Blood and guts brawls will return but Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker showed the noble art of the sweet science

Joshua now owns the IBF, WBA, IBO and the WBO belts and showed enough of what purists like to upset the merchants of boxing savagery

Steve Bunce
Sunday 01 April 2018 12:36
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Anthony Joshua eyes up showdown with Deontay Wilder

It was in the end a fine lesson in the sweet science of heavyweight boxing from Anthony Joshua in front of another 70,000 people on Saturday night at the Principality Stadium.

Joshua used his left hand in a dozen different ways to hit, tame and hurt Joseph Parker and at the final bell, the first time Joshua had heard that chime of relief as a professional, his left hand was raised in victory. Joshua now owns the IBF, WBA, IBO and the WBO belts – the last one changed hands in the ring, Parker losing it and his unbeaten record in a fight that was even more tactical and technical than expected. It is nice to see a heavyweight risk-taker like Joshua fight to a strict punch-by-punch agenda.

There were some that complained, insisting that both looked reluctant to get hit and each somehow settling for a safety-first distance fight. However, it is hard to stage-manage men with the finishing power of Joshua and Parker; Joshua used his boxing brain, Parker needed to take a risk after about six rounds, but that is easy to say from row three and even easier to say from the highest seat in the sweeping stand, where it seems communication with a passing satellite would be easier than shouting at two men in a distant boxing ring.

Joshua delivered so few cracking right hands that I thought by about round three that he had somehow injured it. He had not, instead he admitted that he struggled to find Parker with a clean shot from the right hand and simply settled on the left, which he jabbed, twisted, screwed, pawed and pushed with throughout the fight. It would have been nice to have seen a few more rights crash home, penetrating Parker’s clever lean-away defensive moves and putting the New Zealander under some sustained pressure. Both trainers seemed genuinely impressed at the defensive qualities of the opposition and that is refreshing in any 2am debrief; they each slightly underestimated how good the other fighter was.

Joshua won clear on all three scorecards, left the ring without a blemish on his billboard-face and was quickly dragged into the squabbling over his next opponent. The American Deontay Wilder holds the WBC version of the title, Joshua’s mission is to get the last remaining belt from Wilder and it seems Wilder’s mission is to simply act like a fool and obstruct the process. Wilder talked at the weekend of having a dead fighter on his resume, suggesting he would like that. Joshua shook is head in disbelief when told about Wilder’s comments. “I say a prayer before each fight, I pray we both get back to our mums,” said Joshua, whose life is increasingly being judged on what he says and does away from the ring. Robert McCracken, Joshua’s trainer, gave him a 9 out of 10 for the fight – in life he just might be scoring a ten, which is why 250,000 have paid to see him live in just 11 months.

There is clearly a long, long way to go before the Wilder and Joshua fight is signed, sealed and delivered. Some American boxing isolationist took weird comfort in the fight going the full twelve rounds, found flaws in Joshua’s performance and predicted an easy win for Wilder, somehow transformed into the planet’s baddest man. Odd, because just a few weeks ago Wilder met an ancient Cuban called Luis Ortiz and was saved by the bell and perilously close to defeat when he did a fine Bambi-on-ice impersonation. Joshua would have chipped away at the Ortiz statue all night long. Hopefully the Wilder and Joshua fight can be made, only don’t hold your breath as the negotiating process might simply be too vicious to allow sense to conquer.

Joshua took control early and never looked back

Late on Saturday night there were a few distant hollers of protest at the way the Italian referee, Giuseppe Quartarone, handled the fight. The ref did get too involved but any lunatic claims that he stopped the pair from, as we say in this business, “working inside” is a fantasy; Joshua and Parker are big heavyweights, not compact Filipino feathers and I can count on one hand the so-called “inside work” that I have ever seen from Joshua. The ref was simply not good enough for a fight like this.

A few weeks ago Quartarone handled a bantamweight fight in Monaco and in two weeks he will be back in Cardiff as the only man in the ring for a female European title fight at super-flyweight; the boxers in both fights will be ten stone lighter than Joshua. The fight deserved a stronger referee with a real presence but do not imagine the third man had anything to do with the final result – Joshua had a plan, the picky ref never changed it.

Joshua showed admirable patience to go with his usual power

The truly brutal opposite of the calculating caution in the Joshua waltz took place in the fight before when David Price, once destined for real glory, was matched with former heavyweight world champion Alexander Povetkin, who is one of two or three leading contenders for Joshua’s prizes. Povetkin was lucky to survive an early scare before two punches, one landed on a fully exposed jaw, dropped Price in round five. It was not the massacre Povetkin agreed to; Price was honest enough before the bell to admit he had been hired to get beat. There were glimpses of the old Price, relaxed, booming jab and a right hand that is feared. Price once dropped Joshua in sparring, a knockdown that Joshua has never forgotten.

Joshua boxed to a gameplan and got his reward (Reuters)

At breakfast twelve hours later Price sat, nose broken, over thirty stitches in his mouth, an ugly black line of blood in the four-inches of stitches over his left eye and lived the fight again. “Ste, he was blowing, I could feel I was hurting him,” said Price. He was and the bell saved Povetkin in round three when he tumbled senseless into the ropes. Price will be back, it’s what he does. Povetkin might end up back in a British ring fighting Dillian Whyte, the Brixton boxer at number one in the WBC’s cock-eyed rankings and the man Wilder simply refuses to fight. “He knows I will hit his body all night, he is scared,” said Whyte, whose heartfelt chat over a mixed omelette with Price was lovely.

By late morning on Sunday the boxing caravan had thinned on the streets of Cardiff leaving the filthy urban seagulls to pick over the greasy smears of departed kebabs. Joshua had won and had shown enough of what us purists like to upset the merchants of boxing savagery. The blood and guts brawls will return but Saturday’s fight belonged to the old noble art.

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