Where to start? Six months ago the heavyweight division looked in rude health, but right now it’s hard not to feel a bit flat. Wilder beating Stiverne again, Joshua not looking too convincing against Takam and a far from impressive performance from Dillian White.
With all that in mind, we touched base with our resident boxing expert David Jarvis to find out exactly what we can expect in the coming months and more importantly whether those genuinely big fights are likely to happen.
The MALESTROM: Do you think Eddie Hearn is avoiding the Deontay Wilder fight because once that happens, there’s not much else out there really?
David Jarvis: I don’t think so. That fight has to happen now. Who else is there? Fury is in no shape and will need a couple of warm-ups. Parker? Okay maybe. Another mandatory which could just as easily derail the money express? Not ideal. I think they have to make that fight for next year. I can’t see Hearn standing in the way. He may want to but the public is demanding it now.
TM: When you see Dominic Breazeale beating Eric Molina and looking for another title shot, it’s all just a bit depressing isn’t it?
DJ: Absolutely. I once wrote that Breazeale was manufactured in a “gym lab” and likened him to a Frankenstein monster because he is not a pure fighter. He turned to boxing when he didn’t make it as a pro footballer. The now defunct All-American Heavyweight programme, which also recruited Charles Martin, had the idea it could turn big athletes into world champions.
We all know what happened when both of them fought Joshua. At the top level, Breazeale is no more than a punching bag. He’s tough but ponderous and the fact that he stopped the equally uninspiring Molina means we are now meant to believe that makes him a fringe contender is a joke.
Frank Bruno was a little ponderous but he was Lomachenko compared to Breazeale. I have nothing against Breazeale or Molina – they are just not top level fighters and with such quality on offer in the lighter divisions I find myself looking at them and shaking my head. It is a bit like the difference between Man City and Man Utd.
Yes, Utd are decent – and maybe at any other time that might have been acceptable – but by comparison to today’s City they look mediocre. Let’s be honest though – the heavyweight division is still struggling. “Deontay who?” is the question I get asked in the pub and Joshua is still a work in progress – though he has won over a lot of converts – myself included.
TM: We like Dillian Whyte, but he’s in no mans land after that fight with Helenius, bar tagging Joshua with a big shot in what was a messy fight, what else is there to hang your hat on with White?
DJ: To be fair I like Whyte. He got the win against the big durable Fin – more than Chisora did in 2011 though I felt Del Boy was robbed – and all fighters can have those kinds of uninspiring nights. Helenius calls himself The Nordic Nightmare and he was just that. But I think if Whyte fights Joshua again it is a different fight – though I still favour Joshua.
I have a feeling White has learned a lot and has more control in his boxing and has much more to offer given the right occasion. There are big fights out there for him and I feel he is deserving of a shot against Parker or Joshua again. I’m not totally convinced – but just feel there is more to Whyte than we are giving him credit for. He has shown he is durable, has power and there is no doubting his desire.
TM: We’ve also got the prospect of David Haye vs Tony Bellew part 2 on the horizon – how do you see that?
DJ: Don’t get me started on David Haye! His career has been over for a long time in my mind. He fought a few no-hopers before landing the Bellew fight which yet again exposed the fact that his body has been breaking down for years. I think Bellew wins again.
I fancied him the first time because we all know Haye blows a bit after six rounds – the Chisora KO came in the nick of time for me – and I feel Bellew is good enough to take him late. Haye was a great cruiserweight but never really a heavy and has been so inactive.
That said how has Bellew’s success affected him mentally? He suddenly became the golden boy and has been inactive himself since the Haye fight. But I don’t see what Haye can do differently this time. Even without the Achilles problem.
Bellew was frustrating him and taking his shots first time around. The pattern of the fight was set. I see Haye missing a lot again, running out of steam and getting stopped in the last third of the fight finally ending his career.
TM: Obviously there’s a lot of toing and froing when it comes to making these fights, but it’d just be good to see some proper matchups that mean something – Tony Bellew vs Joseph Parker say and Dillian White vs Jarrell Miller and obviously Joshua vs Wilder?
DJ: Yes that is true but the problem we have is there are not that many quality, evenly matched heavyweights out there. Joshua Wilder is the only fight anybody really wants to see and let’s face it – anything can happen. My money would be on the more composed and better schooled Joshua but either man could get tagged early and maybe not in a good way.
By that, I mean both have the kind of vulnerabilities that should not be there when the two best heavyweights meet. Wilder, as his name suggests, can be wild and off balance and looks likely to be caught by Joshua. Joshua is more composed but as we have seen can also be caught early.
Wilder’s unorthodox wildness could also sucker Joshua in – by accident and not by design – and Joshua could get tagged. I find that a little disheartening because I do not want that element to be there in a top calibre fight early on. Late when both are tired, maybe.
Take the Liam Smith v Liam Williams rematch for instance. It may not have caught fire like the first fight but it was a superb, hard, boxing match of great composure and skill on the part of both men. No one was going to get countered while swinging wildly or while off balance.
Maybe I’m being too much a purist but I like to see fighter’s tire before they make mistakes. I believe Joshua is far more the finished article these days, however. His win over Takam drew criticism but fair play to him. Takam was oh so durable while never really threatening to win. For me, Joshua did very well in that fight with a broken nose too, despite the criticism.
TM: How do you rate ‘Big Baby’ Miller by the way – he might just be someone who could trouble the belt holders?
DJ: What is not to like about an 86 per cent KO ratio in his first 20 fights? We need to see more though. Sterner tests await. It’s impossible to say what he brings to the table until that happens.
TM: Lomachenko vs Rigondeaux looks like a cracker. A couple of Olympic gold medalists going toe to toe, that looks like a fight worth staying up for?
DJ: That’s a fight worth getting a plane for, staying in a cheap flee-pit hotel, braving the cold December streets of New York on the scrounge for a ticket and even squandering your inheritance on the last ticket available for a ringside seat at the Garden. This is the Sweet Science personified.
Of course, the smart money is on Loma – purely because of the weight advantage – but he will not play with Rigo like he has so many others and… vice versa. What a prospect for so many reasons. My only reservation is Rigo moving up to super feather – but I’m not as worried as some appear to be. Who wins? I haven’t got a clue because both men have reigned supreme. They can both do it all.
TM: And back over here – George Groves vs Eubank Jr looks like a great, fun fight for British boxing fans, is Groves likely to edge that?
DJ: It’s a massive test for Eubank Jr who for my money is not rougher or tougher than Jamie Cox…. and Groves put him in his place. Groves is long and is clearly the puncher of the two. Yet Eubank keeps surprising us.
If Groves still has plenty left – and I think he does – I’d pick him but there isn’t a lot of conviction in that prediction. Eubank has a great engine from what we’ve seen and a good chin. Groves, on the other hand, has been known to tire which could take him in Eubank territory late on. Good fight.
TM: And finally, talking legendary offspring, how’s Conor Benn coming along, he looks like a firecracker just like his dad?
DJ: Very exciting to watch but it is very early days with just ten fights under his belt. It is going to be exciting by the looks of it. He has all the vulnerability of his father earlier in his career – because he leaves himself open in his eagerness to impress.
And he has the same desire to be a crowd pleaser which is a great attitude – so long as he has a chin and can bang at a higher level. We should find out in 18 to 24 months.
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David has been writing about boxing since 1995 starting for Boxing Monthly as their reporter doing British, European, Commonwealth and World title fights. He says it was a privilege to be their York Hall man covering fights there and others on the domestic scene. After a move to Scotland, he became The Scotsman’s boxing writer (as well as news editor). He now contributes to Boxing Monthly, doing features.