In trying to end a war by starting one with a loaded question, it's worth noting that the answer lies more in real numbers than imaginary facts.
Asking anyone with an enthusiastic devotion to either WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder or unified champ Anthony Joshua for their opinion on the outcome of this fight, is like asking a jackass democrat if he or she is concerned about an elephant in the room. That, of course, can go either way.
Sports fans are really fickle in general, but in boxing, this is especially true. The flip side shows that the same dude who would swear by AJ a month ago, has purchased a VIP seat on the Wilder bandwagon express today (like I can't scroll down on your timeline, asshole). It's amazing what just 3:00, roughly the time it takes to nuke ramen noodles, can do out of 30 days. Wilder's drone striking of Bermane Stiverne– in contrast to Joshua's grinding ground assault of Carlos Takam, has shifted opinion and demand for this fight.
From a PR standpoint only one word comes to mind: Perfect.
While any of us would've loved to have been a fly on the wall during recent meetings between Joshua's UK promoter extraordinaire, Eddie Hearn, and Wilder's savvy representatives Al Haymon and Shelly Finkel about a fight that fans are showing a lust for on both sides of the pond, their recent showings have aroused debates from many on social media platforms and the fight world in general. It is great for boxing and both fighters.
Before I could really envision this match-up, I wanted to turn to a few boxing people with insight I could trust. First, I went to my childhood mentor and hero, Harold “The Shadow” Knight, with questions. I needed his take on what will amount to this era's heavyweight superfight. Shadow aided the late (and truly great) Emanuel Steward in developing former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis into one of the greatest heavyweights of all-time. How good is Wilder? What would he have done with Lewis? Can he beat Joshua?
“Joshua-Wilder is a real fight! That's a very exciting fight. Right now I would favor Wilder, for the simple fact that his jab is the key and then he has that equalizer– that missile of a right hand,” said Knight, now training select kids and clients out of Shadow Boxing Academy in Scotch Plains, NJ. “His defense needs to tighten up a lot though. What I do like is Wilder is using that jab like a big man should, although I see Joshua as a live dog.”
I've likened Joshua to a bigger, new age Frank Bruno sprayed with WD-40. In possession of really good mechanics, but mechanical in a way that could betray him against Joshua. Shadow elaborated.
“Yeah he's always in shape, punches real good… Still learning his craft and is a little robotic. But he's still very dangerous in this fight. There's some intangibles to be analyzed from both sides [from both camps],” opined Knight, before I just had to ask him how both would fare against Lewis.
“Joshua is a very, very good Champion, but he is the new version of Frank Bruno. Lennox knocks him out in the same fashion he did Frank Bruno. As for Wilder, Lennox would KO him too in my opinion. LL had an even bigger right hand and a pretty damn good left hook for a big man, as we saw in the rematch with Hasim Rahman. He could box and move well for at least 6-8 rounds of a 12 round fight, even though it ends before 12.”
Last week, I checked in with Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller at Mendez Gym in Manhattan before he went to war with Maruisz Wach at Nassau Coliseum on HBO. I knew even with Eddie Hearn standing in the vicinity that he'd give me his honest impression of AJ V Wilder and he delivered.
“I really don't think Deontay is all that… He don't want it with me and he damn sure didn't want it with Luis Ortiz. I'm 100 on that. But this is all about a certain style match-up and I think Wilder would KO AJ,” dropped double B. “For real– he gets him outta there. Joshua just thinks too much and doesn't fight with that urgency. Against Wilder that could hurt him, because Deontay does have a monster killer instinct.”
Ok… I got this.
Getting back to an earlier reference about fight fans, they are also the biggest prisoners of the moment in all of sports. In thinking about how Wilder matches up with Joshua, I really don't care about what he just did to Stiverne — I saw a dead man at the weigh-in but their first fight still carries weight in my eyes.
Stiverne was a focused champion 15lbs lighter and determined to win. He hated Wilder just as much, had no fear and walked through 1000 Wilder missiles that night. No one can convince me that Wilder just became fucking Thor since then. AJ is far more talented and dimensional than Gerald Washington in ways entirely methodical, with an extra 20lbs of absolute chiseled granite.
This doesn't help his chin, but it does give him the ability to somewhat maul and press the hyper athletic Wilder, who is built more like a New York Knick than the New York Giant it would take to beat Joshua. I don't know what happened with Luis Ortiz, but had he bombed ‘King Kong' on Nov 4 instead of Stiverne, this analysis gets dicier.
In 2018, Joshua's sterling victory over the best version of Wladimir Klitschko will reveal dividends, plus he's faced better opposition. Against Takam, the referee actually saved himself from counting to 100, because the iron Cameroonian was about to get brutally KTFO by Joshua. Despite criticism, I thought AJ carried the 255lbs well and didn't gas against a very powerful opponent physically.
Wilder could very well drop Joshua, but we've seen him rise and finish a focused all-time great. Mark Breland is my dawg, but I really like what Rob McCracken brings to Joshua's corner. I think AJ sustains a massive body attack on Wilder's male supermodel frame, gradually zapping his athleticism on the way to a decisive 10th round TKO in a thriller.