AJ survives toughest test to complete impressive 2015
By Michael J Jones
LAST SATURDAY night at the O2 Arena saw heavyweight star Anthony Joshua come through his toughest test to date with a brutal seven-round knock-out of the better-than-expected Dillian Whyte. The victory means the undefeated Joshua can now boast a perfect 15-0 (15) record as the British, Commonwealth and WBC International champion.
Despite entering the bout with his own unbeaten record, nobody gave underdog Whyte much of a chance. The Brixton puncher had beaten Joshua while both were raw amateurs but few saw a repeat with many suggesting Whyte wouldn’t see out the very first round….they were almost proven true.
On an already-exciting bill, the young heavyweights didn’t disappoint. Joshua made his usual confident start and within the first minute, Whyte had been shaken and was struggling to stay out of harm’s way. The reigning Commonwealth champion was relentless, reigning punch after punch to have Whyte in serious trouble.
As the final seconds ticked down, many wondered what was keeping “The Villain” up but he unfortunately would come to life AFTER the bell. A final Joshua left hook landed a split second after the bell and Whyte erupted; firstly trying a blow around the ref before launching a wild right while Joshua was in his corner surrounded by his team.
Credit to referee Howard Foster, he didn’t disqualify Whyte when he had good reason to and kept in control of the bad-tempered contest; issuing both with stern words before the start of the second.
While both appeared to listen and acknowledge the third man’s ticking off, they both leapt straight back into war once action had resumed. Whyte was hurt again and reduced to defending desperately off the ropes. Joshua neglected defence in his search for an early and dramatic stoppage but walked onto a superb left hook which shook him up.
The Matchroom-promoted star was clearly hurt as now we had a fight on our hands. Whyte tried to follow up but struggled to land anything significant as both fell into each other. Whyte, 6’4” and 247lbs, was then able to land a few more decent shots to edge the round, one notable left hook downstairs appearing to wind the favourite.
The third was quieter with both now respectful of the other man’s power. Joshua was still head-hunting too much and neglecting the jab while Whyte was more sneaky than quick and picked his moments to land a raking jab or a thumping right.
By the sixth, Joshua was boxing more and seemed to have found his rhythm while his game opponent was visibly slowing down. Joshua still looked ahead on the cards but all wondered whether his 27 year old opponent could land one more devastating blow.
In the seventh, Joshua altered the angle of his straight right and instead curved it around the Whyte guard to explode his fist into the temple of Dillian. The equilibrium of Whyte scrambled, he wobbled on shaky legs and “AJ” smelt blood.
The badly hurt and fatigued Whyte still tried to survive the storm but Joshua was relentless. Several big punches caught the shaken fighter before a last, huge, uppercut ended matters at 1:27 of the fateful round. Whyte was down for a number of minutes but thankfully made a swift recovery.
As he fully admitted in his post-fight interview, Joshua fought with his emotions in the opening rounds and nearly paid the price. Instead of timing his punches and setting them up behind the jab, he threw his punches wildly, at times with an almost maniacal glee in his eye.
Credit to Whyte though, he refused to be steam-rolled like many of Joshua’s previous opponents and dished out some punishment of his own. The left hook and follow-up body shots Whyte hammered into Joshua in the second had “welcome to the pros” written all over them. Joshua, not used to taking heavy shots these last few years, showed he has a chin and can come back from taking punishment.
The 6’6” champion can also say he can remain effective in the bout’s second half with the finishing punches as destructive as many of Joshua’s earlier finishes. With the lesson learned, expect Joshua to get back behind his jab next time out and save the wild swinging for when an opponent has been worn down more by steady boxing.
Joshua’s trainers Peter and Tony Sims have done an outstanding job so far and will have pointed out their charge’s mistakes from Saturday. Many are regarding the performance in a negative way but let’s not forget; Joshua knocked out a strong and game opponent in the toughest test of his short career and isn’t quite the finished article after just two years punching for pay.
The winner is next out on April 9th back at the O2 Arena with former British champion Dereck Chisora (who also won on the bill) a possible opponent. It’s hard to know what to expect from the hot/cold “Del Boy” these days but as a former world title challenger who has faced Vitali Klitschko, David Haye and Tyson Fury (twice), the match is definitely a step in the right direction for the British and Commonwealth champion.
Joshua went 5-0 (5) in 2015 with knock outs of Jason Gavern, Raphael Zumbano Love, Kevin Johnson, Gary Cornish and now Whyte. The opposition will only get sterner from now. Many will fancy Joshua to halt Chisora inside five rounds but if in the mood "Del Boy" could prove a handful.
As for Dillian Whyte
The build-up was colourful and many times heated but there’s no doubt in this writer’s mind, Whyte also came out of Saturday’s heavyweight tussle with much credit. Labelled beforehand as slow and far out of Joshua's league, Whyte showed he can fight and will have also learned from his first defeat.
The chaos which occurred at the end of the first, was no doubt the result of this being the Brixton man’s first main-event, head-lining, PPV show in which nerves will have played a big part. People taunted that Dillian was looking to get disqualified after a torrid opener but his subsequent performance more than compensated his moment of madness (it’s not like he bit an ear or anything).
Whyte is now 16-1 (13) and at 27 has plenty of time to keep working under coach Jonathon Banks to improve for another title fight in the near future. Entering the AJ contest, Whyte had stopped twelve straight opponents and showed a good chin on Saturday to go with the obvious heavy hands.
An immediate rematch would be rather pointless not to mention potentially damaging to both. Instead let both continue their respective careers for the next year as both climb the heavyweight ladder. Joshua is currently ranked with all four governing bodies but seems a good 18 months away from being ready for a potential shot at world glory.
Joshua, who makes no secret to the fact he prefers titles to hard cash, could look to make the Lonsdale belt his own next year before possibly targeting the European belt.
Whyte can maybe target the English belt before fighting for the vacant British title once Joshua inevitably vacates for world honours.