Depending on the corner you reside in, Anthony Joshua was either tactically astute, displaying fine adroitness behind a stiff jab or was skillfully limited with his offensive output neutralised by an awkward Joseph Parker.
In reality, assessments lie somewhere in the middle but as is often the way with modern society, it had to be one or the other.
Truth is, Joshua showed defects for improvement but also a refinement in some of the fundamentals which have looked a little substandard in recent bouts.
His footwork was much slicker and of course his cardio – despite a little dip in the middle rounds – was mostly excellent as he came on strong in the final frames of his first full quota rounds.
It was a performance hallmarked by maturity, a new side to the Joshua who swept up his WBA and IBF titles with KOs – the boxer not slugger.
Indeed, if you take out the spectacle (for a pugilist who insists he’s not about “the hype” the grandiose entrance said differently) and focus purely on the boxing performance, there was much to be delighted with from a Joshua perspective.
The same cannot be said of the referee, of course, and we can all agree Giuseppe Quartarone was incompetent at best and a liability at worst.
Neither Joshua or Parker could hope to build any sort of momentum with the Italian constantly cutting in whenever the fight pulled onto the inside.
Quartarone was a wet blanket, smothering the swelling flames as if it were an amateur bout.
And he can’t be accused of bias either because he choked out the offence of both fighters – when Parker landed in close, he split it up immediately and the case was the same for Joshua as he attempted to uncork his signature uppercut.
It seemed the occasion was too big for unheralded referee but that can’t be said of Parker.
Granite chinned with a good gameplan to elude a lot of the power punches, the relinquished WBO champ showed tremendous heart and the unanimous decision was much closer than one judge’s dubious 119-109 scorecard.
Granted, the challenger didn’t do enough for victory, fighting permanently on the backfoot with the 26-year-old seemingly holding hope Joshua would gas out but he was quick and awkward.
As the last undisputed heavyweight Lennox Lewis correctly observed, though, “A good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un”.
I thought AJ fought a great fight. I kno fans want blood but sometimes it just not there. AJ kept proper distance 2keep JP at end of jap but out or range of JP’s jab. JP’s hands were faster than i thought but his game plan was too one dimensional. Good big un beats a good lil un!— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) March 31, 2018
Joshua’s imposing size and reach advantage was ultimately the difference between the two men and while he was far from polished, he was certainly professional.
Ending his stoppage streak at 20 is actually a good thing for his development, too. The unnecessary pressure to knock someone out has been alleviated and it gives AJ the breathing room to learn the more disciplined side of the ‘Sweet Science’.
In the build-up, Joshua talked of lessons learned from the Wladimir Klitschko fight.
“I have learned I shouldn’t use camp to get fit. I have used this training camp to work solely on my technique and ability rather than to get fit,” he explained.
He took something from the Ukranian for this fight, adding another tactic to win defensively behind the jab in true Klitschko style.
Joshua can bang and win, and he can defend and win as well. With a third premier belt around his waist, he has tightened his grip on the heavyweight division, only the WBC strap of Deontay Wilder remains to cement undisputed status.
Introducing you 2 the sweet science of boxing 🔥 Hit & don't get hit 🔥 pic.twitter.com/BbhqSwoxef— Anthony Joshua (@anthonyfjoshua) April 1, 2018
But despite Joshua’s improvement, there are still holes in his game to exploit, like retreating with a loose guard, and the ‘Bronze Bomber’ will hardly be approaching any potential bout with trepidation as Carl Froch in his role as analyst for Sky Sports assessed.
“I don’t think he will be concerned about that performance, he won’t be worried,” the former super-middleweight king said post fight.
“When AJ says ‘I will knock you spark out’, I don’t think Wilder believes him, because what you saw there does not send that message – he did what he had to do to win.”
Ultimately, there wasn’t a mark on Joshua’s face and the aim of the game is to hit and not get hit.
The 28-year-old was good and bad, not good or bad. There is more to come from the unified heavyweight champ.
Anthony Joshua has set his sights on a heavyweight showdown with American Deontay Wilder after claiming a unanimous points victory over Joseph Parker in Cardiff.
Promoter Eddie Hearn believes the Wilder fight “has to happen in 2018,” and if it does, a win for British star Joshua would add the WBC title to his collection and make him an undisputed world heavyweight champion.
Joshua said: “2018 was always a time to capture all the belts. We are one away now.
“It has been a big question that was asked after the fight. I am not into the business of hype, hype, talk, talk.
“I would love to maybe go to America with Eddie and Rob (Joshua’s trainer Rob McCracken) and look at the landscape and deal with this behind closed doors.
“But a lot of negotiations can go on over social media and YouTube and stuff, but when you are doing serious business, you have to sit down in confidential privacy and then we can see how serious people are about taking the fight.”
Hearn, meanwhile, added: “I think it (Wilder fight) has to happen in 2018 otherwise we are going to hit some major problems with the politics and the mandatories.
