On Saturday night in Wales Anthony Joshua defeated Joseph Parker to unify three of the four alphabet-soup heavyweight belts. We are perhaps as little as one fight away from having the first undisputed Heavyweight Champion in a generation. This is a good moment for boxing.
But let’s not oversell things, either. If Joshua vs. Parker proved anything, it is this: We are still a long way from a return to the Golden Ages. The heavyweight division is interesting right now. But we are not close to the 1970s, or even the 1990s, when true legends ruled the sport’s glamor division.
This wasn’t Ali-Frazier. It wasn’t George Foreman vs. Ron Lyle. It wasn’t Evander Holyfied vs. Riddick Bowe or Lennox Lewis vs. Ray Mercer.
It was, in short, a disappointment. But that is a reflection of the expectations that surrounded it going in. Because while it was hardly an all-time classic, it was very much a respectable fight.
Both men came in well prepared, but physically and mentally. Parker executed a very good defensive game plan–his quick jab and awkward but disciplined movement made Joshua a far less effective offensive fighter than he has been in previous bouts.
At the same time, Parker was almost entirely unable to get his own offense in place. And a fighter cannot expect to win a bout off from his back foot if he is not consistently landing hard, scoring counters. So while this fight was much closer than the scorecards reflect, Joshua did deserve the victory. He controlled the terrain and pace, even if he was not able to exploit those advantages in any meaningful way.
What we saw, in short, was two skilled professionals locked in a tactical stalemate. Great fighters find a way or else force a way to break such an impasse. Joshua and Parker were unable to do this last weekend.