IBF Heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua will be back at the O2 Arena on June 25th to make the first defense of his title. Unbeaten challenger Dominic Breazeale will be flying in from the states to upset the odds but is no doubt considered a huge underdog, especially after Joshua ploughed through Breazeale’s countryman Charles Martin earlier this month.
Breazeale (17-0, 15 KO) may not seem like a serious threat to Joshua (16-0, 16 KO), but when you consider the current Heavyweight landscape, the infancy of Joshua’s career, plus the fact that Matchroom Boxing’s alternatives were the so-so Eric Molina and falling-off-the-map Bermane Stiverne, this pairing really could have been a whole lot worse.
Breazeale, a former college football quarterback, isn’t an uber-prospect like Joshua, but it would be unfair to say he’s a legitimate no-hoper. Has this fight come too soon for Breazeale? Is there easier fights and champions out there he could have targeted? Oh, absolutely. But the fact of the matter is there’s a lofty payday to be had for anyone who steps into the ring with Joshua, so who can blame the guy for stepping up to the plate?
Breazeale is a big lad, let’s not forget, standing at 6’ 7” (an inch above Joshua), has youth at 30-years-old, and weighs around 250 pounds when he fights. Should a win present itself, it’s obviously a career and game-changer, and would give highly influential manager/advisor Al Haymon his second Heavyweight world champion (Deontay Wilder being the first). If Breazeale loses, it’s kinda’ like facing Mayweather; everyone expected you to lose, so how damaging can a defeat really be?
The ability gap between Breazeale and Joshua is of course undeniable. While Breazeale hasn’t come across a fighter of Joshua’s calibre, however, he did at least pass a gut check test against strong, pressure-house Amir Mansour in January. Breazeale climbed off the canvas in the 3rd round to retire Mansour in the 6th, which shows he knows how to claw his way out of the trenches. We’ll soon see what Breazeale can bring to the table against Joshua in June.
Joshua vs Breazeale Lands Solid Co-Feature
And no one can really scoff at this matchup. A George Groves vs Martin Murray scrap has been dangled in front of fight fans lately, and it looks to be pretty darn competitive on paper. Both men are top contenders who have performed well – despite always coming up short – in championship contests, making this a battle of ‘Great Super Middleweight Nearly Men’, if you will.
Groves (23-3, 18 KO) gave Carl Froch all he could handle in 2013 and 2014 before getting stopped on both occasions, and put in a tremendous effort against Badou Jack last September. He’s since returned with solid knockout wins over tune-up victims Andrea di Luisa and David Brophy in 2016.
Murray (32-3-1, 15 KO) isn’t a slick counter-puncher like Groves, but is known for his strength, solid chin, engine and sound fundamentals. Murray fought to a Draw against Felix Sturm in 2011, lost a controversial decision to Sergio Martinez in 2013, almost took Gennady Golovkin the distance in 2015, and most recently lost a close decision to Arthur Abraham last November.
Groves and Murray may have been around the block a bit, but this should live up to expectations given both men have plenty left to offer at top-level. How do you see this matchup unfolding, folks, plus Joshua vs Breazeale? Fire away below.