“If they (Wilder’s management) stepped up and were actually serious about the fight, and serious about a deal we are more than fair to offer them, it could happen next.
“But they are so erratic and unpredictable, I don’t know what to believe.”
Joshua won the first heavyweight unification bout held on British soil as he saw off New Zealander Parker in front of a crowd approaching 80,000 at the Principality Stadium.
Joshua added the WBO belt to the WBA and IBF belts he already holds, but he was taken the distance for the first time in his professional career.
It was his 21st straight career victory, although previously unbeaten Parker delivered a battling display without seriously troubling Joshua.
Two judges awarded the fight to Joshua 118-110, with another scoring it 119-109, although regular interventions by Italian referee Giuseppe Quartarone did not help the fight develop any free-flowing nature.
Joshua said: “I am not elated because I don’t let the highs get to my head. And I always think we’ve got to go again soon.
“If I was retiring on this high, I would be like, ‘yes, I’m the man’.
“But I have to defend my throne again in a few months. I am balanced. We are still hustling, We are on to the next one, and in my eyes, it’s not time to sit back and enjoy the ride.”
Reflecting on his loss, Parker said: “We enjoyed being here. He deserved to win, and we are disappointed, but we will be back.
“He (Joshua) is a good fighter, and today he showed he could box.”
Asked about the referee’s performance, Parker’s trainer Kevin Barry said: “Obviously, when one guy (Parker) has got a 76-inch reach and the other guy has got 84 or 85 (Joshua), it’s important when we do close the distance that we are able to work.
“Unfortunately for us, the referee just didn’t allow us to do that.
“I thought today we were beaten by a better man. I was quite impressed with a lot of things Joshua did. He held his hands better and was quite hard to hit.”
It is one of the most evocative titles in sport: the world heavyweight boxing champion.
Yet it is a title that has too often been fractured as a result of the rise of numerous different governing bodies in the years since the outstanding Muhammad Ali was stripped of the title in the late 1960s for refusing United States military service in the Vietnam War.
But the current picture will become clearer when Britain’s Anthony Joshua, the IBF and WBA champion, faces New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, the WBO title-holder, in a heavyweight unification bout on Saturday.
Some 78,000 spectators are expected at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, a testament to the enduring appeal or the heavyweight crown in general and the pulling power of Joshua in particular.
Joshua’s life story reads like the outline plot of a movie – a boy who fell in with the ‘wrong crowd’ but avoided prison because of his involvement in boxing and went on to win an Olympic gold medal in front of his home London crowd in 2012 before turning pro and building up an unbeaten 20-fight record in the paid ranks.
But Parker, two years younger at 26, also has a perfect professional record with 24 wins, 18 by way of knockout.
Saturday’s fight will be the first time two undisputed heavyweight champions have met for the title in Britain and should move the winner closer to a bout against Deontay Wilder, the American who holds the WBC’s version.
– ‘Hunted’ –
Joshua may be the favourite in the eyes of many pundits but he said this week: “You still need to keep that challenger’s mindset. I’m still the challenger in my head.
“Sometimes I try and not be seen with the belts too much, I let other people do the enjoyment because I’ve got to do the challenger mindset.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of Parker but, just because now I’m the hunted, it’s not time to put my feet up and relax, I’m out there defending my throne on Saturday night.”
Joshua’s punching power – all 20 of his wins have been knockout victories – has revived interest in the heavyweight division and helped make him a box-office draw.
He has fought before at the Principality, defeating Carlos Takam there in October and Joshua believes this will give him an edge.
“I’m ready for the challenge. Parker is not,” wrote Joshua in his column for Thursday’s London Evening Standard.
“He won’t have encountered anything like the roof closed – a Dragon’s Den at the Principality Stadium.”
Will it be @anthony_joshua or @joeboxerparker who will move one step closer to #undisputed? Canada and Germany stand up. Log onto @dazn_ca or @dazn_de to stream the #JoshuaParker fight LIVE online or mobile! #DAZNfightclub pic.twitter.com/Y1rlv0vw0a— Lennox Lewis (@LennoxLewis) March 29, 2018
Joshua added: “He’ll find out very quickly on Saturday night that there is nowhere to hide with 78,000 fans wanting to see me knock him out.”
Parker, however, believes an edge in movement and ringcraft, will help him overcome the heavier Joshua’s reach advantage.
“I’m young, hungry, fit and strong,” he said. “I’ve got my speed back and I’ll show you on Saturday.”
The Principality is best known as the home of the Wales rugby union team, and when world champions New Zealand come to Cardiff, they usually leave with a victory – the last time they lost to Wales in the Welsh capital was back in 1953.
But the Principality was also the venue where the All Blacks suffered a shock quarter-final defeat by France at the 2007 World Cup.
“The All Blacks always do great here in Wales so I’m looking forward to keeping that record clean,” said Parker.
But one clean record will be lost this weekend as boxing moves one step close to the goal of an undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Provided by AFP Sport