Parker v Joshua: how the Kiwi can win
Combat sports commentator Mike Angove - who will be calling Sunday's fight for SKY TV - breaks down the biggest fight in New Zealand boxing history. Can Joseph Parker pull off an upset and claim Anthony Joshua's three world title belts? Angove has the answers.
Talk Is Cheap
The time for talk (and other boxing clichés) is almost over for Joseph Parker and Anthony Joshua as they edge closer to destiny in their heavyweight 'brawl for it all' on Sunday morning.
Make no mistake, there has been plenty of talk; far more than we've been used to in previous Parker fights as the Duco team, led by the unlikely provocateur David Higgins, has directly attacked the chin and musclebound frame of the IBF, IBO, and WBA champion Joshua.
Pre-fight coverage has centred on moral victories at media face-offs and head-to-head interviews - but these typically align the "victory" with the journalist's country of origin.
And all the talk and speculation about moral victories will count for very little when the bell rings and the British concussion machine stalks forward looking to add the Kiwi's WBO strap to his collection.
Parker will face the fight of his life on Sunday; he must be prepared to go to hell and back to tip over the rightful favourite in Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua.
If we base our assessment on the boxers’ performance in their three most recent bouts, Joshua has moved on to a new plane with his KO victories over Wladimir Klitschko, Carlos Takam and, to a lesser extent, Eric Molina.
The 26-year-old Parker's efforts against Hughie Fury, Andy Ruiz and Razvan Cojanu have been less than stellar, with Parker scraping by fringe contender Ruiz; dominant but frustrated against former sparring partner Cojanu; and with his feet seemingly stuck in the mud against the very mobile Fury (who to be fair would have been better placed in an Olympic 1500 metre final than a boxing word title fight).
In the "immortal" words of Floyd Mayweather Senior, "there's levels to this s##t”, and Joshua has delivered what Parker still needs to confirm - a breakout performance that takes him to the next level.
For all the criticism of AJ getting dropped by a 40-year-old Klitschko, who was coming off a loss, the fact remains the Brit came off the canvas to KO the dominant world champion of the past 10-15 years.
The other point people tend to overlook is that Klitschko punches very, very hard. And, with 53 KOs at the highest level, if he touches you on the chin you are going to be hurt. It's what you do when you are hurt that determines whether you are a champion or a pretender.
Joshua got up, survived and eventually took Wlad's head off with a right upper in the 11th. This was the breakout performance that will give Joshua a reservoir of confidence that Parker cannot draw from... yet.
The Takam Test
Joshua and Parker have one opponent in common: Carlos Takam. Their respective fights clearly show the power differential between the pair.
Joshua, though tiring, won most rounds against the French Cameroonian and hurt him on several occasions before winning via a questionable stoppage.
Parker also hurt Takam, but couldn't drop him and got dragged into a slugfest, narrowly edging a decision.
Context should be acknowledged in that Takam took the fight with Joshua on two weeks’ notice, while he had a full camp for Parker. It's also worth noting that Parker had a back injury in his bout. You can clearly see him bending over between rounds on numerous occasions to deal with the spasms. But the fact remains that, against their only common opponent, Joshua was the more dominant fighter.
Looking ahead to the fight itself, AJ is a worthy favourite, though the bookies who have it at 6-1 odds must be on some very strong magic mushrooms. For mine, this is a 60-40 fight in favour of Joshua, but with Parker more than capable of tipping over the hometown boy. Styles make fights, and Parker’s durability, fast hands, the ability to deliver second phase attacks and mobility all translate well against AJ's upright, more conventional, but brutally effective style.
Talking to experts around the world, the very real possibility of a Parker upset has been considered even by those who favour Joshua.
It’s clear they expect Parker to give Joshua a rugged bout that will test his resolve. Almost without fail, the comments have been ‘look for a Joshua win late - but don’t be surprised if Parker tips him up’, which suggests we have more than a live underdog on our hands.
Keys To Victory
In the Joshua camp the plan will be simple - test the much-vaunted chin of Parker early. If he’s hurt, put the pressure on. If not, keep the fight long, exploit the reach advantage and snipe the Kiwi with power shots from the outside, breaking him down and looking to tighten the screws for a mid-to-late stoppage from an accumulation of shots.
Keeping it long will test Parker’s patience. He’s shown a tendency to get frustrated and rush into the kill zone without his feet under him, exposing him to the uppercut in particular. There’s no doubt Joshua’s team will have noted this and will have drilled for this scenario. If things do go awry, and Parker makes it to the inside, Joshua must tie him up and lean over the smaller man, forcing him to carry his weight – frustrating him and sapping his energy.
Mentally it’s been an interesting joust in the lead up to the fight. Joshua has certainly taken it to heart. His recent talk suggests plenty of spiteful intent and a desire to break Parker mentally over the duration.
If Joshua executes this with cold fury rather than red hot anger, he will be a far more dangerous opponent. If he becomes emotional and exposes his whiskers, then Parker’s opportunities will come far more often. Let’s hope the pre-fight mental games have played to Joshua’s ego enough to push him outside his normal calculated approach.
For Parker there is no question that to win he must show qualities we haven't yet seen in his 24 professional outings.
