April 25, 2016
April 25, 2016
Anthony Joshua

Lawrence Lustig/Matchroom

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ANTHONY JOSHUA vs Dominic Breazeale will take place on June 25 at the O2 Arena in London. The bout will be Joshua’s first defence of the IBF heavyweight title which he won so swiftly, inside two rounds, from Charles Martin in April.

It’s good to see Joshua being so active. This fight is only two months away, so it will only afford Joshua a short break before going right back into training camp. Big names, other than Gennady Golovkin, tend to fight far too infrequently in this sport. Golovkin has taken the approach that, while he’s hunting down a defining fight, he’ll keep busy and keep racking up the knockouts. That’s helped his profile, which of course will make it easier to nail down a shot at someone like Canelo Alvarez. While the super-fights for Anthony Joshua are unified champion Tyson Fury, David Haye, WBC boss Deontay Wilder or even former division leader Wladimir Klitschko, all of them are otherwise engaged over the next couple of months and, given that Joshua has only experienced 16 bouts and 34 rounds of his professional career, the more contests he has before stepping in with one of the other big names, the more time he’ll have to develop as a fighter.

There is an argument to be made for Breazeale as a voluntary challenger. He is theoretically the USA’s best heavyweight prospect, he was the one who made it to the last Olympic Games and on paper he has a similar record to Joshua. Dominic is 17-0 (15) to Anthony’s 16-0 (16). He’s fractionally taller at six foot seven and the available contenders listed in the IBF’s heavyweight top 15 aren’t overly dissimilar to Breazeale.

But on paper is just about where the similarities with Joshua end. There is a reason Joshua has had so few rounds. He is very good. You might wonder how he’ll deal with boxing someone taller. There’s no need. As long ago as the 2012 Olympics he came up against the taller Ivan Dychko, a quality international super-heavy who will be a real contender for gold at Rio 2016, and Joshua outjabbed, outboxed and outmuscled him. As well as his booming straight cross, Joshua’s jab is a great weapon. Breazeale’s isn’t. He pushes it out uneasily, he’s not a smooth boxer nor does he keep his defence together.

Breazeale does commit himself to his right and when he puts his weight behind it, the cross is heavy (the American has managed to get 15 stoppages after all). But it’s not a hugely accurate shot and his punches are often wayward.

It’s hard to see Breazeale coping when Joshua’s bombs start raining down on him. He suffered a standing count in his first minute of action at the 2012 Olympic Games. Russia’s Magomed Omarov boxed clumsily against him but still widely outpointed the American. He also rocked Breazeale badly just before the end of their contest. That was wearing the more heavily padded amateur gloves. In his last fight, Amir Mansour blasted Breazeale over in the third round and had him in desperate trouble.

That bout was curtailed when Manzour bizarrely nearly bit through his tongue. At least by that stage Dominic was fighting back, a sign that he has courage. He certainly might be more game than Charles Martin was back in April. But his limitations could leave him just as out of his depth come June 25. In fact Joshua could finish this one even more quickly.

I think Breazeale would perform above expectation if he manages to get through the first round with Joshua. But the other available options in the IBF’s top 15 are comparable to Breazeale. Eric Molina and Johan Duhaupas would probably last longer but they’ve already lost to Deontay Wilder. Mexico’s Andy Ruiz may be portly but he is handy, though it’s unlikely that Ruiz would be a vastly more exciting fight and when it comes to Joshua-Breazeale Britain versus America is a selling point. Jarrell Miller is already talking the talk (in pretty entertaining fashion in my opinion) but we do need to see more of him in the ring. Breazeale’s perfect record and status as a former Olympian qualify him for the job. It might be, it should be an easy one for Joshua but perhaps we can forgive that. If George Groves versus Martin Murray is anything to go by, the undercard will be strong. Breazeale will be the fourth consecutive unbeaten prospect Joshua’s taken on after he got through (in real style) the journeymen and gatekeepers that made up the early stage of his career. Anthony has built up good will after winning the IBF title, so perhaps now is the time to get in one more of these type of fights. And it will lead on to better bouts, with the winner of Joseph Parker-Carlos Takam waiting in the wings, which will be a good fight. The ride rumbles on. I confess, I’m enjoying it.