By Kid Hersh
Today, Oct. 15, 2016, marks the 27th birthday of reigning IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. Anthony is quite the sensation, already being a top draw despite his short amateur career of 40-3 and his professional career of 17-0.
Sometimes guys come along that just seem like a thoroughbred fighter born to trade leather. That is exactly what Joshua looked like as he smoothly transitioned to the professional ranks. As soon as he turned pro he took upon that natural look that catches the eye. Serious boxing fans, myself included, perked up thinking “We really have something here!”
What makes a fighter a natural, or an artist, is of course something that is every bit as debatable as the all-time great lists so heavily talked about. A guy could talk himself in circles for a lifetime on those. What I look for is rather simple though: balance and rhythm. I always look to the legs for the prospects that typically end up having the greatest potential.
Anthony had that beautiful balance and rhythm right from the start. His very first professional fight showed a prospect that seemed well beyond his years, considering he had had only 43 amateur fights. It’s easy to see his counter punching and great jab in that first fight but it’s those legs and natural rhythm for boxing that set it all up.
Anthony has, of course, progressed well past those early fights. He isn’t the only heavyweight title-holder out there, but I have no doubt that the public will eventually come to recognize him as the true heavyweight champion as he chases the other belt-holders.
One thing particularly interesting about Joshua is that despite his 100% knockout ratio he really does seem rather patient in the ring. He looks more of a boxer-puncher than a puncher-boxer because of that patience and he sets up his openings or takes advantage of mistakes that are handed to him. There is not much “urgent” about his style until he has his man hurt.
Speaking of “hurt,” Joshua has been tested in the ring, contrary to what some fans think and some writers have written. In the second round of the Dillian Whyte fight, he took a left hook that made his legs rubbery. This came on the heels of hurting Whyte in the first round, with Anthony learning a valuable lesson in that sometimes your man is not ready to check out when you hurt him and is still very dangerous – perhaps more so while hurt.
It took Anthony not just the second round but much of the third to recover. Whyte had taken too much punishment in the first round to be able to jump on the opportunity with his guns blazing. This was a stiff test for Anthony who passed with flying colors and no doubt learned from the experience. He handled it well.
His next test is likely to come before the end of the year. With names like Wladimir Klitschko and Joseph Parker being put forth as his next opponent, this too will be a stiff test. Both offer stiff competition in different ways.
While I wouldn’t mind seeing him go the distance, I suspect that a bout with either Klitschko or Parker would end up looking like Deontae Wilder vs. Bermane Stiverne where the knockout puncher (Joshua) proved that he could win by sticking to a simple game plan.
Happy 27th birthday to Anthony Joshua. We look forward to many more highlight reels from him in a division that seriously needs them.