In the 22 months since claiming heavyweight gold at the London 2012 Olympic games, Anthony Joshua’s remarkable rise through the professional ranks has been nothing less than emphatic.
Boasting a perfect record of 13 wins from 13 fights - all of which coming by way of knockout, he is already considered by many as a future world champion in the making.
Yet even at this relatively early stage of his career, the struggle to find suitable opponents capable of pushing Joshua into the latter rounds of a fight highlights an alarming lack of depth amongst the heavyweight division.
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In last month’s fight against Kevin Johnson the 35-year-old American was expected to provide a thorough assessment of Joshua’s boxing credentials, and test any vulnerabilities that all of his 13 previous opponents had so far failed to expose.
Having never failed to go the distance of a bout in his 36 fight career, Johnson was selected as an opponent to push Joshua into unknown territory. Yet to even fight beyond the third round since turning professional, it was meant to be an opportunity for Joshua to showcase his endurance, proving he is more than just a big-hitting knockout machine. Perhaps that would have been achieved had the fight lasted beyond the three rounds it took Joshua to dispose of Johnson.
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When Joshua knocked the American to the canvas towards the end of the first round perhaps the referee should have called an end to proceedings there and then. Johnson simply continued to absorb blow after ferocious blow that Joshua relentlessly served up, offering nothing in return.
Although it demonstrated the fact that Joshua can still deliver a dominating, winning performance against an alleged better opponent - surpassing even the best efforts of Vitali Klitschko in stopping
Johnson before the final bell - it showed there are few men capable of providing a competitive matchup that will benefit the youngster. And therein lies the problem.
Far from being challenged in the ring he is merely exposing the distinct lack of credible talent in the heavyweight division. With the exception of Vladimr Klitschko and WBC champion Deontay Wilder, there is no other current heavyweight who would prove beyond Joshua’s capabilities.
Amongst the elite
David Price is amongst a list of names thought to be under consideration for Joshua’s next fight. An Olympic medallist from the 2008 Beijing games, he no doubt still holds an ambition to claim a heavyweight belt for himself, having been so close to contending for one before back to back losses to Tony Thompson but a halt to his progress two years ago.
Yet with Joshua showing he is too much of a match for the men so far put before him, can he already be so bereft of worthy opponents that he now is ready to fight against the likes of Price? A man who is on the cusp of reaching the summit of the sport himself?
Credit must of course be given to Joshua, who has only brought light to this situation through his tenacious desire to develop into a serious heavyweight contender. Though it can’t be right that perhaps in under another 22 months he could conceivably rise to become a heavyweight champion. A feat that took former great, Muhammad Ali, far longer to achieve.
Such a rapid rise would speak volumes for the level of competition in the heavyweight division.
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