More questions than answers?
Monday 14 December 2015 10:22, UK
What did we learn from watching Anthony Joshua dig deeper than ever before to stop the rampaging Dillian Whyte?
Joshua rallied back from absorbing some damaging punches to eventually knock out Whyte in terrifying fashion in the seventh round.
Sky Sports have considered five talking points...
The sight of Joshua's colossal torso teetering above wobbly legs looked like an almighty fall could have broken the ring canvas, but he remained rooted on his feet after enduring the first big punch of his career.
His 14 previous bouts had passed largely without back-and-forth exchanges but now Joshua has emphatically proved that he can take some punishment. Whyte, already badly stung, landed a short left hook in the second round that sent Joshua quivering all over the ring. By not crashing immediately to the ground, he ticked a crucial box but it was his ability to shake off the cobwebs in the subsequent minutes that was most impressive. Whyte likely took the third round as Joshua's grin turned to a grimace but the Olympic medal winner intelligently bided his time by hiding behind a jab until the fuzziness had evaporated.
As the fight wore on and became largely a battle of wills, Joshua's grit still stood up to the test. By this point he knew that he couldn't recklessly throw haymakers for fear of what Whyte might send back. Yet he was still able to consider his options and pick his combinations, while planted firmly in the trenches. Joshua proved he possesses a heavyweight chin - but more importantly, he showed that he still retains savviness even through the shock of pain.
Joshua's immense physique might be the envy of sports fans and sportsmen alike but, as Frank Bruno and his boulder-like muscles found out, it does not lend itself to a cardiovascular marathon of 36 minutes.
We had never seen him box beyond the third round prior to Saturday night resulting in obvious questions about how deep his gas tank is, but the real issue is whether he could continue to pump blood around his gargantuan frame for the necessary duration of 12 rounds. He might look like a Ferrari but it is easy to overlook the practicalities of a Fiat.
Whyte ripped in too many body shots for it to have been a coincidence - he was targeting Joshua's stomach and ribcage to make him breathe heavier. Couple that with the agony of taking shots to the face, which make muscles seize up and expend more energy, Joshua will have proved to himself that he has the energy reserves to box deep into a fight. For a few rounds his punches lacked zip but, as he composed himself and drew breath, he finished Whyte with the type of explosion and quickness that he has so often shown in the first round.
Should they fight away from the boxing ring, Whyte had threatened he would wipe the floor with his more refined opponent. Yet during the ugly melee after the first round, as rules were discarded and mobsters brawled, Joshua was at home in the chaos.
Despite Whyte's taunts that he is a "good boy" and the adulation following his Olympic medal, Joshua paid his dues before his fame grew in a gritty and rugged journey to his current status. When blood boils and tempers escalate, he is no stranger. Aware that his latest fight was for personal animosity as much a gold belt, Joshua immediately began mercilessly jibing at Whyte from the opening bell. He would land a big punch, then mock his victim - he would threaten a second, then wouldn't hesitate to deliver.
The antics after the opening three minutes, it shouldn't be forgotten, were caused by Whyte's furious reaction to a very late punch from Joshua than landed (and was arguably thrown) after the bell. Did he care? "It's a fight," he shrugged when questioned afterwards, just before refusing to hand any respect to Whyte's brave efforts. This is the fight game, where the greatest riches go to the toughest man, and Joshua excels in this cut-throat market.
In the manner of his defeat, British boxing may have unearthed another heavyweight prospect in Whyte. Depending on who you believed before Saturday, he was just another faceless foe on the mighty Joshua's to-do list or the man whose psychological warfare and ghetto mentality would expose the fragile Olympian.
The truth always comes out in a fight because there are no hiding places or excuses for the result. The reality is that Whyte was neither Joshua's Kryptonite nor a walk-over, he was something far more enthralling. He was a visibly less talented boxer, with far less physical gifts, who demonstrated that an iron-will can often take you further than those more obviously appealing traits.
The punches that Whyte withstood might have surprised even himself. He would never have felt anything like Joshua's shots, wearing those small gloves, beforehand so could never have guaranteed his durability. But his sheer desire to remain in the contest until the bitter end, even when wading through deep water became very dangerous, ensured that his career trajectory will not nosedive despite a loss. The finish was violent - Whyte went out on his shield, the only way he knew how - and while he proved his own mettle he ironically helped to build Joshua's reputation, too.
Did Joshua show more vulnerabilities than ever before? Or, was he simply punished by the dangerous Whyte for the same habits that he has previously be forgiven for? It is a fine line, made even finer when the margin for error is decided by an 18-stone man's fist, but the previously invincible Joshua certainly has chinks in his armour after Saturday night.
He was hit more than ever before, by an opponent who was significantly shorter with a reach disadvantage. Future opponents can't simply rely on the hope that they clock Joshua with a punch so ferocious that he collapses quickly, because such a simplistic method is likely to be inadequate without a Plan B. Whyte, at least, proved that it is possible to breach Joshua's reach although the perils of doing so will get anyone hurt. It is imperative, although easier said than done, not to stand in front of the terrifying knockout artist. The way to nullify those frightening punches is to somehow force Joshua backwards or dance in perpetual movement around the outside, thereby neutralising his ability to plant his feet and generate crushing force from his back leg.
So, the perfect candidate would match Joshua's height and reach, have a proven ability to move his feet quickly for 12 rounds, and show no fear to a respected puncher. Do we know anyone like that?