I’ve had the privilege of being close to the camp and can categorically state he has the potential to step up and translate the exceptional work he does in the gym to the biggest stage. But the difference between good and great fighters is the ability to maximise potential and perform under immense pressure. The heavyweight unification bout in Cardiff would certainly be a great time for Parker to do it.
Becoming The Real Deal
Hall of Famer Evander Holyfield is a good benchmark for Parker. A smaller heavyweight, Holyfield could look very ordinary at times against average opposition. But when the pressure came on, against the likes of Tyson, Bowe, Lewis and numerous others, Holyfield would shine, particularly when hurt.
Parker needs to show similar qualities; the ability to take a world class punch and keep the pressure on, relentlessly squeezing every ounce of ability out of his six-foot-four (1.93m) frame.
He must be driven by an unbreakable will to win. Parker needs to embrace going to hell and back and ensure he drags Joshua with him, breaking the bigger and more powerful man down over the stretch.
This mentality more than any other technical aspect will determine the outcome of the fight.
Technique and Tactics
From a technical point of view, Parker must move his head off the centre line, bridge the gap, and make AJ pay for missing. Making the opponent pay has been an aspect of Parker’s game which has often been absent so far in his career. Against the likes of Joshua, chances will come in split seconds and the Kiwi must capitalise.
Joshua’s power, although present in both hands, is most devastating from his right hand. His straight right, overhand right and uppercut are deadly. Parker has a tendency to dip down away from the right hand to avoid it, which brings him into line for the uppercut - and AJ’s uppercut is a decapitator.
Expect Joshua to try force Parker to avoid the right hand by dipping down into the danger zone.
The other very obvious defensive flaw is Parker’s tendency to drift along the ropes, left hand down, into the trajectory of the right hand. Against a fighter with a 13cm reach advantage with the power Joshua possesses, that could be disastrous. It’s a habit the Kiwi needs to eliminate - and I expect something Kevin Barry has drilled over and over again in the gym.
The singlemost important thing for Parker to execute is bridging the gap and firing once inside of Joshua’s range. This is where he needs to put those fast hands to work and, importantly, avoid getting tied up by the bigger man on the inside. The fight will be won or lost by Parker’s ability to get his hands off at this range. He also needs to keep Joshua turning, again taking a leaf out of Holyfield’s book, not allowing the power puncher to get his feet set and opening up the opportunity to deliver second phase attacks.
Most important will be Parker’s conditioning. He’s expected to give Joshua trouble at times, but not to be able to sustain it. If Parker can keep it tight defensively, be relentless in attack and be composed and conditioned enough to recover when hurt, then don’t be surprised to see this underdog bite back.
How The Experts See It
Michael Sprott – former Commonwealth champion, regular sparring partner of Wladimir Klitschko and former Joshua opponent.
I have AJ winning by late stoppage and I believe he is the more proven fighter. I have followed JP from the beginning of his career and he is an awesome fighter. I did at one point have him to beat AJ. But after the Takam fight I changed my mind and could see AJ beating him. I just think AJ will come in lighter to match the speed of Parker, and AJ is a bigger puncher. But, in saying that, it’s not gonna be one-way traffic.
JP is a skilled operator with very fast hands and great combination shots. He could catch AJ later in the fight, which is probably the plan for Team Parker.
Ben Doughty, UK boxing commentator and journalist
I favour Joshua based on my belief that Parker is solid but unremarkable in any particular aspect. Joseph likes to come forward but, unlike Hughie Fury, AJ will be there to engage him. Parker needs to get inside Joshua’s reach to be effective and, at some point, he’s going to get hit. I’m going with Joshua inside eight rounds.
Jeff Fenech, legendary former multiple world boxing champion and Hall of Famer
I think it will be a great fight. Very even early. But I think AJ could be little too powerful. But the longer it goes, Parker comes into the fight. So if it finishes early it’ll be AJ, but the longer it goes the better for Parker.
Kali Meehan, former WBO world title contender, Super 8 champion and Parker opponent
A massive fight for our WBO champ. A fight that he can win. A fight that a lot of people forget he's in and are already starting talking about Wilder V Joshua.
No doubt AJ is the favourite – he’s bigger, taller, stronger and used to the 80,000-plus arena. I feel AJ would love to fight this fight in a phone booth, toe-to-toe, where he is very strong.
For Parker to win he needs to jab and move. With the speed that he possesses, he needs to try to get the big man to tire by making him throw and miss, and sink in some body shots along the way. Lots of faints to get the big man to react. We have all seen AJ tire halfway through the fight, so it makes sense to try to tire him out with the above plan, then, in the later stages of the fight, execute the double jab or the jab to the body followed by the big right hand to (test his jaw). It’s a big ask but not an impossible dream.
Glenn McCrory – Former world cruiserweight champion, Mike Tyson sparring partner and current UK boxing commentator.
Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker will put on a great fight and I expect Parker to test him in every department. Expect Parker to have some good rounds with his speed and work rate but in the end, the size and power of Joshua will take its toll and Parker will be hurt and stopped in the late stages of an excellent fight.
Parker has a chance - he has to make Joshua work hard, which means taking shots and fighting fire with fire. Drag Joshua into the trenches and he tires. Holyfield could do that. I hope (Parker) can, I like the guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Parker won at all.