ACCORDING to the 11,373 people who voted in a recent JD Sports poll, WBO world heavyweight champion Joseph Parker might as well pack his bags and book himself on the next plane back to New Zealand.
Parker, they believe, has only a 2% chance of beating Anthony Joshua, the IBF and WBA world heavyweight champion, when the pair meet in Cardiff next Saturday (March 31). Even scarier, he is apparently less capable of beating Anthony Joshua, 20-0 (20), than Conor McGregor, Rocky Balboa and The Rock if they were to find themselves in the same unenviable position.
It’s a crushing blow to a man who touched down in London last week aiming to become the first boxer to topple the 2012 Olympic gold medallist. The 98/2 split doesn’t suggest a competitive fight, much less an upset, and Parker, despite boasting a 24-0 (18) record of his own, clearly hasn’t done enough to persuade a pro-Joshua crowd he’s the one to bring down a champion whose mystique and physique currently borders on superhero proportions.
In fact, as far as those polled are concerned, no boxer is capable of testing Joshua. Not Parker, his immediate threat, nor Deontay Wilder, the WBC champion, nor Tyson Fury, the enigma who dethroned Wladimir Klitschko. Fury received 24% of votes, the most of any active boxer, whereas Wilder received only 10%, the same amount as Conor McGregor, the UFC lightweight (155lbs) champion who last August was awarded a beginner’s boxing class with Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas.
Good news: Muhammad Ali, ‘The Greatest’, received 74% of the vote, which delivered him the win. But it’s hard to ignore the fact 26% of real, living, breathing human beings believe Anthony Joshua would have defeated him. (Wins over Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Joe Frazier, Bob Foster, Ken Norton, George Foreman, the US government and white America are seemingly no match for the scalps of Charles Martin, Dillian Whyte and Wladimir Klitschko.)
It gets weirder, too. Seven percent give Jason Momoa of Game of Thrones fame a shot at beating AJ, 24% pick The Rock, 29% back Rocky Balboa and 12% like The Undertaker’s chances.
The Incredible Hulk, meanwhile, was a step too far. Sixty-nine percent of voters sided with him in an Internet-breaking pose-off with Joshua; a reminder that AJ, getting bigger by the year, still has a way to go.
Conclusion: what’s clear from this study is that if Anthony Joshua is going to be truly tested, and if he’s ever to be in danger of losing his belts, he has to give the fans what they want, what they have always wanted, and take 50/50 fights. He has to turn his attention away from mismatches with undefeated boxers like Parker and Wilder and Fury and instead focus on the real king of the heavyweights and the real threat to his reign of dominance. If he wants to maintain his position as the sport’s premier heavyweight, and the world’s number one alpha male, he must face…
Whether a brown bear, a North-American black bear, an Asiatic black bear, a Polar bear, an Andean bear, a Sloth bear, a Sun bear or a Panda bear, it doesn’t matter. The fans aren’t picky. But, make no mistake, Anthony Joshua must – sooner rather than later – fight a bear. The people have spoken.
JD Sports voters gave a mountain (presumably The Mountain from Game of Thrones) a 23% chance of dethroning Joshua, hamstrung by its lack of mobility and Plan B, but a 58% slice was enough to immediately get The Bear ranked in the top 15 with the WBA and IBF and for it to avoid VADA testing.
This means they rate the chances of The Bear higher than anyone else – boxer, mixed martial artist, superhero or large landform – and reckon it might have the necessary skillset (strength, durability, good in clinches) to offer the world heavyweight champion a few looks he has yet to encounter in a six-year professional career.
Joshua has bear history, of course. Back in 2014, he crushed Matt Skelton, ‘The Bedford Bear’, a man whose body was hairier than Joshua’s round six versus Wladimir Klitschko, and somehow lived to tell the tale. Alive in the bear pit, he outmanoeuvred him, roughed him up and took him out, and, in doing so, proved the more evolved species, stayed unbeaten, and seemingly ticked the can-he-beat-a-bear box? every promising heavyweight must ace en route to world title glory.
Yet, to his surprise, the overriding feeling now, four years on, is that there are bigger, better and younger bears who could test Anthony Joshua’s ability to fight a bear in ways a 47-year-old Matt Skelton couldn’t.
So forget Joseph Parker next week; forget Deontay Wilder this summer. Instead, AJ, do the right thing and agree to the fight the people want to see. Fight a bear.