Tyson Fury will be praying that whoever Anthony Joshua chooses for the first defence of his world heavyweight title at the O2 Arena on 25 June, the challenger brings no more ambition than did Charles Martin at the same venue two weekends ago, when the American surrendered the IBF belt with a minimum of credible resistance.
Fury, who defends his WBA and WBO world titles in a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko two weeks after Joshua’s fight in London, does not want the Watford fighter beaten when they are a couple of fights away from what would be an all-British world title event to rival that between Carl Froch and George Groves, who fought front of 80,000 fans at Wembley nearly two years ago.
That is the real prize in this dance, which Joshua announced on Twitter on Thursday. (It saves on sandwiches and coffee at press conferences). His most saleable opponent is the unbeaten Californian Dominic “Trouble” Breazeale, who has been carefully managed after a late start in the business but, like Martin, can punch, having put away 15 nondescript opponents in 17 outings.
“Trouble” is marginally more credible than “Drummer Boy”, otherwise known as the Texan Eric Molina. At 33 and the owner of an up-and-down CV, he has a 68% stoppage record, and would be acceptable. Just.
However, the standby choice, according to Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, is the Frenchman Johann Duhaupas, and he really does not cut it if Joshua is to convince a sceptical boxing fraternity he is about to mix with what passes for the heavyweight elite.
Duhaupas has had one shot at the world title, lasting into the 11th round against the overrated Deontay Wilder, but he is 35 years old and eminently hittable.
He did have what looked like a decent result a few weeks ago, stopping Robert Helenius in peculiar circumstances, the unbeaten Finn getting up at nine but unable to stay upright without the help of the ropes, which he found with a senses-free stagger across the ring eight seconds after the end of the sixth round. It is a clip the promoters could run to enhance the Frenchman’s credentials.
So, on the face of it, Joshua might have the easier assignment against whichever of the three contenders he and Hearn settle on. Every fight the champion has from now on will carry the same baggage of anxiety for the promoter, because the champion is – as Hearn himself describes him – “a global sporting superstar”.
Hearn’s supposed gamble bringing the powerful but naive Martin across the Atlantic with his belt there to be lifted was an inspired move. It was a head-scratcher for Showtime, who offered the one-fight champion $250,000 for a much safer defence at home – but Martin cashed in, took his licks, made a few friends and went home to be shuffled down the IBF list like a joker in the pack.
In a crowded field, it turned out to be one of the smartest piece of matchmaking in a world heavyweight title fight since Cus D’Amato invited Pete Rademacher to make his professional debut against Floyd Patterson in 1957.
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