By Frank Warren
The ‘AJ Experience’, as I heard Anthony Joshua’s fight nights at the 02 lovingly dubbed by Sky last week, once again followed a fairly predictable pattern.
The only real difference was that the fans were able to gather a bit more footage than usual on their phones, as batteries as well as Joshua, were extended to seven rounds of action.
Dominic Breazeale was not a threat or a genuine challenge to the title held by Joshua and, even though it took a little longer than most people anticipated, the eventual outcome was never in doubt.
This really has to be the last fight of its type for the Olympic champion and even ringside analyst Carl Froch acknowledged as much. World title contests should involve a proper challenge being taken to the champion – you can’t just keep learning on the job when you have assumed the status of an elite heavyweight.
I have been -and still am- a massive fan of Joshua, but he just doesn’t seem to have progressed, or hasn’t been allowed to.
Listening to the cheers and chants of ‘Broo-no, Broo-no’ as Frank was introduced at ringside, Joshua must have wondered if even he can ever be as popular as that.
Frank did his learning, built his reputation and forged the beginning of his incredible popularity on undercards. Yes he banged out more than a few inadequate opponents in his time, but it wasn’t generally top of the bill fare – and you didn’t have to pay to watch it.
He was indeed found wanting a few times when he stepped up in class, but he took on all comers and wasn’t going to get any better for feasting on opposition from below the top table.
The public adored him not only for his personality, but also because he was a fearless competitor who viewed winning a world title as the ultimate. Joshua already holds the IBF title, but if there was a modern day Mike Tyson around today, do you think he would be sharing a ring with him any time soon? Bruno willingly agreed to jump in with Tyson – twice.
I accept that Joshua is a cash cow who is now being developed into a ‘brand’, but Bruno used to draw in the crowds too and a setback never diminished his popularity. He would never have got out of arenas until the crack of dawn had mobile phones, complete with cameras and video, been around in those days.
More senior world champions Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder must surely believe Joshua is beatable. At the moment he can be outworked and outfought by either in my view.
But even AJ’s 02 audience will want to see a genuine fight before too long and there is one man out there who really, really fancies the job.
David Haye has got his detractors and his comeback fodder has drawn criticism from myself, but it is clear to me that he truly wants to get it on with Joshua. I’ll tell you one thing about Haye from my dealings with him, if he fancies a fight it is because he really believes he will win it.
He is not interested in fighting Tyson Fury, who as we know has his own travails to deal with at the moment. Instead his gaze is firmly fixed on a summer night with Joshua and, based on the evidence we have seen so far, I would back him to win.
I know it has only happened once with any particular venom to date, but I think Joshua is hittable and surprisingly he looks a little bit big and laboured at times. Like many others, he is a big puncher, but when he is throwing he is just so open to being caught. Work is required on his defence.
If you are in opposition you are looking at the negatives rather than positives. We know he can whack and that is just one part of the game, but when you have someone who takes that punch, as we have seen with the likes of George Foreman in the past, as soon as someone absorbs it suddenly they are in trouble.
The more rounds you see, the more you get to see more of the fighter. In the Dillian Whyte fight and this latest one he has done what was expected, but taken longer to do it, although he got rid of them in the end.
Joshua is a world champion now and they can’t keep going back to school with him. Maybe seizing the IBF title will end up being a burden because picking and choosing opponents won’t be an option for much longer.
So if AJ really wants to give his fans an experience, perhaps it really is high time to make Haye.
More from Frank tomorrow