Frank Augstein/Associated Press
Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) will enter his title defence against rising star Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) on March 31 as the favourite, with the latest fight odds clearly backing the Brit.
The current IBF, WBA and IBO heavyweight champion enters the bout with 11-100 odds to win, per Justin Hartling of OddsShark (accurate as of March 20). Parker is an 11-2 underdog, per the report.
Joshua should have the crowd on his side at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, a venue where he scored a knockout win over Carlos Takam in his last defence in October. Parker, the WBO champion, scored his first win on British soil in his last outing, a majority decision against Hughie Fury.
Frank Augstein/Associated Press
The 26-year-old from New Zealand has long been hailed as a future star of the sport, courtesy of his tremendous physical gifts. He’s yet to face elite opposition, however, with his best win coming against Takam in 2016.
BoxNation’s Steve Bunce doesn’t doubt he has the upper hand as far as experience goes, however, per BBC 5 live Sport:
BBC 5 live Sport @5liveSport
“The better professional boxer right now is Joseph Parker” @bigdaddybunce compares the boxing experience of Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker – do you agree? 📻: https://t.co/IuH1gYdZ93 https://t.co/68ydhUrSxY
Parker certainly has more fights as a professional under his belt and has more experience finishing close bouts, going the distance in his last three outings.
He’s long been praised for his good hand speed and solid footwork, continuing the recent trend of athletic heavyweights making noise near the top of the division. While he may not have explosive punching power, he brings a solid amateur background to the table that is evident in his fighting style.
Parker used to be a headhunter but has learned to throw punches with variety and pace himself for the full 12 rounds.
As shared by FightHype.com, Max Kellerman is one of many who rightly praise him for his ability and willingness to fire off combinations:
A fight against Joshua has seemed inevitable for some time, but there’s no denying Parker is taking a massive step up in competition.
Joshua’s perfect record contains far bigger names than that of Parker, including former heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko, fringe contender Dominic Breazeale and rival Dillian Whyte, who has steadily moved up the rankings since his loss against AJ.
The 28-year-old is widely regarded as one of the two best heavyweights in the world, and a massive bout with Deontay Wilder is likely on the horizon―if he can get past Parker.
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Joshua combines awesome power with good athleticism and technique, as well as timing of his punches. An Olympic gold medalist, he doesn’t rely on his power too much, and he has proved he can fight through adversity in tough bouts with Klitschko and Whyte.
Parker has told reporters he plans to take the fight to Joshua, and the SHOWTIME Boxing analysts can’t wait to see what that looks like:
SHOWTIME Boxing @ShowtimeBoxing
“It would be a mistake to underestimate @joeboxerparker.” – @AlBernstein #JoshuaParker: 3/31 @BCusterTV @mauroranallo @PaulMalignaggi https://t.co/pPSgTP6bxy
But Fury scored plenty of good counterpunches when Parker closed the distance, and if he had landed with real power, he could have walked away with a victory. Against someone like Joshua, he’s going to have to be much more careful.
We won’t know whether Parker is ready for a world-class opponent until he gets in the ring with Joshua, who will likely test him in ways he’s never been tested before. His camp may be reaching here, and the step up from fighting outside contenders to one of the world’s best could prove too big.
Prediction: Parker presses early but changes his mind when he feels Joshua’s power. The Brit uses his experience to earn another stoppage win before the championship rounds.