Opinion

Can Anthony Joshua actually become undisputed heavyweight champion?

Anthony Joshua
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
Anthony Joshua has to hold on the belts he already has as well as snare a bout with the Wilder-Fury winner. Eric Armit casts his eye over the heavyweight division

WITH Anthony Joshua’s victory over Andy Ruiz sanity is restored to the heavyweights, or what passes for sanity. How dare the tubby Andy Ruiz upset the established triumvirate of Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury? Now we are back to the status quo where the fate of the long lost title of heavyweight champion of the world will be finally decided when the winner of Wilder vs. Fury II meets Joshua – perhaps next year, perhaps in 2021, perhaps never. But that’s the way the heavyweight division has been pretty well since Fury beat Wlad Klitschko in 2015.

Wilder vs. Fury II looks set for February 22 and Joshua will probably fight again in May. Kubrat Pulev would be the sensible choice for that fight as Olek Usyk would constitute a much higher risk and Joshua needs another fight so that he can sort out whether he is the new Muhammad Ali or the old Sonny Liston.

If Joshua goes for Pulev then I can’t see the WBO waiting whilst Joshua fights Pulev and then later in the year fights the winner of Wilder vs. Fury II. That would mean the WBO mandatory challenger Usyk would have to wait until 2021 for a shot at the title. I believe that the WBO would strip Joshua rather than wait that long – without a sanction fee coming in. The WBA will also have an interest in what happens but if they stripped Joshua for facing the IBF mandatory challenger they would be left with Manuel Charr, holder of their secondary title who has not fought since November 2017, and interim champion Trevor Bryan who has not fought since August 2018. If they matched those two for the title the sanctioning fee would probably be higher than the takings from the fight. They still have Fres Oquendo in their ratings and Fres has not fought since 2014. They should be renamed the World Non-Boxing Association.

Anthony Joshua

Joshua took some stick over his safety first tactics from unbiased critics such as that master of the restrained word Deontay Wilder. From an entertainment point of view Joshua vs. Ruiz was dire. It was too one-sided and Joshua was almost too cautious but for Joshua this was never about entertaining it was about adopting the tactics that would ensure victory. He was simply taking care of business and instead of ridiculing him, after the relatively disappointing PPV figures for his defence against Luis Ortiz, Wilder should be thanking him as the multi-million dollar fight with Joshua is back on the table.

I am not too convinced by the slim-line Joshua. At times he looked more vulnerable. I feel a little sorry for Ruiz – but then I didn’t pay a few thousand dollars for a ringside seat. He deserved every word of praise he received for beating Joshua and I can understand how the sudden fame went to his head. But some of the blame has to go to his team. It is their job to keep him focused and in good condition that is what they are paid for, so therefore they have to take a share of the blame.

Did anyone notice that there were four fighters who had beaten Anthony Joshua in action last week? On December 5 in California Mihai Nistor turned pro with a third round kayo of Chris Mariscal and on the show in Saudi Arabia Mahammadrasul Majidov scored his second victory as a pro when he stopped Tom Little in two rounds. Nistor stopped Joshua in three rounds in the quarter-finals of the 2011 European Championships and Majidov took a 22-21 win over Joshua in the final of the 2011 World Championships and of course there was Andy Ruiz. Dillian Whyte also holds an amateur win over a young Joshua.

With Whyte having been cleared of any doping offence that puts the ball back in the court of the WBC. They have re-instated him at No 1 so once again they have a fighter who has been No 1 in their ratings since November 2017 without getting a title shot. In the time since Whyte was made No 1 Wilder has made four title defences – Fury II will be the fifth. They have fobbed Whyte off with an interim title which is just a way of dodging the issue that being No 1 with the WBC is meaningless, when they want it to be. In contrast they have this month mandated Nordine Oubaali to defend against Nonito Donaire with Donaire only having been in their No 1 position for one month and with Oubaali having beaten his mandatory challenger last month. One rule for the high profile high sanctioning fee Wilder and a different one for Oubaali.

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  • Maybe it was also worth mentioning the huge mental obstacle that Joshua overcame by beating Ruiz in the rematch, as well as some acknowledgement that we now know that Joshua had a health issue when training for and fighting Ruiz in the first fight.
    As for the Nistor fight it’s ridiculous to call that a KO and Joshua had been schooling Nistor until one punch in the third round – the referee had already given AJ an unwarranted standing count in the third and when caught with a better left hook and bounced against the ropes AJ was given a warranted standing count but appeared totally clear headed and ready to fight, nevertheless the referee stopped the fight; a technical KO and an appalling decision by the referee. Context is often important in boxing.

  • There’s a very simple reason for the WBC mandating Oubaali to face Donaire after only 1 month but not mandating Wilder to face Whyte for over 2 years – Oubaali isn’t a PBC fighter controlled by Al Haymon.

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