Anthony “AJ” Joshua was a part of a thrilling British grudge match Saturday in front of a sold-out O2 Arena that was able to see Joshua knock out his arch-rival from the amateurs, Dillian Whyte, in the seventh round to claim the British title.
Joshua has an extremely loyal fan base who absolutely adores him- maybe a little bit too much. They think that AJ at this very moment is the best heavyweight in the world and is a force to be reckoned with immediately.
Joshua faced the first real test of his career in former amateur foe Dillian Whyte and faced his first bit of adversity in the process. Joshua got stunned by a left hook and a few follow-up punches that had his legs a bit on the shaky side in the second round.
Joshua did do a marvelous job staying composed as well as continuing to throw punches after he got hurt, something that many fighters simply cannot do. Yet, the question that kept getting asked after the fight’s conclusion was part of the prototypical examination of a fighter in this kind of fight and at this stage in his career.
The question being asked was did Whyte just expose Joshua’s chin?
Neither you nor I can answer that question, but the fact of the matter is that it has become a big concern that will hover over AJ in his following fights; especially if he is facing more prominent power punchers than Whyte.
That’s the issue, though, and we have no idea just how powerful Whyte truly is because we do not have a significant gauge just yet. We haven’t seen Whyte knock out solid veteran heavyweights with reputations for having solid chins and usually don’t taste the canvas.
Joshua, in my opinion, has a solid resume thus far for only having fifteen fights. He stopped Kevin Johnson in two rounds, a man who had lost four of his last six fights but had never been knocked out or stopped. And Joshua did it with ease and it could have been a first round stoppage.
The resume of Whyte is not impressive. In his eleventh fight, he fought a guy with a 9-49 record and followed that up with fighting an opponent with a fresh 1-0 record- not exactly worthy challengers. This is not on Whyte who was regarded as little more than a prospect, and prospects do get a lot of soft touches, but these fights were last November and December (pretty recent).
The point is this: there is a possibility that Joshua got buzzed by a boxer in Whyte whose power may not translate to the next level. So with that in mind, how could Eddie Hearn possibly say things as foolish as, “I don’t think there is anyone in this room who would pick Wilder over Joshua right now” and, “David Haye-Joshua summer 2016.”
It’s not fair to AJ.
Could Joshua knock out Haye and Wilder if he fought them next? Possibly, it’s boxing and anything can happen as we have seen time and time again. However, why risk it? Why put Joshua up against two guys who are proven power punchers at the championship level this early in his career? For what?
The memory of David Price is still vivid, and not to compare Joshua to Price, but David Price was the former “next great British heavyweight prospect” and he got rushed into a fight that he was not prepared for and from which he never recovered.
Price faced Tony Thompson in his 16th career fight, and after that Price fought a beyond shot Matt Skelton. Thompson in his fight prior to upsetting Price back to back, challenged for the heavyweight title and got knocked out by Wladimir Klitschko.
Also noteworthy, at that point, Thompson had lost two fights since 2000: both to the former heavyweight kingpin. So Thompson was a well-respected veteran at the time who people thought was done and on his way to becoming a journeyman when he booked the Price fight.
Price just may have a glass chin that Thompson exposed before he was in a big fight and he will never be able to compete at a world level. Or the first knockout loss to Thompson mentally defeated him and he was never the same after he lost his “0.” People do not realize how big of a role your mentality plays in the sport of boxing.
Price needs to be brought up when mentions of Joshua challenging for a world title surface, or when the possibilities of him facing a tough former world title challenger persist because no boxing fan should want to see what happened to Price happen to AJ.
Finally, where does AJ go from here? Here are the TOP 5 opponents for Joshua in 2016.
- Dominic Breazeale (16-0, 14 KOs)
Joshua vs. Breazeale would be another fight for Joshua against an undefeated but not so highly thought of prospect with power. Breazeale is a former football player who has immense size and solid knockout power, but seems to be far too stiff and immobile in the ring- a criticism Joshua has received as well.
Joshua would most likely outclass and dominate Dominic within three rounds, but Breazeale is one of the few prospects in the heavyweight division today who could test the chin of Joshua, much like Whyte did despite not being the superior boxer.
- Johann Duhaupas (32-3, 17 KOs)
Ah yes, what better way to tick off “The Bronze Bomber” than to stop the opponent he just stopped in a more impressive fashion? Duhaupaus would be a good step up for Joshua in 2016. Duhapaus had never been down in his career before being stopped by Wilder, so he has some iron lodged in his chin.
If Joshua were able to muster an electrifying knockout victory over Johann, it would raise a lot of eyebrows about his power. Also, Duhapaus does not have the reputation of a boxer with knockout power, which makes this fight more enticing for Hearn to make.
- Dereck Chisora (24-5, 16 KOs)
“Del-Boy” has fought four times since losing his rematch with Tyson Fury, all against below average opposition, making a Joshua-Chisora fight that much easier for AJ to dominate. Dereck has been in the ring with the likes of Vitali Klitschko, David Haye, Malik Scott, and others. Chisora would most likely salivate at yet another shot in a big-time heavyweight fight.
AJ would get to test his power vs a fellow Brit who despite a real attempt to clean up his antics, could make for a very exciting and anticipated build-up to the fight.
- Erkan Teper (15-0, 10 KOs)
Teper was originally set to face Robert Helenius this Saturday for his first defense of his European belt that he won when he knocked out David Price this summer, but that fight was canceled, and Teper is now looking to get back into the ring: why not vs Joshua?
Teper has faced solid opposition since his pro debut, and has shown explosive power in most, but not all, of his fights. This fight makes sense for Joshua because it would be for the European belt while Joshua already possesses the Commonwealth and British belts.
Teper would be one of the several heavyweight contenders who could test, and possibly expose, Joshua’s chin. A fight between these two would be perfect for end of 2016 as both boxers should stay busy before then in step up fights.
- David Haye (26-2, 24 KOs)
Yes, I do think that Joshua should not be rushed into a fight that he is not ready for, yet, this fight seems inevitable at this point. It is no coincidence that David Haye was a member of the Sky Sports broadcast team in the studio analyzing Joshua’s last fight, and tweeted Joshua should fight Chisora before a “big summer clash”.
If Haye-Joshua happened this summer, I would most likely favor Haye, if he looks close to his normal self in his return fight. This fight would be perfect in December of 2016 possibly after Joshua fights a few times in 2016 against guys below Haye’s level.
Joshua and Haye to be #1 on the list, due to the fact that it would probably be the biggest fight on UK soil since the Froch-Groves rematch at Wembley, it’s a chance for Joshua to prove he belongs on the world level, and it would be a chance for David Haye to earn back some of the respect he lost vs Wlad.
So, rushing Joshua would be far from intelligent. If he is brought up the right way, by the time he does possibly lose, he will already be a star and will be able to recover, rather than losing as a prospect never being able to recover. The future of the heavyweight division is not dependent on AJ, but one can’t deny that he is the hot prospect in boxing’s most historic division at the moment.