Last Saturday night, at London’s 02 Arena, we saw British heavyweight Anthony Joshua (9-0, 9 KO’s) add to his perfect record with a win against Denis “Darth Vader” Bakhtov (38-10, 25 KO’s), defeating the Russian inside of two rounds, the bout marked the end of Joshua’s first full year as a professional fighter.
Lets assess the recently turned 25 year-old, Olympic gold medalist’s first year as a pro.
October 5 2013
Opponent – Emanuele Leo (8-0, 3KOs)
TKO 1 (scheduled for 6 rounds)
14 months on from claiming Olympic gold, Anthony Joshua began his professional journey in front of a huge crowd, full of anticipation at the 02 Arena in London, where he faced Italian Emanuele Leo, who was something of a surprise choice for a first opponent, not because anyone had heard of him (which they hadn’t) but because he came to England with an undefeated record but despite this, even the most casual of fans knew what to expect and it didn’t take him too long, stopping his opponent inside the very first round. With this performance “AJ” managed to give us a brief but exciting showcase of his power, size and strength. A promising début that couldn’t have gone any better, the potential was clear for all to see.
October 26 2013
Opponent – Paul Butlin (14-19, 3KOs)
TKO 2 – (scheduled for 6 rounds)
Three weeks after his début, Joshua was featured in a bout on a Kell Brook under-card in Sheffield, against experienced but limited journeyman Paul Butlin, whose losing record gave a clear indication of just how easy this fight was going to be. Again the power was very evident as Butler was visibly hurt with every big shot Joshua landed before being knocked down by a huge right-hand in the second which caused a cut above one of the journeyman’s eyes. He bravely got up but from his body language it was obvious he didn’t want any-more and his corner quickly came to his aid, throwing in the towel to signal the end of the fight. When announcing the win, the MC strangely labeled Joshua as “the people’s future champion.”
November 14 2013
Opponent – Hrvoje Kisicek (5-6, 1KO)
TKO 2 (scheduled for 6 rounds)
Back in London, this time at the famous York Hall, Joshua’s third bout was his second in-a-row against an opponent with a losing record. The fight appeared in the midst of a Prizefighter tournament which featured washed up, former great James Toney, who is very complimentary about the Brit. Joshua’s Croatian opponent on the night didn’t enter the ring in great shape but he had previously taken Tyson Fury’s brother Hughie 6 rounds (losing on points), so at least that gave “AJ” something to compare his performance against. Kisicek offered next to nothing and Joshua stayed composed behind a good jab in the first, before deciding to get the mismatch over with in the second, dropping him with a great combo before forcing the stoppage.
February 1 2014
Opponent – Dorian Darch (7-2, 1KO)
TKO 2 (scheduled for 6 rounds)
“AJ” fought on a card in Wales for his 5th professional bout. His first of 2014, against a fighter whose looks somewhat resembled a much bigger George Groves, if you don’t believe me then just look for the fight on YouTube, unfortunately that was the only resemblance and Dorian Darch, a civil engineer by trade, lacked any of “Saint” George’s skills inside the square circle. Joshua who didn’t look quite as accurate as he had previously still established the jab well in the first before unloading a combo which would have no doubt seen the end of the fight but the badly swollen Darch was saved by the bell. The second round didn’t last too long as Joshua continued where he left off in the first and ended it with a massive left hand. Dorian Darch was brave but this was the first Joshua fight which really felt pointless, it was hard to see what he could’ve learnt from this one.
March 1 2014
Opponent – Hector Alfredo Avila (22-15-1, 14KOs)
KO 1 (scheduled for 6 rounds)
Joshua received an incredible reception on his way to the ring on this Ricky Burns under-card bout against Argentine Hector Avila, who despite coming into the fight with a fair bit of experience, had been knocked out 11 times in his career and several of those losses had been while competing as a cruiserweight. He had however, somehow gone 9 rounds against Derek Chisora (losing via a TKO) so at least that gave Joshua something to compete against but the match itself was no competition. Avila looked tiny in comparison to the huge Joshua who wasted no time, getting rid of him with ease, winning by a knockout in the first round with a clubbing left hook, the Scottish fans correctly chanted “Easy, Easy”.
