The good news for Anthony Joshua is that he won, and for the first time in nearly three years, he won by knockout. This is something to celebrate.
Joshua, a former unified heavyweight champion, hasn’t looked like the killer he once was for several years. Not to mention anyone, Lennox Lewis on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London, but he won without much difficulty via a seventh-round knockout.
Looking wary and nervous, Joshua risked little against Robert Helenius, a last-minute substitute who took the fight when Dillian White failed an anti-doping test and was pulled from the bout.
Helenius fought a week ago in Finland and was in good shape, so he got the nod.
It was a win, but it did nothing to show Deontay Wilder his aptitude.
At one point, when both men were undefeated with heavy titles around the waist, the match was 50-50 at worst, perhaps a match that favored Joshua a bit. Now, though, Wilder is two cuts over Joshua and will undoubtedly destroy the version of Joshua we saw on Saturday.
It’s not fair to compare fights, but Wilder faced Helenius last year and finished him off with one huge shot late in the first round. Joshua made Helenius look like a legitimate competitor instead of the B side he clearly was.
“Helenius, I told him there ‘please come over again (because) in modern boxing, losing is like suicide,’ Joshua said, ‘but the guy has talent so I had to spot him.'” “He was a late substitute but I think he can cause some people some problems, in my humble opinion.”
Helenius can cause some problems for some fighters, but nothing with the last names of Fury, Joshua, Wilder, Usyk, or Ruiz. It’s slow, doesn’t have much movement and isn’t particularly heavy.
Wilder is the opposite. He is fast with very quick hands and although he will never remind anyone of Floyd Mayweather with his footwork, he jumps into hitting position quickly and is one of the hardest hitters in the history of the division.
Coach Derek James tries to rebuild Joshua’s confidence and fundamentals. While it would be wise to never bet on James, one of boxing’s elite trainers, Joshua is in the early stages of his development and has holes that Wilder would easily exploit.
Promoter Eddie Hearn praised Joshua after the fight, but it was as if he was trying to pat his superstar heavyweight on the back and rebuild his confidence. He said Joshua and his team entered the bout with a three-point plan: Helenius one Saturday, Wilder the next, and then WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
The first point has been achieved, but even getting into a Fury battle, let alone winning it, would be very difficult.
With that said, Joshua was as confident as we’ve seen him for a while, at least after the fight. He was stiff and cautious in the paddock, especially in the beginning, and didn’t look like the 2016-2017 version of himself.
After the match ended, he took a winning run, and UFC star Conor McGregor gorged himself on beer. And although he wasn’t too keen on spending a lot of time doing the interview with the microphone, he was joking around.
He asked for a doctor and made many of his first-row fans light up. But he was showing his confidence, or trying, to match Wilder.
“My back! My back!” Joshua said feigning pain. “Is there a doctor here? My back has gone from carrying that heavy weight to the top.”
The heavyweight division is in a great place now, and it would be so much better if Joshua could regain his former form. He’s only 33 years old and he still hits like a truck and is an athlete.
However, at this point in his career, the whole is nowhere near the sum of its parts. He looks robotic and needs to think and against quick, twitching punches like Wilder, which can be deadly.
Hearn laid out Joshua’s plan in detail, and it looked as if he was trying to cash in rather than see Joshua regain his confidence and talents.
“Whether you support Josh, whether you think he can do it, whether he can’t, things have changed,” Hearn said. “He’s a mature heavyweight now. And I know everyone wants to see first, second and third round KOs, but against Helenius he took his time and delivered one of the knockouts of the year. We think he can go on and beat Deontay Wilder. … We’ll be looking forward “To try and close this deal in the next couple of days. Josh is ready for that fight. He’s given everything for the sport. He’s given everything for British boxing. Now he’s ready for some big fights.”
The good news for boxing fans is that he can probably get it. Joshua Wilder is a huge world match.
The bad news for Anthony Joshua is that he probably gets it.
At this point in his career, Anthony Joshua wasn’t ready for the likes of Deontay Wilder.