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Joshua vs Parker: Talking points as new-look Anthony Joshua goes the distance
Last Updated: 05/04/18 2:01pm
Don’t be fooled by the sound of the final bell. Anthony Joshua pieced together his most complete and mature performance ever against Joseph Parker, writes James Dielhenn.
Deep down inside the knockout artist that Joshua became was a longing to be taken seriously as a methodical, skilful 12-round practitioner. His boxing idols, it is no secret, are Wladimir Klitschko and Floyd Mayweather on account of their longevity achieved through carefulness and intelligence. This is always who Joshua has wanted to be.
"I'm trying to display a few different things while I'm here to add to my legacy," Joshua quietly told Sky Sports last year before beating Carlos Takam. It was not the knockout declaration that makes headlines but, then speaking as a 19-0 heavyweight with 19 stoppages, it offered insight that finally manifested itself against Parker in Cardiff.
"What do you know Guillermo Rigondeaux for? Phenomenal skills," Joshua said back then in late 2017. He has never been impressed by the vicious punchers, but was in awe of a tiny Cuban technician.
Step forward, finally, the fighter that Joshua has always aspired to being. Pumping the jab, safe behind his guard, physically imposing on the inside. His 21st win, against Parker on Saturday, is the performance his Olympic upbringing has always been geared towards.
Rob McCracken, his trainer, was having kittens at the chaos of the Klitschko fight that had the rest of us on the edge of our seats. The way Joshua controlled the majority of the Parker bout without endangering himself is the way that McCracken always wanted him to box.
Perhaps the first 18 opponents were just too easy for Joshua. Back when we were analysing him as a prospect, hindsight tells us he was levels above everybody he fought until the past year-or-so.
Now, at the elite end of heavyweight boxing, he will not be afforded the opportunity to blast many rivals away inside a few brutal rounds. Opponents are better prepared, have more ambition, and enough nous to avoid the KO blow.
Klitschko, for example, was Klitschko. Takam was a boulder-like brute who just would not quit. Parker was a fellow world champion who had never been down, and had no intention of changing that.
The most impressive thing Joshua has done in his pro career (which is less than five years old, lest we forget) is acknowledge that everything he has achieved is not enough to propel him to headier heights. He has refused to be satisfied as a monstrous puncher in the first few rounds who cedes authority afterwards because that style, history teaches us, has a limited shelf-life. That he would slip into the comfort-zone of expecting his first punch to end every fight was a worry that can be shelved.
I thought AJ fought a great fight. I kno fans want blood but sometimes it just not there. AJ kept proper distance 2keep JP at end of jap but out or range of JP’s jab. JP’s hands were faster than i thought but his game plan was too one dimensional. Good big un beats a good lil un!— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) March 31, 2018
His engine was the biggest question answered in Cardiff. Gone was the sight of Joshua desperately gasping, as we saw against Klitschko. Nor did he huff and puff through late rounds, as he did against Takam. Joshua was more controlled and composed than ever, unafraid of going the distance.
He was nearly a stone lighter on Saturday (17st 4lbs) than he was previously. The challenge going forward will be maintaining that weight, which is a relatively low figure for a heavyweight with his physique who is growing into his late-20s. Whether it was a one-off achievement to suit a particular fight or a long-term goal now becomes a lifestyle choice but even the upmost dedication cannot facilitate Joshua's preference if 17st 4lbs becomes unnaturally low.
Future opponents can no longer cling to the hope that a sluggish, heavy Joshua will tire - as Parker probably planned for. They must now deal with a fighter who can knock them out early, or accumulate rounds. Joshua must master how to threaten both outcomes without becoming stuck in the middle and offering neither. It is something he has always worked towards, but only recently demonstrated.