If there is a clear super fight to be made in the modern era Heavyweight arena, it’s unquestionably Joshua vs Wilder. This is a battle of two giants in their primes, with a bone-shattering combined record of 59-0, 58 knockouts. The matchup is ripe to be made, probably sometime in 2018. But who wins this salivating clash to become undisputed Heavyweight king? Let’s see what both fighters bring to the table.
Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KO) is a bona fide superstar in his native Great Britain, and a fast-growing commodity overseas. The 28-year-old is a muscle-bound 6’ 6” throwback, charismatic, with a million dollar smile, and has knocked out all challengers to date. In a nutshell, he is nothing short of a promoter’s dream, and has blazed a path of destruction through the ranks ever since capturing Gold at the 2012 Olympics. Joshua, today’s IBF and WBA champion, is currently rated No.1 in Boxing Base’s Heavyweight Top 10, and with very good reason.
Joshua’s opponent quality hasn’t been astoundingly greater than Wilder’s, but it has definitely been measurably better. Some of Joshua’s best scalps have been Dillian Whyte, Dominic Breazeale and Carlos Takam. These guys are capable enough operators, but likely would have also been chopped down by Wilder. But Joshua’s record does stand above Wilder’s for one key reason: a career-high win over future Hall of Famer, Wladimir Klitschko. That was a night that saw Joshua hurt, knocked down, but tough and game enough to ride out the storm and eventually get the stoppage. Joshua has shared one common foe with Wilder, being Eric Molina, a man who gave some resistance to Wilder before being gunned down in 9 rounds. Joshua, however, crushed Molina in 3, which is worth noting.
It has to be said that Joshua is a ‘complete fighter’, or at least the fuller package. Though Wilder is generally known for being more of an emotional, even somewhat unpredictable destroyer, Joshua is recognized for his overt cerebral nature just as much as his vaunted power. With fluid fundamentals and precision timing, honed during an esteemed amateur career, Joshua captures the attention of both boxing purists and those craving the spectacle of a knockout. We know that Joshua has gears, can blow guys away early, box, calculate opponents, and has the mental fortitude to survive setbacks and still capture glory.
The only aspect of Joshua’s game that could be listed as a weakness is the big man’s stamina. We’ve never seen Joshua completely spent or exhausted per se, but we did witness his tank temporarily run dry against Klitschko, and arguably once again for a notable albeit shorter spell against Carlos Takam recently. Joshua’s stamina isn’t a major talking point, but it is definitely a topic of discussion should Wilder be found across the ring. Joshua and Wilder are giants of the Heavyweight division, but Joshua is considerably bigger on the scales. And it would seem naturally so. Joshua has the bodybuilder physique, recently weighing 254 lbs for Takam, while the leaner built Wilder came in at 220 for Stiverne.
Despite being a true wrecking ball in the ring, Wilder (39-0, 38 KO) is not a boxing icon or anything close to becoming a household name. Not yet, anyway. It just hasn’t happened. Joshua, meanwhile, is a blockbuster favourite across the pond, has no problems selling out arenas, and is fast-growing his fan base in the US and beyond. In short, it seems like Joshua is everything the 32-year-old Wilder isn’t when it comes to capturing a mainstream audience. Should Wilder ever lock horns with Joshua, however, he’ll of course have the chance to turn the tables in his favour and capture that ‘buzz’. The 6’ 7” Wilder, today’s WBC champion, is currently ranked No.2 in Boxing Base’s Heavyweight Top 10.
Wilder has been taking on tougher foes more recently, but most reasonable folks will tell you there are still questions to be answered about the big man’s ability at elite level. Especially as the best name on his slate is Bermane Stiverne, a contender of sorts whose best wins came against limited slugger Chris Arreola. Wilder shut out Stiverne in 2015, and then all but buried him in their recent rematch. Wilder has also beaten Eric Molina, Johann Duhaupas, Chris Arreola, and Artur Szpilka, the latter proving most worthiest. Now, we know that Joshua – who had to dig deep against Klitschko – has ‘the stuff’, but we can’t say the same about Wilder just yet. In fairness, Wilder was signed to fight top guys Alexander Povetkin and Luis Ortiz before those matchups dissolved. But, you know, since they never happened…
By now we know enough about Wilder to sum him up as an athletic, lights-out puncher, with generally good, well-rounded enough boxing ability, probably highlighted best in his first win over Stiverne. We’ve only seen Wilder go the twelve-round stretch once, but, for a Heavyweight, he seems to have a big engine, light feet, a purposeful jab, and what can only be described as a raging desire to unleash hell on his opponents. Is Wilder’s stamina better than Joshua’s? That’s hard to know for certain given Wilder’s lack of rounds and weaker opposition faced, but personally I think the lighter, bouncier Wilder does trump Joshua in that department. Enough that it could become a factor if they meet.
It’s almost become a cliché, but Wilder really can be, and often is, ‘wild’. Particularly when he gets a guy hurt and wants to get them out of there pronto. We shouldn’t call Wilder’s finishing flurries a ragged mess, but we shouldn’t call them pretty either. Now, you could always throw that one back in my face and say, ‘hey, bar one fight, that style has worked for Wilder every time’. I hear you. In fact, you could also say that Wilder’s capable of finishing guys with one-shot counters, such as Szpilka. Again, it’s registered. However, if there’s a guy out there capable of countering through one of Wilder’s off-balance, hellacious flurries, it’s likely to be the cerebral-minded Joshua. David Haye seems to have found those defensive holes during his ‘sparring session’ – albeit a while back – with Wilder (currently on YouTube).
Joshua’s more extensive amateur background and superior pro slate must make him a favourite against Wilder. And that’s fair enough. He holds up both on paper and in reality, and just looks the more balanced boxer-puncher. However, Joshua shouldn’t be considered a heavy favourite here by any means. Wilder has impressive career momentum of his own, the desire to capture Joshua’s mainstream stardom, and, while there are questions surrounding Wilder’s abilities against a true front-runner, we do know he can fight. Wilder’s ferocity and game-over power make him a legitimate threat based on those facts alone. So yeah, he’s got danger written all over him, and has a real chance of beating the odds.
What about you, readers? Who are you backing in Joshua vs Wilder, and how does this battle of Heavyweight giants unfold? Is it a question of who lands first? Or is this a fight won on patience, smarts and wit?