Frank Warren: I like Anthony Joshua but to conquer the pro game he needs to face men his own age and size

EXCLUSIVE COLUMN: This week Frank Warren looks at the career so far of the London 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight champion

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The Independent Online

I am one of Anthony Joshua’s biggest fans. It is no secret that I tried to sign him after he became the London 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight champion as he is a fine prospect who one day may win the world heavyweight title.

Having said that, I am disappointed that the opponents he has faced so far in his 11-fight professional career have not been of sufficient quality to test either his durability or his chin – the two big questions that need answering.

The latest, the American Jason Gavern, was duly despatched in three rounds, a predictable outcome as he had been beaten 20 times before and stopped or knocked out in half of those. As a contest, it told us nothing about Joshua’s true professional potential.

Joshua talks the part, looks the part and so far punches the part. But can he act the part when the curtain goes up on the real show once the auditions are over? Surely it is time he was let off the leash against stiffer opposition to see whether he really can be a top dog of war. In my view, he fought better opposition as an amateur, certainly in the Olympics, than he has as a pro.

Of course, it is not unusual for young heavyweight hopes to be fed initially a staple diet of soft touches, but the 6ft 5in Joshua has faced a string of much smaller and older opponents who have punched well below their weight. The combined age of the last three is 112. He has yet to meet anyone currently under 30 and three have been in their forties. One (Matt Skelton, knocked out in one,) was 48.

 

Joshua is 25, just a year younger than Tyson Fury, who is No 1 contender for Wladimir Klitschko’s WBO title and won the English title in only his eighth fight.

Leon Spinks, also an Olympic champion, had only seven pro bouts before he fought – and famously beat – Muhammad Ali.

Next up is another American, the well-seasoned warhorse Kevin Johnson, who is 35. Although he’s lost four of his last five and is not a noted puncher, he has never been stopped, so hopefully he can take Joshua more than just a round or three so we can finally see what he’s made of.

After that, surely Britain’s golden boy should be stepping up in class to tackle, say, either Dereck Chisora, David Price or new kid on the block – Brixton’s unbeaten Dillian Whyte, who is 26, knocked down Joshua and beat him as an amateur.

As I say, I really like Big Josh. But it is time he started fighting men nearer his own age – and size.

Comeback king Lee will need luck of Irish for Quillin test

When Irishman Andy Lee stormed from behind last December to bludgeon the previously unbeaten Russian Matt Korobov and claim the WBO world middleweight title, it was arguably the biggest ring upset of 2014. More of the same will be required if the man from Limerick is to hang on to that belt when he makes his first defence against another undefeated foe, Peter Quillin, tomorrow night. It is a tough ask, not least because they clash in the American’s Brooklyn backyard, but I believe Lee, 30, has a great chance.

Quillin is a class act, but I’d like to see what happens when he takes one on the whiskers, as he surely will from Lee.

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Andy Lee celebrates his world title triumph

One thing Lee has going for him is the ability to land a surprise equaliser, which he did when clobbering Korobov in the sixth when well behind on all three scorecards. Another is that Lee will not be fazed by fighting in the US. He won the title in Las Vegas and America is where he has spent most of his 36-fight career.

Quillin is the former title holder, having never lost the belt in the ring. He had been due to defend against Korobov but turned down a career-best $1.4m pay day, citing emotional problems over a family situation.

Billy Joe Saunders will be watching with great interest as he is officially next in line for the winner.

I can't wait for Stevenson vs Kovalev

Over the next few weeks M&P will become as familiar a pairing in the public consciousness as M&S. 

Yet while Mayweather v Pacquiao undoubtedly will be the event of the year, the fight of the year is likely to be the light-heavyweight collision between Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev, two of the fiercest punchers and hardest men the business.

While Superman v The Krusher may sound more like WWE than WBO or WBA, no fight is more eagerly awaited by the hard core fans.   

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Sergey Kovalev floored Bernard Hopkins in the first round

Haitian-born Canadian Stevenson, aka ‘Superman’, brilliantly outclassed durable Sakio Bika in defence of his WBC crown last weekend  while in his last fight WBA and IBF champion Kovalev, the undefeated ‘Krusher’ from Russia, blitzed Jean Pascal to set up a potentially sensational showdown that has now gone out to purse offers..

These are not Sunshine Boys like M&P but two perfectly-matched rivals at their peak who will contest a 50-50 fight and unite the light-heavyweight division for the first time since Roy Jones  in 1999.  Can’t wait.

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