Gosh, Josh, You Were Pretty Good!

By Mike Casey on December 15, 2015
Gosh, Josh, You Were Pretty Good!
We’re talking about the heavyweights and any crazy thing can happen. (Kevin Quigley)

There is something about Adonis-like fighters that always makes us wonder if they will shatter like marble when seriously struck…

Is Anthony Joshua another Frank Bruno? No, young Anthony would appear to be much more than that. On Saturday night at the O2 Arena in London, the towering Joshua, 6’6” and 245 pounds, from Watford in Hertfordshire, answered some important questions when he knocked out bitter rival Dillian Whyte, 6’4” and 247 pounds, from Brixton in London, after 1:27 seconds of the seventh round.

The sole knockdown of the fight came in that concluding round when Joshua hit the jackpot with a powerful right to the jaw that unhinged the tough and gritty Whyte and put him in dire straits. Once again, Joshua proved himself to be a ruthless and clinical finisher. Guarding against recklessness, he calmly fired home the payoff punches that sent Whyte crashing down for the full count near the ropes.

However, had big Anthony not been made of the right stuff, he might well have been out for the count himself in a thrilling third round.  Whyte, after weathering a sustained attack, stopped Joshua in his tracks with a big left hook to the jaw that clearly shook England’s great heavyweight hope. It was the first significant test of Joshua’s punch resistance and he coped with the situation admirably. Although dazed and hurt, he kept his composure and only momentarily lost his thread as he continued to move and push out punches. His feet weren’t glued to the canvas, he didn’t flounder hopelessly, he didn’t panic.

The determined Whyte tried hard to capitalize on his advantage with heavy shots to the head and body but couldn’t take Joshua out. That one blip aside, Joshua was always in control of the fight with his superior skills and movement. Although the contest was inevitably billed as a battle of punchers, Anthony was the better boxer by some distance, cleverer and more varied than his willing and tenacious opponent.

Not that Dillian Whyte should feel too bad about the result that saw him lose his undefeated record and drop to 16-1. The Brixton bomber gave everything he had and was always a tough and dangerous foe in a tense and often exciting battle. His reputation as a hitter made the fight constantly intriguing. Whyte has plenty to offer for the future. He boxes capably, hits hard and has the defiance and bloody-mindedness of Dereck Chisora when under fire.

Dillian will be feeling sore at his loss, but he needs to temper his pride and anger and come back sensibly. One hopes that he doesn’t do a ‘George Groves’ and press for an immediate rematch that he would probably lose. Conversely, a return go would ideally suit Joshua and provide him with another valuable test.

The pattern of the fight was set in a highly charged first round in which both men got straight down to work and tested each other’s mettle with heavy blows. Neither wanted the round to end and there were incredible scenes at the bell when Joshua kept punching and Whyte replied in kind. Dillian almost comically missed Anthony with a good old-fashioned haymaker, but there was nothing funny about the ring invasion that ensued. A group of fans stormed through the ropes to protest Joshua’s infraction of the rules, and at some point in all the commotion referee Howard Foster took a blow to the nose beyond the call of duty and shed the only blood of the night.

An experienced and competent official, Foster cleared the ring and then called a time-out at the start of the second round to remind messrs. Joshua and Whyte of the bell’s purpose. All in all, the toughness of the fight and its side attractions proved an excellent test of Joshua’s mental strength and durability. His stamina was equally impressive. Having never traveled beyond the third round in his previous 14 bouts, Anthony proved that he could go much deeper into a fight without his boxing becoming ragged or his work rate significantly dipping.

Whyte concentrated mainly on a body attack in the hope of weakening Joshua. Although the heavier man by two pounds, Dillian often looked like a bulldog trying to move a rhinoceros. Joshua kept jabbing and showed some nice combination punching too. His movement is surprisingly fluid for a man of his size and will improve with experience. He possesses the vital killer instinct and just needs to protect himself a little more carefully and learn how to better mask his distress when he is hurt. Prudent matchmaking over the coming months against sensible and testing opposition should see Joshua continue to improve and add to his arsenal.

