By Jake Collins (@MelancholyFolly)
When analysing a fighter or indeed a fight, one of the most crucial (though criminally underused) things to take into consideration is context. A fact may be a fact but without meaningful comparison it can be largely irrelevant. And that’s something we need to adopt when looking at Anthony Joshua’s career thus far.
This weekend’s ‘fight’ against Eric Molina is as adequate an example as you’ll find. That performance can be spun in a number of ways and it’s crucial we bring them into consideration when orchestrating an opinion on the big man. We can say, “Wow, Joshua wiped out the guy who shook up Deontay Wilder and he did it 6 rounds quicker!”. Or we could say “Wow, Joshua took three times as long as Chris Arreola to KO Eric Molina!”. Although, that doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know (Wilder loves having a harder time than necessary with lower-level guys and Molina isn’t very good). The same logic applies to the booking of the fight on paper. As a second world title defence, Eric Molina is worryingly sub-standard. As your 18th pro fight, Molina is absolutely fine. These are things we need to acknowledge in these increasingly hyperbolic Joshua discussions. The guy is good, he’s real good. But HOW good is his ‘real good’?
Similarly, this methodical and ultimately prosaic approach to analysing the win has to be applied to the upcoming Klitschko fight. On the one hand that happily types in credit card details for PPV fights, we can see that – with Fury retired – Wlad is kinda ‘the man’ in the division again, seeing as nothing much has happened since. But on the other frugal fingered hand; Wlad will be 41 at the time off the fight, having his longest layoff in possibly forever and coming off the back of a loss on home soil. In fairness, no matter how cynically we see this or how shot Wlad may or may not be, this is ultimately a massive step-up for Joshua and a fight we can’t really complain about at all. Should AJ steamroll Wlad, all the plaudits will be deserved but once the Ali comparisons start being banded around like coffee at a Lara fight then it’ll be time to point out that this is a Wlad already beaten in recent times and that he is a the end of his career. It’s important to distribute credit but not in superfluous amounts. A good win is a good win is a good win.
After the Malik Scott fight, a lot of the fuss over Luis Ortiz vanished into the distance. And in fairness, the fight absolutely sucked. His fight against the dangerously brave David Allen was more entertaining, but with respect to Allen he isn’t remotely in the same league as Ortiz. Now a lot of people big into the Matchroom brand seem to ignore the fact that Ortiz had a career prior to joining them. He demolished Thompson and Jennings (who is a very capable but unspectacular fighter) without any real trouble, then made made his move to the UK promotion, in which his competition has regressed incredibly. There is absolutely no logical reason that we couldn’t have had the hard hitting and wonderfully accurate Cuban fighting Joshua instead of Molina. None what so ever. He’s was in the IBF rankings, so no excuse there. Eric Molina isn’t even the most famous Molina currently in boxing, so no excuse there. Instead, it looks as if Ortiz is being lined up for Briggs next! Shannon Briggs! I won’t champion the idea of Ortiz fighting for a belt too much because he failed a drug test but all the same; if Hearn is willing to sign him then he should be fighting proper competition – and he has that competition parading on PPV every few months.
As I understand, Kubrat Pulev has been named IBF mandatory now so post Wlad (assuming Joshua wins) he will face Pulev. See, there’s nothing wrong with that fight at all. Pulev has shown he is a capable fighter and although he got bombed out by Wlad he has rebuilt in an acceptable fashion. My only gripe with this is that it has taken the IBF so long to enforce a mandatory fighter when they were so swift to act when stripping Fury of the belt. But that’s another discussion. Speaking as a fan, as a critic and as someone who just wants to be entertained: I just want Joshua to be fighting the best available fighters. If he’s as amazing as casual fans think, then cool, I look forward to watching him. If he’s not going to be able to compete at the top, then let’s expose that so people aren’t being parted with £17 for the experience every time. The problem we have at the moment is that Joshua just prints money. I genuinely think you could have him spar Gemma Collins for 3 rounds and people would pay for the privilege. Actually, I’d dig deep for that. My point is: I want to know if I’m watching the birth of a legitimately world class Heavyweight or if this is purely an economic wet dream for Eddie Hearn.by