Both fighters are well built and always look fit, one stands 6-6 and the other 6-7 and both have stopped every opponent they’ve faced. Their collective record is a resounding 59-0 (58), almost identical to Frazier and Ali 57-0 (48) before their first fight. One has some detractors because he was dropped by the best fighter he fought and the other has detractors because of the level of opposition he’s faced after fighting as a pro for nine years. One is from the UK and the other the US and because of them the heavyweight division has been injected with a level of excitement and anticipation that it hasn’t experienced since the two Mike Tyson versus Evander Holyfield bouts circa 1996-97.
Obviously I’m speaking of IBF/WBA title holder Anthony Joshua 20-0 (20) of the UK and WBC title holder Deontay Wilder 39-0 (38) of the US. There used to be a time when American heavyweights would travel to Britain to pulverize their best, ruining the hopes of British fans, and then along came Lennox Lewis and that changed. In the eyes of most boxing fans Lewis is considered the overall best heavyweight title holder since Larry Holmes was on top of the division 35 years ago. And there’s a case that Joshua, after just 20 fights, may have an even higher ceiling than what Lewis showed at the same age……and Wilder’s right hand is considered by some to be the biggest single shot punch in boxing, just as Lewis’s was perceived during his prime.
Prior to Joshua’s sub-par showing against Carlos Takam and Wilder’s one-round mutilation of Bermane Stiverne on back-to-back weekends, most boxing aficionados saw Joshua as the more well-rounded fighter and favored him to win if they were to meet. Aw, but nothing influences a fan’s perception of a fighter like an early round blowout over a career rival like the one Wilder delivered on November 4th. In fact, Wilder’s showing against Stiverne reminds me of how Manny Pacquiao’s execution of Ricky Hatton swayed so many into believing he could beat Floyd Mayweather, something I never thought possible for a moment, and I believe that’s in play now regarding the overload shift towards Wilder. If there is one thing I’ve learned in 55 years of following and being involved in boxing it is that no fighter is ever as good as he looked coming off an early round kayo nor is a fighter at the elite level as bad as he looked in his most recent fight if his overall body of work suggests otherwise.
Why Joshua will defeat Wilder:
(1) He’s a better boxer.
Usually the better boxer wins the big fights. Joshua is the superior technician and it’s really not close. He has much better form and he punches more like a pro than an advanced amateur. Joshua’s jab is straighter and crisper and it’s purposeful. Instead of just being used as a distraction, he uses it to set up his power punches. Joshua also puts his punches together in combination much more freely and fluidly, and he has an inside game. He doesn’t load up on his hooks or uppercuts and he keeps his hands high. I noticed Carlos Takam, who was trying hard to nail him with a left hook inside, was blunted nearly every time because Joshua, once in tight, plastered his right hand over his right ear, nullifying Takam’s hook. Joshua also cuts loose with uppercuts that aren’t telegraphed and that travel up the middle, and when he gets through, his finishing shots are concise and accurate.
By contrast, Wilder boxes haphazardly; he seems to have no plan other than wanting to land his right hand. His jab, with the exception of the Stiverne rematch, never impressed upon me that it was a weapon. And in reality, Stiverne stood directly in front of him with no head or upper body movement as if he were begging to get hit. In Wilder’s previous bout before that, a relative novice, Gerald Washington, out jabbed him for the first four rounds, then stopped, and then Wilder was able to nail him with a big right hand that led to the stoppage. If Washington can beat Wilder to the punch with his jab, it’s not a reach to assume AJ will too and be even more damaging with his because it will control the tempo and geography of the fight while also neutralizing Wilder’s right hand by making him go back.
As far as Wilder’s right hand, it’s most devastating when he arcs it a little, which is easier to blunt by a fighter who keeps his hands high, as Joshua does. The straightest and most accurate right hand Deontay ever landed was the one that dropped Stiverne for the first time, and Bermane was a sitting duck. I view Wilder as a one-handed fighter and see Joshua having two good hands. AJ throws every punch in the book better and more effectively than Wilder, even the right hand. Wilder may have the harder right hand in the eyes of most observers, but I’m not so sure about that. Had Joshua fought every opponent Wilder did on the night he fought them, he’d also be undefeated and wouldn’t have had to fight Bermane Stiverne twice to win by stoppage once. Which leads to this observation: When they have their opponents hurt, Joshua is more composed and more precision-like. He doesn’t panic and go crazy fighting with the mindset “I better end it now or I’ll lose,” which has led to Deontay becoming reckless, resulting in him missing a ton of punches and falling all over the place. And yet some have tried to foist the point of view that Wilder is the more athletic of the two……which if meant as a joke, isn’t funny.
Lastly, as far as defense, Joshua’s is less penetrable. Wilder has been marked up after many of his bouts by lesser fighters and in the process has lost more rounds than he should have. Joshua’s hands are always in position to defend and get off, whereas Wilder often carries his hands low and he’s not athletic enough to get away with that, thus he’s been hit flush more often than AJ. When it comes to the sweet science of boxing, Joshua’s fundamentals and basics are markedly better even though he’s had half the number of fights.