By his own admission, Joshua also needs to maintain his concentration in the ring and not be swayed into technical errors by the roar of the crowd or the provocations of his opponent. The Whyte match was a major box office attraction for the London fight scene and it seemed to go to everyone’s head. Joshua admitted that he got swept away by all the hype. “It wasn’t sensible to fight on emotion,” he conceded. “I took some big shots which I had no need to take. I must rely on my boxing as well as my power.”

Rigidity

Nevertheless, Joshua certainly doesn’t suffer from Frank Bruno’s rigidity or boxing-by-numbers approach, although the comparisons are understandable. There is something about Adonis-like fighters that always makes us wonder if they will shatter like marble when seriously struck.

Bruno was the perfect physical specimen and could certainly wallop, but he looked constantly stiff and lacked the necessary mental toughness and ruthlessness to make him a great and genuine world champion. He eventually limped over the finish line to win the WBC title from Oliver McCall in 1995, but only after a losing an earlier challenge to Tim Witherspoon and twice being savaged by Mike Tyson.

Although he improved slightly with time, Bruno could never paper over the serious cracks in his make-up. In his winning fight against Floyd (Jumbo) Cummings in 1983, Frank was nearly knocked out by a punch that made his body shudder in installments from head to toe. He was all but out. It was as if Cummings had hit him on the head with a scythe and sliced right down through his body. Frank never did quite learn how to hide his distress and bluff his way through a crisis. A big punch would freeze him and root him to the spot like a statue. Nor could he let the punches flow like Joshua, often resembling a giant in shackles.

Sterner

Joshua is made of sterner stuff, looks more natural and relaxed and is imbued with a far more positive and clinical attitude. He needs to jab more and with greater purpose and authority, and he also needs to move more as well as varying his attack. As things stand, he is too one-dimensional but getting better. Hopefully, further experience will affect these changes and make him a more complete fighter and a harder target to hit. But we’re talking about the heavyweights here and we know that any crazy thing can happen. There are many different ways in which a man can get knocked out, even the toughest of men. Ask Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

Joshua, for now, is looking good and doesn’t seem to be getting carried away by his record of 15 consecutive knockout wins, mainly against men who were meant to get knocked out. Asked about a fight with Tyson Fury, Anthony replied, “Tyson would be a hard night for me at the moment given his extra years of experience. Although I believe I will win if he is still the man to beat in a year or 18 months.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn reckons Joshua will be ready to challenge for the world title after another three or four fights. That would be rash in the extreme if the heavyweight division had any kind of significant depth of talent, but in fact it is probably quite realistic in today’s pop chart-like ‘straight to number one’ environment. Joshua stands at number 10 in the independent Transnational Boxing Ranking, and the only possible minefields ahead of him would appear to be Fury, Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder. That’s how fallow the field has become.

Not prone to bragging or tiresome boasts, Joshua knows that he needs more rounds and more testing experiences. That’s why he would like to go again with Dillian Whyte. Said Anthony: “This fight was good for me and ideally I would like the rematch because this is one man who can give me the tough rounds I need.”

It is more likely that Joshua will next fight Dereck Chisora, who stopped Jakov Gospic in three rounds on the O2 Arena undercard. Del Boy, quite a busy bee at the moment, thus scored his second win in a week after a trip to Germany saw him halt Peter Erdos in five rounds in Hamburg. That being said, Peter Erdos has a 9-9-4 record while Jakov Gospic checks in with a 16-14 log.

No matter. We know we can rely on Dereck to run his mouth and talk up a match with Joshua as the fight of the century. And it will all be done in the best possible taste!

Mike Casey is a Boxing.com writer and Founder & Editor of ALL TIME BOXING at https://sites.google.com/site/alltimeboxingrankings. He is a freelance journalist and boxing historian and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO).

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  1. Mike Casey 04:02am, 12/17/2015

    Sound advice, Tux - I agree!

  2. tuxtucis 03:38am, 12/17/2015

    At moment Joshua has not the experience and the toughness to fight Fury, so I hope he will wait, cause I like Joshua bioth as man and boxer and I dilsike Fury both man and boxer.

  3. Mike Casey 01:15pm, 12/16/2015

    Good points, Stephen. I too admire Joshua’s calmness and his class outside the ring. The Whyte match was loaded with potential danger for Anthony and I think he passed the test very well. I just hope people don’t get too carried away about him while he is still a work in progress.

