Dominic Breazeale has impressed everyone with his confidence and demeanour since his arrival in London.
The problem for the unfailingly polite and unbeaten American heavyweight with a wafer-thin CV is that the impression he will leave on the canvas at the O2 Arena in Greenwich on Saturday night is likely to be that of another senses-wrecked opponent at the feet of Anthony Joshua.
It might take longer for the IBF world champion to dispose of the 6ft 7in Californian than the three minutes, 32 seconds his hugely disappointing compatriot Charles Martin lasted at the same venue in April. “I’m only a quarter of the way there,” Joshua said that night. “I ain’t gonna get too carried away because there’s still a lot of work to be done. It only went two rounds, so I’ve got to go back to the changing room and do some pads.”
That starkly described Martin’s towering ineptitude when he brought his IBF belt over from Carson, California. But he was not even the best 30-year-old heavyweight in his state. Breazeale – who lives 25 miles from Martin in Glendale and is four months younger – could make it exciting if he lands early; he is better than his southpaw compatriot but not by much.
His performance in the most recent of his 17 fights suggests the late starter with an American football background does not have the boxing pedigree to create the openings against a champion who is growing in stature with each crushing victory.
The best opponent Breazeale has faced, Amir Mansour, was in the peculiar position of outboxing him for each of the five rounds it lasted, putting him down heavily in the third yet losing when leading 50-44 on all three cards in their January contest in Los Angeles. Mansour, who was 43 years old and more than two stones lighter than Breazeale, reluctantly quit on his stool, unable to breathe because of a heavy cold and having bitten his tongue in round two, gifting his outclassed opponent the insignificant WBC Continental Americas belt.
That, really, should be the extent of the challenger’s achievements in this business because, despite his natural strength and power, he has rudimentary skills, boxing chin up and square on – very much like the amateur he was when he lost widely in the first round of the 2012 Olympics in London, where Joshua won gold and launched a career that could yet scale the heights.
Breazeale’s record is littered with anonymous opponents, including Fred Kassi, a 36-year-old from Cameroon who went seven ugly rounds with Hughie Fury in April before losing on a technicality because the callow British heavyweight was cut accidentally, and was leading on points.
Apart from the 32-year-old Cuban Yasmany Consuegra, whose chin let him down inside three rounds, the rest of his dancing partners were old, mediocre, lacking in ambition or all three. But that is the state of the division and it is Joshua’s good fortune to be ruling a part of it because he will move on fairly quickly from this engagement to much bigger things.
It should be another stepping-stone fight for Joshua, winner of all his 16 professional bouts by early-to-mid-rounds stoppage. There are far bigger fish to fry in the heavyweight division than fringe American contenders such as Martin and Breazeale – as his promoter, Eddie Hearn, and Hearn’s father, Barry, have said this week.
According to Hearn Sr, Joshua can be the dominant heavyweight for the next decade. Eddie has either Tyson Fury or Wladimir Klitschko in view, with David Haye a possible contender next year, and a fight against Deontay Wilder, the formidable but eminently beatable owner of the WBC title, is a pay-per-view blockbuster waiting to be made. Hearn Jr said this week: “We do have a huge amount of revenue here to protect.” He certainly does – and Mr Breazeale is unlikely to be an intruder to detain the Joshua Train for long.
Hearn has another recently acquired asset to exploit in Chris Eubank Jr, who has an undercard obligation against Tom Doran to fulfil but who, more importantly, is within a signed contract for what could be the fight of the year: against Gennady Golovkin, the best middleweight in the business.
“There have been lots of conversations with Tom Loeffler [the champion’s promoter], contracts drafted and terms virtually agreed,” Hearn told Sky Sports. “He shouldn’t overlook Tom Doran but I had a good chat with him yesterday and it’s a big opportunity for him. There are a few things to tie up but, if everyone really wants the fight, it’s there for him to sign.”
The best fight of Saturday night – as every fan knows – is that between George Groves and Martin Murray at super-middleweight.
This might be a last chance for Groves – whose three defeats have come in world title fights – to redraw his credentials.
Murray, who has failed four times in world title challenges – a creditable draw with Felix Sturm, a dubious away points loss to Sergio Martínez, a brave tilt at Golovkin and a split-decision defeat by Arthur Abraham, when he was docked a point for holding – is marginally better placed to kick on from here. I suspect he will.
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