Anthony Joshua’s march to the top of the heavyweight mountain will not be stopped – not by challengers such as the American Dominic Breazeale, who brought a 17-0 record to London and left with his reputation in pieces after absorbing 19 minutes of sustained punishment.
The Watford man keeps the IBF title he won from another 30-year-old Californian, Charles Martin – who lasted less than three rounds. Breazeale, a former college quarterback, at least got into the seventh but he made little impression on the IBF champion, who remains on track, with Showtime watching live, to break the heavyweight scene in America. His CV now reads: 17 fights, 17 wins, 17 stoppages. That is very saleable.
Joshua made his opponent flinch with the power and speed of his jab from the first exchanges to the crunching conclusion. When he let his hands go in the second, the challenger at least did not fold like Martin, but his replies were crude and desperate. He shipped a huge right and his legs went on him midway through the session. Reduced to grabbing, with his eyes blinking in confused pain, he might have reckoned the end was not far away, but he hung in bravely.
He had spoken eloquently and politely during the week but this was no time for niceties. He either went to war or out the door. Joshua beat him on the outside and at close quarters, as Breazeale’s right eye steadily closed, making his cause forlorn. But he took his licks and was still there after nine minutes.
Joshua’s power is deadening rather than paralysing, and his well selected head shots were draining Breazeale of his ambition. Frustrated and hurting, he was still there by the halfway stage, though, swishing the air with haymakers and giving the champion a stare at the end of the sixth – before going to his corner on unsteady legs.
Joshua could hardly have looked more composed. When Breazeale was dumped for the second time in the seventh, blood pouring from his nose, he was a picture of misery. But one brave fighter.
South Londoner Dillian Whyte – stopped by Joshua last December, his only professional defeat – put down his own heavyweight credentials – and his opponent – although he was wilder than an untamed horse while it lasted. Whyte caught up with Ivica Bacurin, a rugged 34-year-old spoiler from Croatia with a 25-9-1 CV, in the sixth round.
Conor Benn, Nigel’s son, continues his impressive progress in the professional game, making short work of Lukas Radic inside a round. Benn, well prepared at light-welter, will no doubt move through the weights and, after four unbeaten outings, looks a lively customer.
Chris Eubank Jr, Chris’s son, is already flying high. In his first outing since the fight with the British middleweight champion Nick Blackwell – who has recovered fully after a worrying spell in hospital – he tuned up for a yet-to-be ratified shot at Gennady Golovkin at the end of the year by outclassing the 28-year-old Welshman Tom Doran.
Doran, unbeaten in 17 fights, was down in the third but still returning fire at the bell. However, three knockdowns in the fourth, the last one from a heavy uppercut, did for him and Eubank’s title was safe – as was his date with Golovkin.
In what most insiders reckoned would be the fight of the night, George Groves and Martin Murray – with seven failed world title bids behind them, albeit each of them brave efforts – put their considerable and contrasting talents on the line for perhaps one more stab at the big time. It will be the Londoner who goes looking now for the best paying fights at 12st, after a rugged, not always convincing points win.
It took him six rounds to find his range until a barrage of heavy shots at the end of the sixth and all the way through the seventh took the stuffing out of Murray. Groves’s size, power and speed began to tell, and he staggered the St Helen’s man with a straight right at the end of the ninth.
Murray rallied to take the 10th but couldn’t nail Groves definitely after shaking him up with two mighty head shots. Only a monumental slip in the 12th round could wreck Groves’s night – and he almost got the knockout Murray needed, except he slipped in centre ring and staggered backwards after landing. They both grinned. It was an honest fight without rancour, the way it should be.
But the loudest cheer of the night was the one that followed a respectful silence through the traditional sounding of 10 bells for the late Muhammad Ali.
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