By Alan Hubbard
The long-awaited return of Tyson Fury to the ring will put heavyweight boxing’s top cat among the pugilistic pigeons.
The Gypsy King re-joins a division which throbs with power and excitement. Indeed, British heavyweight boxing has not had it so good since the days of Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno, or even Our ‘Enry, Brian London, Joe Erskine et al.
It is brimming with talent and a fit and well Fury, in my view, will demonstrate that he still tops this crop of clout.
This features 2012 Olympic and current champion Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte, who has just brutally clobbered grossly out-of-condition Aussie Lucas Browne, 2016 Olympic silver medallist Joe Joyce, Hughie Fury and Sam Sexton , who contest the latter’s British title in May, David Haye and Tony Bellew, set for a fiery return the same month, Ricky Hatton’s hammer-fisted hombre Nathan Gorman – plus arguably hardest hitter of the lot-and potentially the best- Daniel Dubois.
That’s some line-up of boxing beefcake.
Joshua, of course, is the sport’s man of the moment but I may be in the minority in suggesting he has a far more difficult fight on his hands than many think, especially the bookies, when he locks mitts with fellow unbeaten WBO belt holder Jospeh Parker in Cardiff this weekend. One makes him 12-1 on; others up to 10-1.
Those are ridiculous odds. Samoan-born Kiwi Parker, at 26, is younger and as tactically proficient as the 28-year-old Joshua and has as good – if not better – a chin, a strong jab and quick right hand, though he is somewhat more ponderous in his leg movement.
He did not impress when making the second defence of his title against Hughie Fury in Manchester last September, looking slow and predictable but according to his trainer Kevin Barry he carried injuries to both elbows which required corrective surgery. Barry says this will restore his speed and power.
We shall see.
His best performance in 24 straight wins came against Carlos Takam, the French-based Cameroonian beaten by Joshua last time out. Parker met Takam almost two years ago, before becoming the WBO champion, and came through a stern test of strength and endurance.
Takam lasted the full 12 rounds, whereas Joshua stopped him in 10, not without some difficulty, and Takam had not been drafted in as a late substitute as he was against Big Josh.
Joshua has an advantage in height and reach but he also has flaws when under pressure; we have seen him caught by Dillian Whyte, Wladimir Klitschko and Takam who have all exposed some vulnerability.
Parker may not splosh Josh, but he can give him plenty of aggro… it could be close – even a draw would not surprise me.
Those around him reckon he is as good now as Lennox Lewis was then. I am not so sure.
He still has much to prove and at the moment I would not bracket him alongside Lewis or rate him above Bruno or Joe Bugner.
But his ringcraft is improving with every fight and this is one which even more than the Klitschko dust-up could define his standing in the annals of British boxing- until he comes fist-to-face with Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury.
However Parker is a young, able and live opponent who can take a whack.
It could be close – even a draw would not surprise me..
So while Joshua may not splosh Josh, he can give him plenty of aggro.
FOLLOWING THE BRUTAL demolition of Lucas Browne we now await with intrigue the appearance in the United Kingdom tonight of another former champion boxer proven guilty of drugs offences.
Alexander Povetkin, who won Olympic super-heavyweight gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics, and has also held a version of the world pro crown, twice failed dope tests and was given an indefinite ban last year by the WBC.
But this has been conveniently lifted after presumed pressure from Russia and he meets Britain’s David Price, the 2008 Beijing bronze medallist, on the undercard of the Joshua-Parker blockbuster.
It so happens that the 38-year-old Povetkin, whose manager Andrey Ryabinski is said to be close to Vladimir Putin, is the first Russian athlete to compete here since the poisoning last month of the former double agent Sergei Skripal.
While far more interest will be focussed on the headline attraction between the two undefeated heavyweight champions it will be fascinating gauge the hostility of his reception from at the near 80,000 crowd at the Principality Stadium. From Russia with glove,eh?
Hope Price’s cornermen have checked his water bottle.
And the knobs of his dressing room door…
IF YOU DON’T FANCY forking out the best part of 20 quid for the PPV of Joshua-Parker fight – a cheeky £20.95 if you want to watch it in HD – and you are a BoxNation subscriber then why not tune in for a real back-to-basics bill from Preston for no additional cost?.
It is good to see that boxing is still alive and punching in one of my old journalistic stamping grounds (I was once based there as sports ed of the Lancashire Evening Post) and Saturday’s north v south English light-heavyweight title defence by champon Liam Conroy against Miles Shinkwin at the atmospheric Guildhall looks a corker of a scrap.
It is a fascinatingt clash of styles which promises one hell of a punch-up from a pair well-matched..
The appearance of popular local hero Jack Catterall against Nathan Hardy adds spice to the sort of attractive small hall bill that is the backbone off \British boxing – and BoxNation..