So I've been watching the build-up to the Heavyweight boxing title clash between Champion Anthony Joshua and American Jarrell Miller and laughing at the shenanigans.
Where were they?
Let’s set the scene. The month is October 2013 and Olympic Super Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua is making his professional debut against 8-0 Emanuele Leo.
Wladimir Klitschko, the long reign Heavyweight Champion is defending his IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO titles his title against 26-0 Alexander Povetkin.
His brother Vitali is the WBC champion in recess.
Another Heavyweight is fighting that month. In his 5-year boxing career, he is unbeaten in 30 fights. His name is Deontay Wilder and he is defending his WBC *Continental Americas* Heavyweight title against 21-10-1 Nicolai Firtha.
One fighter not fighting that month is another unbeaten fighter, 5 years into his career. That’s 21-0 Tyson Fury.
Jarrell Miller, also undefeated in his 4-year career had racked up 7 wins. However only one of those wins was against a fighter with a winning record.
When Joshua was making his debut, Wilder, Fury and Miller were around 5-years deep into their career. None of them had fought for a World title. With all due respect, none of them had faced a top contender.
Where is he?
Fast forward to today. Joshua now is 5-year into his career.
He has not only fought for the Heavyweight title, but he has also defended it 6 times. Picking up the IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO titles on the way.
He has fought and beat 6 (previously) undefeated fighters. He has beat the likes of Wladimir Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, Joseph Parker, Dillian Whyte, Carlos Takam, and Dominic Breazeale. With Parker being the only fighter he got into the ring with Joshua and survived until the final bell.
As a result of his achievements in the ring and his business acumen outside it, Joshua is a Pay-Per-View draw who sells out 80,000 seater stadiums in the UK.
He has established himself as the money fight in the Heavyweight division, if not the whole of boxing.
Who is dodging who?
Yet… there is a narrative being banding around that Anthony Joshua is dodging hard fights.
I had to laugh when I heard Miller accuse Joshua of ‘playing a role’. Correct. Joshua is playing the role of a fighter that takes on the toughest challenges and handles his business outside the ring the right way.
Whatever Miller says… he has the chance to fight for his biggest payday and the belts.
I heard Dillian Whyte say Joshua ‘doesn’t want to fight anybody.’ He has got to be joking right? Didn’t Joshua fight him? Didn’t Joshua offer Whyte a rematch? Whyte claimed it was a ‘low ball’ offer however it was more money than Whyte has previously received for a fight by a long way.
I understand Dillian Whyte wanted a rematch clause where the terms would be reversed should he win. Is he serious? He does realise that Joshua is the main draw and that he lost the first fight with Joshua. Joshua would be crazy to offer a rematch (as a voluntary defence) whereby Whyte gets a lion share of any potential rubber-match.
Whatever Whyte says… he passed on the chance to fight for his biggest payday and the belts.
Wilder has mentioned he wants ‘one face, one name, one champion’ and that Joshua passed on a $50m payday. Okay, that disputed but let’s take it as read. What did Wilder turn down?
Whatever Wilder says… he passed on the chance to fight for his biggest payday and the belts.
Fury talks about the ‘biggest (Joshua) let down was not taking the Wilder fight’. Is he serious?
Whatever Fury says… he has the chance to fight for his biggest payday and the belts.
Also it took 10-years of being undefeated professionals for Fury and Wilder to face each other.
Credit to Fury, he rolled the dice against Wilder having been out for so long. However it was obvious that Wilder took the fight on the mistaken belief that Fury was washed up. Had Fury not had his hiatus I wonder how long it would have taken to get a Fury-Wilder fight?
Both fighters can take credit for it being a great fight, that highlighted their strengths and weakness. The bout ending in a draw suited both fighters in a way. Wilder gets to keep his belts knowing that he had Fury all but KO'd. Fury can claim a moral victory without the pressure of having to defend or unify belts.
All of a sudden, Fury and Wilder aren’t so keen to rush into a rematch. They can make good money in tune-up fight or two before going again.
Make it easy
Boxing is a tough sport. I don't begrudge anyone making moves to maximise their revenue ahead of taking on the killers in the division.
What I find more difficult to get my head around is Heavyweights bitching about Joshua of taking the 'easy' route (when he has in reality taken the harder fights, in a shorter timespan) yet taking shortcuts themselves as soon as it is commercially viable to do so.
Pretty much every fighter complaining about Joshua ‘dodging them’ has passed on the chance of fighting AJ, earning their biggest payday (by a long way) and challenging for the belts.
Ironically it is a combination of Joshua and DAZN (fronted by Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn) that has given them that luxury. Joshua and the new streaming service have meant there are now bumper paydays all around in the Heavyweight division.
Upper tier Heavyweights have never had it so good than the current crop (relative to their abilities).
Who’s the man
In the 5-years after Wilder and Fury turned pros, no-one was interested in the Heavyweight division. Their resume of opponents, fighting styles and promotion left much to be deserved. Even after beating Klitschko, people applauded Fury’s achievement but were nonplused by the performance of both fighters.
In his 5-year pro career, Joshua has breathed life and money in the marquee boxing division. Exciting fights in showcase events against tough opposition.
Everyone is claiming to be ‘the man’ at heavyweight. There is only one guy that has really picked up the mantle in the last 5 years and he has the belts to prove it.