On Saturday night at the 02 Arena, Anthony Joshua had fight fans licking their lips with anticipation about just how special he can be.
Joshua - aged just 24 - has undergone a massive progression having taken up boxing in his late teens. To have become Olympic super-heavyweight champion so early on was remarkable and after a year as a professional it seems he is taking to that game just as quickly.
Joshua came into this fight having knocked out all of his eight opponents within three rounds and with those fighters seemingly unable to land any effective shots on him. He had gone about his work professionally but in a brutal fashion.
On Saturday Joshua faced off with the experienced 34-year-old Russian-based Denis Bakhtov who held a solid record of 38 wins and nine losses coming into the fight.
Bakhtov is a good professional who has been in with some good names like Manuel Charr and Alexander Ustinov and was expected by those within the sport to give Joshua some much needed rounds in the ring.
Joshua clearly had other things in mind as he started quickly and landed big power shots with devastating effect. Bakhtov’s face became a real mess very quickly and was a testament to just how hard a puncher this young man is.
Joshua normally sticks behind his sickening jab which not only allows him to keep his opponent at distance - meaning they are unable to land their big shots - but it also sets up his big right hand to come thumping in after.
His jab is proving to be a real weapon and as he goes further up the heavyweight scale its importance will become more evident.
In this fight Joshua decided to try and work up close a bit more which is something we haven’t really seen from him so far. He showed that he can be very effective up close when he needs to and that may well pay dividends in a tough fight later in his career.
Joshua was smiling in the ring as he landed his big shots and had Bakhtov backed up against the ropes. This shows the vicious mentality that he has when he is in the ring. Outside of the ring he is very humble and a likeable character but in it he is a brute.
By the end of the first round, it was clear that the fight wasn’t going to last too much longer and it was to end in the second round with Joshua unloading a barrage of heavy punches on Bakhtov who seemed unable to throw back.
Referee Ian John-Lewis stepped in and appeared to be ending the fight only to step back and allow it to continue. A matter of seconds later he was forced to step back in and end the fight for good with Joshua landing another few big shots.
Joshua picked up the WBC international title which will give him a world ranking but more impressively he had just blown away a man who hadn’t been stopped legitimately for nearly 10 years.
Joshua looks set to face fellow Brit Michael Sprott in his next fight on the undercard of Bellew v Cleverly II in Liverpool on November 22.
Sprott - aged 39 - is a veteran of the sport having been in with the likes of Robert Helenius, Kubrat Pulev, Audley Harrison, Alexander Ustinov, Lamon Brewster, Ruslan Chagaev, Danny Williams, Corrie Sanders and many others. He has been a good boxer but appears to be coming to the end of his career now.
Joshua will be expected to go out there and do the business quickly and in impressive fashion. If Joshua wanted to, and I have no doubt in saying this, he could finish the fight in the first round. He may however decide to try and get a few rounds in against Sprott.
Joshua is going to have to be stepped up as he is far too good for the men at this level. It may prove a difficult task though as not many are going to be able to handle the immense power that this man possesses.
An opponent that may well prove a good learning experience for Joshua could be American Kevin Johnson. Johnson - aged 35 - is a slick boxer who is good defensively and who has never been stopped so far in his career.
Johnson has lost to Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora but neither man was able to stop him. He could provide decent rounds for Joshua but that cannot be guaranteed if the youngster lands cleanly.
I would like to see Joshua sparring with someone like James Toney. Toney - aged 46 - is well past his best but he is a defensive genius. There is so much that Joshua could learn from sparring with someone like Toney who was at the top of the sport for such a long time.
Toney could show Joshua some of the little tricks that you pick up from the elite fighters and that would be invaluable at this stage of his fledgling career.
It is hard not to get excited about Joshua as he is clearly very talented man but there is still a very long way to go before he comes close to fulfilling his potential. We are yet to see how he handles someone who can throw back at him and land cleanly themselves.
Fight with the likes of Chisora, Fury and David Price all look likely over the next 12-18 months but it is essential that he remains grounded and hard working. He can’t afford to buy into the hype that surrounds him and become complacent but he doesn’t seem that type of individual.
Joshua really could go all the way in the sport and he really is our big hope but at this moment I urge against too much excitement as there is a long way to go.
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