HEAVYWEIGHT BOXING PROSPECTS 2015
By Jeremy O’Connell
The jewel in Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom crown, Joshua is by far the most hyped prospect in the heavyweight division, with some proclaiming him the best young talent since Wladimir Klitschko. Whether he can live up to those lofty proclimations remains to be seen, but he has sparred the champion in recent times, and been dubbed the heir-apparent by the man himself.
While lucky with a couple of decisions on home soil to claim Olympic gold in 2012, Joshua ruled the world as an amateur, even with limited experience after turning to boxing aged 18. He has the size, composure, power and sizable promotional backing needed to propel him to stardom. At 25, he has plenty of time on his side, and will be coming into his prime as Wladimir retires and the Klitschko strangehold finally ends.
Thus far Joshua has hardly put a foot wrong as a professional, perhaps showing a modicum of defensive liability while knocking over the usual suspects (none of his ten opponents have gone past 3 rounds), and I have been fairly disappointed with his level of opposition. An ancient and shot Michael Sprott in his last fight left a particularly sour taste in the mouth. Let’s hope Audley Harrison does not get cynically parachuted into the equation from the Big Brother house later this year.
Fringe contender turned sturdy and unambitious gatekeeper Kevin Johnson is up next for Joshua, and he has never been stopped, despite sharing a ring with a whole host of notable heavyweights, including Tyson Fury and Vitali Klitschko. Given the hair-trigger nature of British referees and Johnson’s reticence to throw punches, I think we can expect Joshua to be the first to stop him. Either way, Joshua should at least be extended a bit longer than usual, although genuine tests of his stamina and chin will have to wait until later in his career.
The British title will likely be on the radar shortly, and amateur conqueror Dillian Whyte (back in the ring lately after a drug ban) would make for a fitting victim to help fill Watford’s Vicarage Road stadium.
Huge fights with the likes of David Price, Tyson Fury, and even Hughie Fury loom in the next 2 to 3 years, and, if he lives up to his potential, Joshua could be the man to make boxing a summer fixture in Britain’s football stadiums.
If I had to bet on Joshua’s breakthrough fight, probably sometime in 2016, I could see a David Haye clash as a classic ‘passing of the torch’ moment.
Joshua’s natural future rival could be the 22 year old New Zealander Parker. After a solid amateur career, he has gone 12-0 in the paid ranks, while facing a marginally better level of opposition than the Briton.
He carries the power and size, and will be picking up his own invaluable Klitschko experience by sparring the champion in his next training camp.
Browne is an old prospect at 35, likely with a limited ceiling, but he makes fun fights. Promoted by Ricky Hatton, he is a come-forward brawler with a big punch, and boxing can never have too many of those.
He could stand to improve his physical conditioning and lose a few lbs., but he is steadily rising in the sanctioning body rankings and a significant opportunity cannot be too far away.
Little-known, but decent, American prospect, Washington is one of a number of heavyweights in recent times who have transitioned to boxing from American football.
Given the right opportunity, which he will surely get because he is managed by Al Haymon, he could be the next Bryant Jennings-type to come out of the woodwork. An early knockout of Travis Walker is the most notable result on his resume.
2012 Olympian Breazeale is another former football player, and has gone 13-0 as a pro under the guidance of Al Haymon.
He looks more like the next Jason Estrada than George Foreman, but he has size and will be allowed to develop at a measured pace away from the spotlight.
ANDY RUIZ JR.
A future champion, the second coming of Chris Arreola, or somewhere in the middle?
He began his career at almost 300 lbs hanging from his 6ft 2” frame, and worked his way down to below 250, but has recently balooned up to 270 again.
This terrible physical conditioning belies the skills and handspeed in Ruiz’s repertoire, but unless he gets his weight under control, he will never fulfil his potential. A plus is that he is being guided by Top Rank, known as the best in the business at developing prospects.
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