(2) Level of opposition and chin:
Wilder has only fought one opponent who was not a designated fall-guy, and that was Stiverne who forced him to go the distance the first time they fought. As for the rematch, I can’t take anything away from Deontay — he did what he was supposed to do against a fighter who entered the ring as if he were standing in front of a Military firing squad. I may be in the minority here, but I think Wilder’s previous 38 bouts are a more realistic indicator as to who he really is as a fighter. Joshua hasn’t fought the greatest opposition either, but in his biggest fight to date he met Wladimir Klitschko, who not only fought with more determination than we had previously seen from him, but was the best heavyweight in the world for a decade and, even at 41 years old, packed a bigger punch in his right hand than Wilder, based on their resumes.
I have no doubt both Wilder and Joshua can knock the other out, and both have been hurt. Wilder was down in his 13th bout against Harold Sconiers, who was 17-20-2 at the time. He was also buzzed pretty good by Johann Duhaupas and Artur Szpilka and Eric Molina really buzzed him, leading me to think that Joshua is capable of putting him down for a ten count. AJ isn’t impervious to getting buzzed either. Dillian Whyte, who was undefeated at the time and a highly thought-of prospect, and who hasn’t lost to anyone other than Joshua, shook him for a moment when they fought. And the most hurt Joshua ever experienced came in the sixth round when Klitschko planted a perfect right hand on his chin that erased him from the picture. However, AJ got up, weathered the storm and rallied to down Wladimir twice and stop him. I’d say that’s passing the test and then some. For me to believe Wilder could get up from Klitschko’s right hand, the way Joshua did, well I’d have to see it first.
Speaking of Klitschko, Johnny Nelson of Sky Sports says emphatically that Wladimir knocked out Wilder twice during sparring sessions, confirmed by fighter Andy Lee. I don’t know the truth, nor does anyone who wasn’t there. I just find it funny how those who love to believe the rumors Joshua has been hurt and dropped in sparring want no part of this one. What cannot be disputed is that David Haye shook Wilder while sparring and had him falling over; there is tape of that all over the Internet. As to who has the better chin between Wilder and Joshua, I don’t know, but what I do know is Joshua’s is the more proven.
(3) The one common opponent
Eric Molina, 26-5 (19) is the only fighter to have faced both Wilder and Joshua. Molina fought Wilder on June 13, 2015, weighed 239.25 and was stopped at 1:03 of the ninth round. Wilder was staggered by Molina in the third round and was losing the fourth before he dropped him at the end of the round. Molina went down twice in the fifth and again in the ninth when he was counted out.
A year and a half later, on Dec. 10, 2016, after winning two consecutive bouts, Molina fought Joshua. He weighed 237.50 and was dropped in the third round, got up and in the midst of AJ working him over, the fight was halted at 2:02 of the round. Granted, in boxing A + B doesn’t always equal C….and those who will look to spin this in Wilder’s favor will say Wilder fought Molina a year and a half earlier, with the inference being that he fought a better version of Molina. To which the Joshua faction can say that Molina was lighter and in better shape for Joshua. Both thoughts are conjecture. What isn’t conjecture is that Molina never landed a punch on Joshua and after one good exchange with AJ, Molina went down and was finished shortly thereafter. Conversely, Wilder was shook and lost rounds against Molina and needed to drop him three times before he could finish him. Moreover, Wilder needed nine rounds to do what Joshua did in three.
The common opponent isn’t the be-all end-all, but it must be noted because it will be highlighted in every Joshua-Wilder preview until they fight. And if Molina, when asked who will win, says Wilder, then the common opponent angle will become the biggest story out there.
I have no axe to grind here. It may come off as though I’m more of a Joshua fan than I am a Wilder fan, but that couldn’t be more wrong. I’m assessing them as fighters, not people, and in that regard I believe Joshua is the physically stronger and better fighter at every turn. If believing Joshua is the greater fighter makes me biased, so be it. In this space I only care about what Anthony and Deontay bring to the ring and nothing else. I don’t care who the nicer guy is or who gives more money to charity.
On top of all the reasons I cited, I believe Joshua has a nasty streak in him and he’s much more of a killer than he lets the public see. Wilder has come to believe that he can punch with impunity — that no punches will come back at him – and his second fight with Stiverne reinforced that belief in him. Wilder is going to be shocked the minute someone who can punch fires back at him. His stoppages vs. legit fighters came mostly late: Molina-9rds, Duhaupas-11rds, Szpilka-9rds, and Arreola-8rds. My only concern in picking Joshua is that I worry he’s becoming too muscular and that will detract from his stamina and mobility. But I don’t think it will be an issue when he and Wilder finally fight.
Prior to the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, I said Mayweather will beat Pacquiao and it won’t be anywhere near his toughest fight. Well I feel the same way about Joshua-Wilder. When they meet, Joshua will knock Wilder out and it won’t be nearly as tough as his fight with Wladimir Klitschko. The only difference is that Wilder has a puncher’s chance to beat Joshua – and that’s something Pacquiao never had with Mayweather.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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