Manchester between the WBO champion, Andy Lee, and Billy Joe Saunders.
Enzo Maccaranelli carried The Ring magazine light-heavyweight belt into the ring at Madison Square Garden for Joe Calzaghe the night his Welsh compatriot appeared to bring to a relatively peaceful end both his own career and that of Roy Jones, who looked a deal older than his stated 38 years of age.
Seven years on, the gnarled Welshman, whose own career has spluttered back into life over the past couple of years, surely nailed the one-time finest fighter in boxing for the final time, when he knocked Jones cold in the fourth round in Moscow on Saturday night. It was his ninth defeat, the fifth by stoppage, the third by brutally clean knockout. There wasn’t even a title at stake.
Jones recently accepted an offer of Russian citizenship from Vladimir Putin. It remains to be seen how strong their relationship remains. It is a cold, hard place to be friendless. Jones is 46 years old.
Maccaranelli, who boxed magnificently and hit with venom from start to finish, meanwhile looks now on a more welcoming vista than he might have imagined after his own several setbacks. What a weird game it is.
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