Boxing preview: Anthony Joshua versus Joseph Parker
Joshua fancied to extend unbeaten record against Parker
Unbeaten British boxer Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) puts his WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles on the line when he faces New Zealand’s Joseph Parker at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on March 31.
Parker (24-0, 18KOs) is also defending an unbeaten record and will put his WBO belt up for grabs, with the winner of the fight likely to meet WBC champion Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) further down the line.
Joshua fought just twice in 2017, defeating Wladimir Klitschko in an epic battle at Wembley Stadium back in April, before beating short-notice replacement Carlos Takam in Cardiff during October.
Since turning professional in 2012 Parker has spent much of his career in his native New Zealand. He won the vacant WBO title by majority decision over Andy Ruiz in 2016, giving New Zealand its first ever heavyweight champion.
He has been unimpressive in his last two fights, going the distance against Razvan Cojanu last May before labouring to a majority decision against Hughie Fury in September.
Classy Joshua long odds-on for victory
Joshua is the overwhelming 1/10 favourite with bookmakers to win the fight, with Parker available at 6/1. The draw is on offer at 20/1, but the British star should prove too classy for his opponent.
His stunning victory over Wladimir Klitschko was seen as a passing of the baton between a legend of the heavyweight division and the new rising star of boxing.
Parker has more experience than Joshua, but he has never fought someone of Klitschko’s calibre. Neither fighter impressed in their meetings with Takam, although Joshua did secure a stoppage while Parker was taken all the way.
With 18KOs to his name Parker certainly possesses some power, although the Kiwi has failed to stop three opponents since moving up to world level.
Joshua is famed for his big punching style and, while he lacks the one-punch power of the likes of Wilder, the 28-year-old should have enough in his armoury to see off Parker.
British star denies having a dodgy chin
It would be unwise for Joshua to underestimate his opponent. The Kiwi has never been dropped during his career, while the Brit has been repeatedly accused of having a suspect chin.
Sparring partners David Price and Daniel Dubois have both reportedly dropped Joshua in the gym, while Klitschko also sent him to the canvas with a straight right hand during their battle at Wembley.
Joshua has insisted in the run-up to the fight that criticism of his ability to take a punch is unfair.
“There is a lot of talk about me being dropped, but there have been only three times it has happened,” he said.
“The first was the European Championships, when only two weeks before I had been called back into the programme, because I was banned from the British team. I was very unfit but I got stopped, not dropped.
“The second time was with David Price, when I had just come out of a police cell. Price is a puncher and that was down to a lack of experience.
“And Klitschko taught me that it will take more than a human to stop me from going where I am going. The rumours they have heard are all fake news.”
Elbow surgery boosts Parker’s power
Parker has undergone surgery on both his elbows since his last fight and chief sparring partner Malik Scott has reported that his power appears to have increased.
Joshua’s stiff jab should keep Parker on the back foot, but the 26-year-old’s own jab is solid and he believes he has the tools to spring a shock in Cardiff.
“All we have said is that Joshua has a glass chin – we know it, he knows it, everybody knows it, they just don’t talk about it,” said Parker.
“We saw him get dropped by Wladimir Klitschko, but he still had the heart to get up and finish the fight – I’ll give him that. But if I catch him and hurt him I’m not going to give him the chance to recover. I won’t be letting him off the hook.
“If I get him in the trouble Klitschko had him in, there is no chance for him. I’ll go in fast, I’ll go in hard, and I’ll go in for the kill. He won’t be able to recover against me.”
Full fight card
Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker – 12 rounds, heavyweights
Alexander Povetkin vs David Price – 12 rounds, heavyweights
Ryan Burnett vs Yonfrez Parejo – 12 rounds, bantamweights
Joe Cordina vs Hakim Ben Ali – 10 rounds, lightweights
Josh Kelly vs Carlos Molina – 10 rounds, lightweights
Morgan Jones vs Mose Auimatagi Jr – 6 rounds, super middleweights
Where is the fight being broadcast?
The event will be shown live on Sky Sports Box Office and is priced at €24.95 for Republic of Ireland customers, up until midnight, Friday, March 30.
Thereafter €24.95 across all “self-service” bookings (remote control/online) and €29.95 if booked via telephone (0818 220 225 from ROI). Telephone bookings may incur a €2 fee.