Anthony ‘AJ’ Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) is on the precipice of becoming the face of boxing and his upcoming bout with WBO Heavyweight Champion Joseph Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) is the presumed last hurdle between a transatlantic mega-fight with WBC champ Deontay Wilder.
The hypothetical fight between Wilder and Joshua will be worth an unimaginable amount of money, but to receive that payday ‘AJ’ will need to take care of Parker, the fighting pride of New Zealand.
In terms of style, the two fighters aren’t all that different. They both can move, they both can hit with power but they aren’t heat-seeking missiles like Wilder. Their power is felt through accumulation and volume rather than just sheer strength. The difference — and it is a glaring one — is that one of these boxers is just flat-out better than the other at basically everything.
Not only will Joshua be the better boxer in the square circle on Saturday night, he will also be the much bigger combatant. Both fighters are heavyweights, but Parker is much trimmer and looks like he could fight at cruiserweight. In addition to the weight discrepancy — which could be around 15-20 lbs. on fight night — the Brit has a 10 centimeter reach advantage and will be able to control the distance against Parker as he searches for an opening.
Joshua’s last two fights have been complete contrasts — both in terms of stakes and opposition — and to call his most recent fight, a 10th round stoppage win over journeyman Carlos Takam, a little underwhelming, would be completely fair.
Takam was called in on short notice to take the place of Joshua’s original opponent, Kubrat Pulev, after “AJ” was coming off a ‘Fight of the Year’ win over former heavyweight kingpin, Wladimir Klitschko. Takam, who took Parker the distance in 2016, is a good defensive fighter that can really ugly up a fight. With his style of fighting, it wasn’t really surprising that Joshua had some trouble solving the puzzle before closing the curtains. Joshua overmatched Takam, but the over/under for the fight was set at an absurd 4.5 rounds, so the expectations were set a little differently in that bout.
Takam is the only common opponent for these two champions and even though Joshua had to work really hard to keep his KO streak intact, Parker was just lucky to get out of the fight with a win.
Back in 2016, Takam was flown to New Zealand and served on a silver platter to Parker in front of a raucous hometown crowd. By the end of it, there were some doubts whether Parker actually won the fight, but in the end he was given a unanimous decision victory. Carlos Takam isn’t an easy fight by any means, but this was a disappointing result for the Kiwi, who had just begun to gain considerable steam as a potential heavyweight contender.
A win is a win, though, and Parker backed up his victory over Takam with ugly wins over Andy Ruiz Jr. (which won Parker his WBO title) in New Zealand and Hughie Fury in Manchester, England.
Like his fight with Takam, the win over Ruiz Jr. could have been scored in a number of different ways with maybe some home cooking earning the Kiwi the title he currently holds. To his credit, Parker took a fight against Hughie Fury on the road in Manchester, England to defend said title this past September. It was an absolute snoozefest and ended with Parker holding his title in a majority decision. The fight may have been a complete bust, but kudos to Parker for traveling to England to take on a game opponent in what was really a no-win situation.
In a similar situation, Parker deserves credit for taking his fight with Joshua. ‘AJ’ is a huge ticket that most certainly includes a nice payday, but if Parker wanted he could have climbed the ladder a little slower and still potentially caught Joshua or Wilder down the road. Instead, he’s traveling to Cardiff, Wales to be fed to Joshua in front of 75,000 Brits.
Joshua’s Path to Victory
For ‘AJ,’ the answer is pretty simple. He’s better at everything and has the decided size advantage across the board. Joshua can get this thing done in a variety of ways but the most important thing for him will be to control the distance. If Parker gets inside consistently, he can muddle things and turn a sure-thing into a coin flip. If Joshua uses his reach and his jab to set the tone, this will be a runaway.
It sounds sort of video game-ish, but Joshua’s hand speed and his uppercut could be what pushes him over the top. Parker has made a habit of leaning forward a bit, and if Joshua squares him up with that uppercut, he’s going to be in a world of hurt.
Parker’s Path to Victory
It would be ridiculous for Parker to come into this thing with the hope of outscoring Joshua and earning another decision. That leaves one route to victory here for the Kiwi: come forward, pressure ‘AJ’ and hope he catches him like Klitschko did. The Parker camp has called Joshua’s chin into question, which is a bit off-tune considering that ‘AJ’ recovered after getting knocked down by ‘Dr. Steelhammer.’ I mean, he won that fight after all.
Still, Parker’s best shot is going for broke early and hoping to hurt Joshua. ‘AJ’ is quick, but his head movement is a bit suspect and can leave him vulnerable for a big shot. Even if Parker doesn’t put him down, he can still find a way to slow Joshua down so he isn’t able to completely dictate things, leaving a slight opening for the underdog.
As of Friday evening, Joshua was listed as a -700 favorite and is a clear favorite in the bout BUT the odds have shifted as money has come in on Parker pushing him down to +500. At BetOnline, Joshua is -550 with Parker at +420. No matter where you’re betting, the odds have moved considerably since the opening. When the fight first hit the market, ‘AJ’ was priced at -1200 with Parker coming back at +700.
I think Joshua wins this fight, but to find value on the -700, you’d have to believe he wins this fight 88% of the time. To find value in Parker’s +500 moneyline, you’d have to be convinced he wins at least 17% of the time. Neither of those sit well with me.
Where I do think there’s value is in the total rounds market.
I fully expect Parker to bomb forward early and I think that will leave an opening for Joshua to put on some punishment. The New Zealand native has a great chin, but he’s going to need to take a lot of risks in this fight and that should set things up for a Joshua uppercut. Once Joshua hurts Parker, he will be able to come forward and overwhelm him like he did to Takam, forcing the ref, or even Parker’s corner, to say ‘no mas’ before the eighth round ends.
Pick: Under 8.5 rounds -160
Boxing record: 8-3-1, +17.35 units
All odds current as of Friday evening.
Anthony Joshua vs. Joseph Parker will air live on Showtime starting at 5 p.m Eastern.