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GATLING: Anthony Joshua Is NOT That Good

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Let’s call this the sequel to “Mike Tyson Was NOT That Good!” 

I’m approached at ringside for Deontay Wilder Vs Bermane Stiverne II inside of the Barclays Center in November 2017 by Gareth A. Davies from The Telegraph.

The most read sports writer in Europe, it’s kind of cool to know he’s been reading this column, particularly, the feature I’d just written on Tyson. 

Arthur Mercante Jr. has just left my side for his assignment to prevent WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder from “killing” Stiverne. As he gets up to leave (“You’re only working two rounds, Art”, I tell him), Davies, making sure the whole world sees his new damn watch while spilling electricity all over me, sits down to dish on the “Iron Mike” saga.  

“Dude… you fuckin nailed that piece man! Just don’t show Tyson fans or you might get into more fights in the pub!” drips Davies, full of ostentatious style and fervor. He was referring to a mini-melee that broke out inside of Jack Demsey’s in NYC near MSG, where I watched the now former unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (22-1, 20KOs) break down a “brickwall shithouse” (as coined by Eddie Hearn) in Carlos Takam a few weeks prior.

At times, we’re all amazing prisoners of the moment. Sometimes, that can even mean a moment in time that spans weeks or months. Even years. Long enough to look back on ourselves with derisive pride; now knowing what that other guy merely believed. I overestimated the merits of Anthony Joshua– that night at the pub and to some extent on Saturday morning, for on any given Sunday we “experts” can be made to look like Stephen A. Smith sounds at times: like we don’t know shit about boxing. 

No, Mike Tyson was NOT that good, but he was better than Anthony Joshua. It remains to be seen if AJ can eclipse him, but I don’t think he can. Relative to where they are at age 29, Tyson was falling apart emotionally and bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off for a way out, while Joshua acted as if his ego – instead of his chin – had been low blowed and was on some sort of break in the 7th round. Referee Mike Griffin had to remind him that “You’re not on a break!” 

I’m inclined to believe in a showdown, after careful analysis of them both, Tyson wastes no time wasting AJ inside of three rounds.

With all that was at stake to go along with all of the hyperbole (we were a few days removed from George Foreman, all-time great co-star of the “Rumble in The Jungle”, telling the world that AJ Vs Wilder would be bigger than Ali Vs Frazier), one can almost understand the sentiments of a Stephen A. on Twitter coming from a strictly fan perspective on AJ. Another all-time great, Andre Ward, opined that AJ was too worried about ‘looking like a model on Instagram,’ all but calling him an entitled narcissist. 

Both are now qualified journalists with before and afters. Somewhere in the middle of all of that is the truth, and as of now, it would seem to paint a grim picture of where AJ goes from here.        

After nearly 20 years of combat, Wladimir Klitschko definitively proved– in comparison to Lennox Lewis, that he was not that good, if we’re strictly basing him on the Lewis criterion alone. A Hall of Fame fighter? Absolutely. An all-time great? Certainly. Klitschko even qualifies as a legend, owed much to what he’d done after looking nothing like any of the three against a very dangerous Corrie Sanders in 2003. Larry Merchant made a great statement just before the opening bell of that fight regarding Dr. Steelhammer, when he said, “Wladimir Klitschko seems so perfect you wonder what’s wrong with him. Can Corrie Sanders find out?”

We all did. He thought he was a movie star and that “Ocean’s 11” was real.

All Klitschko did was go back to the lab obsessed with greatness, and came up with a “tall fighting” iteration of Lewis with great economy and no frills. Instead of Lewis’s Corn Flakes by Kelloggs, Klitschko was just… Corn Flakes, in big bold letters, in a black and white box. But it worked. He was stately and presidential. Everything he needed to be while ushering in a new era of international, in what was a very non-glamorous heavyweight division during his reign.                

It does seem that AJ is obsessed with his appearance– inside and outside of the ring. I know how good his corner is, so I can’t put any of this on Robert McCracken.

Many of us in boxing know that AJ was shellacked a few times in sparring sessions during this camp. He didn’t forget as he was supposed to. He reads press clippings and takes things personally. He was also hurt badly and knocked down in that round-of-the-year 3rd, and seemed embarrassed in a way that killers respond to differently. This, after a member of the DAZN ring commentating team can be heard uttering “Watch this”, with full expectation that AJ was about to make short work of Ruiz following a spectacular knockdown via sensational left hook. Instead, what we saw after that was Primo Carnera with a spray tan on a Lime Bike.

Absolutely no disrespect to Andy Ruiz, I’m sure he worked his ass off to get here and got it done… But he had no business winning this fight. With an eight-inch reach disadvantage, what should have been a demonstrative edge in conditioning (Joshua’s mind fell apart– panic and anxiety will fatigue a fighter quickly), and all the motivation in the world for a superfight with Wilder or Tyson Fury, Joshua allowed a Mexican, professional version of Eric “Butterbean” Esch to etch his name in history. I don’t know that he can reinvent himself as Wladimir Klitschko did, but I do know that Ruiz should have been very similar disposable material; not unlike what Mike Tyson was confronted with when he turned Tony Tubbs into what Larry Merchant called “a bug.. a fat bug” in his prelude to Michael Spinks. We know Buster Douglas happened in Tokyo– but that was after the superfight. 

Anthony Joshua is NOT that good. And we may have already seen the best of him.            

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About John Gatling

Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of upcoming book, "The Fist Club." Conscious indie recording artist "T@z" and humanist advocate for the Green Party.

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