WBA and IBF king Anthony Joshua and WBO boss Joseph Parker collide in Cardiff tonight (Saturday March 31) in a clash of unbeatens. Ahead of this world heavyweight title unification bout at the Principality Stadium, we highlight five areas in which each man holds the advantage over the other.
Parker may have contested almost double the number of rounds that Joshua has as a pro (123 to 65), but “AJ’s” have been fought on a bigger stage. The Watford fighter headlined sold-out stadium shows in both of his appearances last year, including most recently at the same venue that will host tonight’s clash. Despite being well-travelled and having overcome the previously undefeated Hughie Fury in the Mancunian’s hometown just six months ago, Parker has never been involved in an event of this magnitude before.
Level of opposition
In addition to Fury, other notable victims on Parker’s record include Carlos Takam, Alexander Dimitrenko and Andy Ruiz Jnr. Joshua also holds a win over Takam, as well as Charles Martin, Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina. Comparing these respective victories, there is not too much between Joshua and Parker in terms of their level of opposition. However, when you add in the Brit’s impressive triumphs over Dillian Whyte and, most importantly, heavyweight legend Wladimir Klitschko, Joshua’s record clearly trumps Parker’s.
Parker shone at Youth level in the unpaid ranks, earning a bronze medal at the Youth World Championships and silver at the Youth Olympic Games (both in 2010). However, he was unable to transfer this success to Senior level. Joshua, meanwhile, reached the pinnacle of the amateur game by becoming Olympic champion in 2012. He also secured the runner-up spot at the 2011 Worlds – a notoriously difficult tournament.
Both Joshua (100 per cent) and Parker (75 per cent) boast eye-catching KO ratios. Yet while the Englishman has proven his power at the very highest level, Parker has not. Not a single one of Joshua’s opponents has been able to hear the final bell against him so far, which tells you all you need to know about the force of his punches.
At yesterday’s (Friday March 30) weigh-in, Joshua came in almost 12lbs lighter than in his previous fight, yet this was still nearly 6lbs heavier than Parker, who scaled 236lbs 7oz. As ever, the muscular Joshua looked in tremendous shape. As well as being the bigger man in terms of overall mass, the Briton also boasts advantages in height (6ft 6ins to 6ft 4ins) and reach (82ins to 76ins) over Parker.
Although Parker does not look as athletic and ripped as Joshua, he is able to maintain a high pace for the most part, in between the occasional lull in activity during rounds. His dogged levels of endurance allow him to throw his shots in clusters, rather than single strikes. As imposing as Joshua’s muscle-bound physique is, it can actually hinder him in terms of stamina.
Parker’s strongest attribute – according to those who have fought him in the past – is the quickness with which he unleashes his punches, which is particularly swift for a man of his size. Additionally, having undergone surgery in November to cure a longstanding problem of pain and restriction in both of his elbows, the New Zealander’s surgeon has been quoted as saying that Parker should now notice an increase in hand speed. Joshua is an explosive one-punch hitter, but sometimes telegraphs his attacks.
The most highly publicised strength of Parker’s is his sturdiness and ability to take a shot. The durable Las Vegas-based Aucklander has never been dropped as an amateur or pro, or even in sparring. Joshua, on the other hand, has hit the deck in each of these three domains. While it can be argued that Parker has never faced someone who hits as hard as Joshua, it can also be claimed that Joshua has never met a rival whose chin is as solid as Parker’s.
Compared to Joshua, who can be rather stiff and mechanical at times, Parker is loose in his actions. The Kiwi possesses the capacity to move around the ring effectively, though he often chooses to march head-on as the aggressor instead. Against a brutally powerful puncher like Joshua, he may opt to get on his bike more, especially in the early stages.
Parker’s speed of fist enables him to connect with combinations on the inside. They do not carry the power of Joshua’s blows, yet they are more frequent and accurate. Joshua tends to rely more on heavy isolated punches. Parker’s favoured combo sees him pivot to the side to connect with a body shot, before redirecting his attack upstairs, where he hits the target with the same glove.