Two undefeated heavyweight stars meet at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Saturday night, when WBA and IBF champion Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KO) faces WBO champion Joseph Parker’s (24-0, 18 KO). The unification bout comes roughly 11 months after Joshua sent legendary heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko into retirement and four weeks after American Deontay Wilder held off previously undefeated Luis Ortiz in a WBC title fight to strengthen Wilder’s reputation as boxing’s most feared heavyweight.
Joshua, a gold medalist from the 2012 London Olympics, cemented his status as the class of the division and silenced many of his detractors with his comeback victory over Klitschko in April 2017. The memorable fight firmly established Joshua as a legitimate power punch and proved he is capable of outlasting an intelligent and measured defensive fighter.
The Brit may need to show the same type of resiliency when he steps into the ring with Parker. The 26-year-old New Zealander is known for being aggressive, but will almost certainly show more interest in defending himself than in previous fights, when he opened himself up to big hooks and uppercuts. In Parker’s last bout, he was tagged with some solid punches by a lethargic Hughie Fury, who like Joshua is listed at 6-foot-6. But Parker came away with a majority decision and went the distance for a third consecutive fight.
“He’s at his best. I’m at my best.,” Parker said about the upcoming bout. “This is the perfect time for the fight. There are going to be no excuses. Whoever wins is the best on the day.”
But Joshua is clearly the favorite with the three-inch height advantage as the superior power puncher. The 27-year-old is listed as the 1/6 favorite, while Parker is the 9/2 underdog, according to Sky Bet.
Joshua, who has an 82-inch reach, weighed in at 242.25 pounds, while Parker, who has a 78-inch reach, weighed in at 263.5.
Should Joshua prevail, there will be renewed calls for him to fight Wilder. Should Parker upset Joshua, there is a contractual obligation for a rematch.
Joshua has stated that he isn’t looking past Parker for a possible 2018 megabout with Wilder.
“I take it 1,000 percent one fight at a time,” Joshua said. “A lot of talk has been happening about ‘A.J. vs. Deontay.’ People need to be realistic. I’m looking at Joseph Parker, who is a lively challenger. He’s a champion for a reason.”
Start Time: 5 p.m, ET
TV Network: Showtime
Livestream: Showtime Anytime
Prediction: Expect Joshua to do plenty of jabbing in some quiet early rounds to gain a big edge on Parker. As the fight progresses, Parker may not have a choice but to take chances, which will prove to be his undoing. Joshua will eventually land some convincing right hands, prompting a fight stoppage.
Joshua by TKO in Round 9