It was recently announced that IBF heavyweight title holder Anthony Joshua will make the first defense of his title on June 25th at the 02 Arena in Greenwich, London. His opponent, American Dominic Breazeale 17-0 (15), who competed at the 2012 Olympics when Joshua won a gold medal, last fought in January against Amir Mansour who entered the bout 22-1-1 (16). Breazeale lost all five rounds of the fight and was dropped in the third round. However, Mansour accidentally bit his tongue nearly in half and couldn’t breathe through his mouth or nose. Despite leading on all three scorecards 50-44, he retired on his stool after the fifth round and Breazeale won the vacant WBC Continental America’s title.
Since the fight has been announced most observers have been negative about it, the thought being Breazeale after only 17 fights and 57 rounds boxed as a pro – isn’t ready for Joshua who has only fought 16 times and boxed 34 rounds as a professional. Okay, that’s a fair point, but in all honesty, how many heavyweights in the world not carrying the last name Fury, Klitschko, Wilder, Ortiz or Haye are ready for Joshua? Recently everyone has been saying how exciting the heavyweight division has become, and to a point that is true. But they miss the point in that it’s only exciting and potentially drama filled at the top, between the top five or six guys. After that it’s littered with tweeners and no hopes. So in reality, Joshua cannot fight a killer every time he defends the title because there simply aren’t enough of them.
I have no problem with Joshua defending the title against Breazeale……Anthony just won the title on April 9th. By the time he meets Breazeale in late June, he will have owned the belt for roughly 10 weeks, and that’s not nearly enough time to promote and hype a potential big clash with any of the elite heavyweights holding down spots 1-5. Joshua, if he’s smart, and apparently he is, needs to stay active and in front of the viewing public. He’s getting a lot of attention now and some see him as potentially the best heavyweight prospect since a young Mike Tyson, or the next Lennox Lewis, a fighter whom I consider one of the all-time top-10 heavyweight greats.
For those who say Breazeale is such a terrible opponent for Joshua at this stage of his career, consider the following…..In his 17th bout Tyson fought Mike Jameson 14-9, Lennox Lewis fought Glenn McCrory 28-6, Riddick Bowe fought Jesus Contreras 9-0-1, Vitali Klitschko fought Levi Billups 21-16-1 and Wladimir Klitschko fought Marcus McIntyre 15-1 who ended his career a respectable 24-3. It’s a fact that most heavyweight hopefuls with the upside of Joshua don’t face the likes of Ray Mercer, Oliver McCall or Ron Lyle on the way up. Yes, Joshua holds the IBF title, but with only 34 rounds fighting as a pro under that belt, he still has a lot to learn.
Breazeale at best is a fringe contender, even by today’s standards, and stepping stone along the way to bigger fights down the road for Joshua. He’s a former national amateur champion who can punch a little bit if he catches you. Yes, he lost in his first match at the Olympics but has shown that he has the heart to get up. On the down side, he’s slow of both hand and foot, his offense lacks imagination and there’s not much to his defense. In some ways he’s not even as formidable as the fighter Joshua beat for the title, Charles Martin. But that’s boxing and fighters must fight whoever is out there and available.
At this time all that can be asked of Joshua is that he improves, stays active and does what he’s supposed to do when confronted by limited opposition. Rest assured that Joshua will most likely dispose of Dominic Breazeale in the same manner he did Charles Martin. After that he’ll face another challenger who should provide him a more stern challenge. And by the end of the year the drum-beat and build up for him to fight the winner of the Tyson Fury-Wladimir Klitschko rematch or the winner of the Deontay Wilder-Alexander Povetkin WBC title clash will have begun. Once those wheels are set in motion, there will be a few big heavyweight title bouts to look forward to and ponder by the end of this year or early next year.
With that being said, don’t be surprised if Joshua, after stopping Breazeale, faces a fighter who resembles Breazeale in appearance and record in his next bout. But that’s okay, as long as you keep in mind that he’s staying active while giving others a shot at the title while at the same time bouts with one of the other top-5 heavyweights, excluding Luis Ortiz, because nobody, including Joshua wants to fight him, are in the maturation process.
When closely examining the opposition that Tyson, Lewis, Bowe and both Klitschkos fought in their 17th bout, Dominic Breazeale isn’t all that bad of a choice. He’s certainly more formidable and dangerous than were Mike Jameson, Glenn McCrory, Jesus Contreras, Levi Billups or Marcus McIntyre. And since we know Joshua will eventually be fighting the best of the best in the near future, we can live with him defending the title against Dominic Breazeale rather than sitting on his hands waiting for super fights.
As of this writing Joshua is considered the man to beat in the heavyweight division. Aside from Ortiz, I would favor Anthony to beat everyone else in the division. So when all is said and done, regardless of who Joshua fights in the future, he’ll be the favorite and presumed winner.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com