May 31 2014
Opponent – Matt Legg (7-2, 3KOs)
KO 1 (scheduled for 6 rounds)
It felt to me that Eddie Hearn’s missed a great opportunity in this fight because it was at Wembley Stadium on the stacked Froch/Groves 2 under-card but it was on far too early in the night, meaning that the majority of the stadium was still empty, including most of the seats ringside, so Joshua didn’t get the full experience he really should have. His opponent Matt Legg, despite landing one left hand and just missing with another early on, really offered nothing in terms of competition. Another easy first round KO this time via a great right hand uppercut.
July 12 2014
Opponent – Matt Skelton (28-8, 23KOs)
TKO 2 (scheduled for 6 rounds)
Former Kick-boxer Matt Skelton was the first recognizable name on Joshua’s record (at least to British boxing fans) however he was 47 years-old, many years passed his prime, his timing was gone and he was on a 2 fight losing streak before entering the ring in Liverpool’s Echo Arena. Just like all of Joshua’s victims before him, we all knew Skelton had no chance and no-one was surprised when the fight ended in the 2nd round, a massive right hand sent Skelton crashing into the ropes before going down, he was up at the count of 9 before being stopped shortly afterwards.
September 13 2014
Opponent – Konstantin Arich (21-9-2, 17 KOs)
TKO 3 (scheduled for 8 rounds)
35 year-old German Konstsntin Airich has lasted longer than anyone else on Anthony Joshua’s resume, managing to make it into the third round before being halted, he first hit the canvas following a great combo which saw Joshua being warned for hitting whilst his opponents knee was down. The towel was thrown in from Arich’s corner not too long after he got up on unsteady legs. What was most impressive with Joshua in this fight was the continual use of his jab, which was no doubt improved whilst training with the Klitschko camp.
October 11 2014
Opponent – Denis Bakhtov (38-9, 25KOs)
TKO 2 (scheduled for 10 rounds)
“AJ” was back headlining at the 02 area where his journey had begun a little under a year ago for his 9th fight, his first scheduled 10 rounder, and it was for the vacant WBC International heavyweight belt, which despite being a fairly insignificant title, at least meant that by winning it, Joshua would now be in the world rankings. Despite his opponent Denis Bakhtov having the advantage in experience, it was instantly clear for all to see that at 5′ 11″, he was very undersized in comparison to Joshua’s 6′ 6″ frame. Anthony, as with every fight so far, won with ease, I didn’t like the strange almost Roy Jones-like show-boating when he was periodically sticking out tongue during the action but I do like Joshua’s mean streak. He looks like he has that much needed killer instinct which was showcased more so in this fight than any others previous and led to him stopping his opponent on his feet in the second.
Another thing I like about AJ is that he always seems to handle himself well outside of the ring, saying all the right things, although I do find it somewhat ironic when people describe themselves as “humble”, something Joshua has done on several occasions. What else impressed me on Saturday night was when Joshua stated he had to go and complete the rounds he didn’t do in the ring on the pads with his trainer Tony Sims immediately following the victory.
With his size, power and good looks he is a marketing dream and it’s no surprise that Sky Sports have invested so heavily in Joshua and I also feel that at only 25 years old, it’s fine for them (Sky) and Match Events to bring him along properly, at a steady pace, especially considering he didn’t have many fights as an amateur (he only started boxing at the age of 18).
I do however disagree with a couple of his opponents and also his next one, Michael Sprott (42-22, 17KOs) whom Joshua is scheduled to face on the under-card of the Cleverly/Bellew PPV bout on November 22., surely this is a step back from Bakhtov and Sprott and much like Skelton, is a name but one that is at least 10 years past his best.
Of course there will be question marks surrounding Joshua until he steps up a few more levels. Such as: What happens the first time he gets hit cleanly? A strong body doesn’t always equate to a solid chin. Can he fight on the inside? What will happen when he fights someone who can take his power? What about his defense? Does he keep his hands too low? And finally, what will happen when he fights against someone his own size? Perhaps some of these questions will be answered next year against David Price (18-2, 15KOs), who was ringside on Saturday and mentioned by Eddie Hearn as a potential Joshua opponent in 2015. At 6′ 9″ the Liverpudlian is even taller than “AJ” and has one of the most devastating right hands in all of boxing. Price has since come out and warned Joshua that he will take his head off of his shoulders.
With all the hype surrounding him, keeping his head on his big shoulders is something Joshua is going to have to continue to do not just inside of the ring but also on the outside of it if he wants to truly fulfill his promising potential. Can he live up to the high expectations? Only time will tell but as for his first year as a pro, it’s so far so good for Anthony Joshua