  4. Stephen 01:09pm, 12/16/2015

    Re: Bruno - Cummings.  Best comment came from a colleague who said, “when Bruno got hit by Cummings, I looked under the TV to see how far he was going to fall”.  Bruno’s nervous system would keep him up when other righters would go down.  I don’t think it was a conscious thing. 

    The impressive thing about Joshua for me is his attitude to the sport/profession outside the ring.  He’s not getting carried away, he doesn’t claim to be ready for anyone, and clearly in his training he’s not assuming that the next fight will only last 3 rounds.  Very few modern big HWs look as fresh as he did by the 7th round. 

    FWIW I’m not sure Whyte or Chisora are any worse than Deontay Wilder’s current crop of opponents - and as punchers they’re more dangerous.

  5. Clarence George 12:03pm, 12/16/2015

    I’m letting it go, Mike.  I mean, what am I gonna do, boycott your articles?  Yeah, that’ll be the day.

  6. Mike Casey 11:15am, 12/16/2015

    True, Eric. I’m a great admirer of Holyfield. The 220lb Foreman of ‘73/‘74 was the perfect blend physically. Norton looked superb but always vulnerable.

  7. Eric 10:30am, 12/16/2015

    Chuvalo had a very solid physique, like Bonavena. Norton had an impressive upper body, but had the legs of a middleweight. Prime Foreman had a much more solid physique than Norton back in the day. Same thing with Holyfield, Evander had some mighty skinny legs for a 200lb fighter. Holyfield was an Adonis-like fighter who was near unbreakable in his prime.

  8. Mike Casey 10:10am, 12/16/2015

    What can I say, Clarence? An awful oversight on my part! Chuvalo has been the toughest in my lifetime, but ‘ripped’ and ‘Adonis-like’ were hardly the words for George’s physique!

  9. Clarence George 09:45am, 12/16/2015

    All this talk of heavyweights with Adonis-like physiques, and yet nary a mention of Tony Galento.  Disgraceful!

  10. Mike Casey 09:23am, 12/16/2015

    Oh yes - Hamsho was a real toughie!

  11. Eric 09:11am, 12/16/2015

    Touche, Mike. Wlad will never be confused with Marciano, LaMotta, Tex Cobb or George Chuvalo, that’s for sure. In fairness to the Big Cat, a lot of his knockout defeats came when he was past it, and there certainly is no shame in being taken out by a monster like Liston. How about guys with ripped muscles who displayed good whiskers? Mustafa Hamsho comes to mind.

  12. Mike Casey 08:59am, 12/16/2015

    Don’t forget Wlad, Eric!

  13. Eric 08:52am, 12/16/2015

    Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams, another physical specimen, who could be rattled by a solid punch.

  14. Mike Casey 06:29am, 12/16/2015

    Thanks AKT.

  15. AkT 06:24am, 12/16/2015

    Excellent breakdown @Mike Casey

  16. Mike Casey 03:34am, 12/16/2015

    Yes, Blair, quite so. I think Joshua, by his own subsequent admission, was too intent on pleasing the crowd. He needs to vary his work and improve in certain areas before he moves further up. Fury is Fury and you sometimes wonder how he gets away with it. But he’s a canny so-and-so in his own way and gets the job done. So have a thousand other guys over the years who didn’t look that much but confounded the ‘experts’.

  17. Blair 03:25am, 12/16/2015

    I like Joshua. I liked him more before the Whyte fight. I was expecting to see some good body and head movement from AJ, especially considering this was a step up in competition and the fact that DW is known for his erratic bombs. What I saw was a guy ambling forward trying to offload. His power and combinations are good for a big man. Yes his physique looked Adonis-like, but I think he could do with some of the elusiveness of that other Brit fighter; that 6’9” flabby, balding, pasty looking fella who beat Wladimir Klitchko a couple of weeks earlier.

  18. Mike Casey 02:25am, 12/16/2015

    Yes, that’s always the fear, Eric!

  19. Eric 10:15pm, 12/15/2015

    Ken Norton & Mike Weaver were two Adonis-like heavyweights who were known to shatter like marble occasionally.

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