On June 25, Anthony Joshua defends his IBF heavyweight crown at the O2 Arena against 30-year-old Dominic Breazeale.
Search for Breazeale online and you could well be thinking Joshua has a tough task for his first title defence. Here’s an undefeated fighter, with 15 knockouts from his 17 wins, he has a height advantage on Joshua, he’s had more fights and has gone more rounds than Joshua, he’s even been an Olympic level amateur, on paper Joshua vs Breazeale is a good fight. Unfortunately for Breazeale, fights aren’t on paper.
Breazeale was touted in some parts as being a new great prospect from the US, going through the standard process of taking on the journeymen of boxing and working his way through the division.
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But the process hasn’t been quite as straightforward as that for the 30-year-old though, underwhelming wins on points against Nagy Aguilera and Fred Kassi on their own are fine, but his most troubling performance was last time out vs Amir Mansour.
Mansour is a tough man, no doubt about it. His only loss going into the Breazeale fight was on points vs Steve Cunningham, but at 43 and being 6 inches shorter than Breazeale, this was supposed to be easy work.
It turned out to be anything but. Mansour came out firing, taking the fight to the bigger man and taking charge early on. Breazeale was even put onto the canvas by Mansour in round 3, an upset look very much on the cards. However, he recovered to grow into the fight as Mansour seemed to be spent after the third round and injury ultimately gave Breazeale the win in the sixth round once his American counterpart suffered an injury.
If a man 35 pounds lighter and six inches shorter than Breazeale could rock him, a right hand from AJ could spell an early knockout.
Breazeale looks less of a challenge than former IBF champion and Joshua’s latest victim Charles Martin. Martin was at least a southpaw, something new in the professional ranks for Joshua to deal with.
A Bermane Stiverne could have tested Joshua in the latter rounds with his chin and defence, but his exclusion from the IBF top 15 prevented any potential match up.
In Johann Duhaupas - off the back of an impressive win against Robert Helenius - Joshua could have taken on an experienced operator who can be an awkward opponent, but in Breazeale, the only benefit Joshua gains from this fight is more exposure to the US.
Breazeale is not a step up in class, his open defence, lack of snap to his jab and lack of explosive power really should make for light work for Joshua. For Joshua to be ready for the likes of Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury a step up needs to be taken sooner rather than later.