AN UNDEFEATED GRUDGE MATCH – JOSHUA vs. WHYTE

Kasim Aslam

There are a few things that are more exciting than watching the scintillating build up to a grudge match. Press conference antics can often be met with verbal sparring between the fighters and even their camps, prior to the first bell. Not only does this help promote the fight, it bring in a whole new audience who are determined to see an old fashion dust up to set aside a rivalry.

This is the exact situation 2 goliath heavyweight find themselves in. Anthony Joshua is set to take his much profiled rivalry with Dillian Whyte into the professional ranks on December 12th to finish the year off with an almighty bang. Come fight night, do not expect to see any pre fight compliments, and shake of hands or touch of gloves. In short, both fighters cannot stand the sight of each other and are desperate to prevail in the most brutal way possible.

For Anthony Joshua, this is about avenging an amateur loss in his 3rd fight. It’s also an opportunity to continue his fine progression that has captivated the minds of boxing fans and casual fans around the world. In only his 16th fight, the Matchroom Mountain has been uttered amongst the kings of the division. It’s a testament to the raw talent which he possesses and his amicable attitude that has allowed him to be this raging fire that has burnt through everything in its path. On the other side of this equation were 16 opponents who were all stopped within 3 rounds. From his professional debut to his last outing against Gary Cornish, the 26 year old has showcased ferocious combination of speed, power and timing. Perhaps Joshua’s most impressive win was against the durable and charismatic Kevin Johnson. The American had a worthy reputation of being someone who was durable, and rightly so. Johnson had taken the likes of Derek Chisora, Tyson Fury and Wladmir Klitschko, the full distance.

Therefore, this would have been an ideal assessment on whether ‘AJ’ could conjure up some answers to questions that had never been asked before. The intriguing aspect of this contest was not whether Joshua would win, but rather how, and when his hand would be raised as the victor. You would forgive the fans in attendance for thinking that they were experiencing déjà vu. The 2nd round stoppage of Kevin Johnson was a systematic annihilation and reminiscent of the Watford mans previous victories. Clean, straight punches in short burst floored Johnson in the opening round. As the end was in sight, Joshua came steaming in with combinations that were landing clean, a testament to his timing and balance. The end came in the second round when the home fighter was firing away at will. Ian John Lewis had no choice but to pull Johnson out of the contest and raise the hand of the victor.

What impact can an amateur fight have between two undefeated professionals have? Physically, it may not have much as both are shadows of the fighters they once were. Yet, the psychological impact is something that, we the audience cannot witness from the outside. Only the fighter and his opponent really know what impact their duel had many years ago. The man hoping to upset the apple cart is Dillian Whyte. Whyte, like Joshua is also undefeated and also has a very impressive knockout record. However, the upbringings of the two as professional pugilists have been very different. Whereas Joshua has had the promotion of being the Olympic Champion and then the backing of major Promoters Matchroom, Dillian Whyte has had the opposite.

The Brixton man has gone about his business in a quieter fashion when defeating the likes of Marcelo Nascimento and Irineu Costa Junior. He displays very good discipline, a solid jab and sharp reflexes that have allowed him to set up traps before unleashing a vicious shot to floor his opponents. Against Nascimento, ‘The Body Snatcher’ worked out a way to bypass his opponent’s height and reach. Remaining patient and constantly working behind the jab, Whyte was able to set up the precise moment to land a straight that floored his Nascimento for the victory. This was the same narrative in Hull, when he faced Costa Junior. Whyte worked his opponent with the jab, sensed a hint of an opening and set free to a quick fire combination. On this occasion, the first shot grazed his opponents head and scrambles the senses. One large left hook later, Costa was down and was unable to beat the count. Whyte had won in the first round.

One thing in Whyte’s favour is his amateur win against Joshua, in what was the Brixton mans first fight. As mentioned before, the impact of victory is something we may not be able to decipher as of yet. It may only have had a psychological impact, but we would only be able to determine this during and after the fight. As things are right this instance, Joshua will rightly come in as favourite due to the names on his resume and the manner of the victories. His ability to throw hurtful punches is remarkable. His jab is not a range finder but a potent weapon in his arsenal, and will be vital when eliminating Whyte’s jab. As mentioned, Whyte relies on his jab when setting up his attacks, however if this was forcefully removed, it could cause a great deal of concern to his corner. It will be a crucial aspect in grasping victory. On the other hand, Joshua’s rise could ultimately be his downfall in this bout. Being proclaimed as one of the next big things, could stare the eyes away from the present and into the future. Rumours have been swirling around for a potential fight with Tyson Fury and David Haye, which may cause ‘AJ’ to take his immediate opponent lightly. Doing this could be disastrous, especially in the heavyweight division and must be avoided at all cost.

Whyte will be the underdog and will most definitely have the underdog mentality. Fighting under the tutelage of Jonathan Banks, he has been exposed to a world class training regime along with heavyweight titan, Wladmir Klitschko. He will need to be shrewd and wily to make it out of the first couple of rounds without any real damage, and to test Joshua’s stamina in the middle and latter stages. The Brixton man will be oozing with self confidence and this will serve him well in launching his own attacks, something that others have rarely done against Joshua. In doing this, Whyte will be able to test the chin of the Matchroom fighter to see if he can find a weakness. If the 27 year old is persistent with his jab, he could frustrate his counterpart and force mistakes. Once there is a sense of an opening the end could be nigh. However, Whyte’s weakness could be his personal feelings. He may be too resilient to get rid of Joshua and knock him out when the opening bell sounds. The game plan will go out of the window will play into the hands of ‘AJ’. Therefore it will be crucial for Whyte to remain calm and listen to the instruction being bellowed by Banks.

Whatever the end result, we are in for a fight where anything could happen. So do not be surprised if we were to witness an early stoppage, an upset or even a barnstormer!

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