Preview: Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker collide in colossal Cardiff unification

Preview: Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker collide in colossal Cardiff unification

On Saturday, nearly 80,000 fans will pack the Principality Stadium to witness the latest pit stop on the path of arguably the world’s most popular prizefighter.

The main event sees Watford’s Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20KO) return to Cardiff for the second time in five months and this time, the stakes are significantly higher.

Along with defending his International Boxing Federation [IBF] and World Boxing Association [WBA] portions of the sport’s highest honour, the heavyweight could gain a third quarter of the crown on his quest to be an undisputed champion.

One of the missing pieces is brought to the table by fellow unbeaten ruler and owner of the World Boxing Organisation [WBO] belt, Joseph Parker (24-0, 18KO). The Kiwi will be aware that his countrymen have establish a strong record at the site since it’s construction in 1999, though he’s far from the favourite.

In October, a less energetic than usual ‘AJ’ forced an 11th round stoppage of the short notice replacement Carlos Takam (35-4-1, 27KO). Phil Edwards, the Bangor-born referee who was the first Welshman to officiate a world heavyweight title fight, was hasty in calling a halt.

Aesthetically, the occasion delivered but there was an undoubted slight sense of anti-climax, especially considering Joshua’s thrilling summer triumph of future Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.

Still, the exposure provided by Sky Box Office and Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing was far greater than the platform Parker topped a month earlier. An unconvincing Majority Decision win against an unwilling Hughie Fury, in front of a small crowd at the Manchester Arena and streamed live on YouTube, couldn’t contrast more to the forthcoming scene awaiting in Cardiff.

There’s plenty left for Joshua and Parker to prove and each appears aware of that, even though they’ve been belt-holders for six combined defences. A mark of the modern boxing landscape, perhaps.

The attributes they’ll use will differ. Joshua throws quicker single shots, whilst Parker puts speedier combinations together. The Londoner is more comfortable up close and the visitor is often eager to establish a steady jab. Parker almost always tries to settle down at a greater distance away from opponents and make his mark when stepping in with harder hooks.

An aspect that unites the duo is their apparent desire to shed surplus weight as both have cryptically pledged to be lighter than recently seen. If true, it’ll be an attempt to be more mobile, signaling their respect of the other’s power. For that reason, it’ll be no surprise to see the early rounds unfold at long range.

Parker is unlikely to enjoy a safe space as the rounds go on. Joshua owns a more physical presence and it’s difficult to deter when he gathers momentum. It’s worth noting that AJ’s crude enthusiasm in closing opponents down and squeezing their space has left him open for counters on more than one occasion.

The New Zealander can catch Joshua if he overcommits and may hurt him more than once, though it’s would be a small surprise if it would amount to the kryptonite Parker hopes for.

A more likely conclusion will be for Joshua’s gradual pressure to increase enough to burst Parker’s pipes in the final four rounds. Parker often lulls on the ropes for a few seconds longer than his coaches are comfortable with. If he makes that mistake more frequently as he tires, Joshua should be sharp enough to take advantage and stun him hard enough for referee Giuseppe Quartarone to step in.

GET INVOLVED IN FIGHT WEEK

The official weigh-in for Joshua-Parker will be held at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena on Friday 30 March. Doors will open at 12pm and it will then begin at 1pm. Matchroom Boxing will make tickets available to order online.

Each ticket will require a £1 donation. All proceeds will be matched by the promoter and given to the family of Scott Westgarth, the Sheffield based boxer who tragically passed away after winning a British title eliminator in February.

IMAGE BY HUW FAIRCLOUGH. For more images or to contact Huw for booking, visit his official websiteFacebookTwitter or Instagram.

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