Parker: Joshua 'just average'

Anthony Joshua's two main heavyweight rivals have been quick to disparage his successful defence of the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association heavyweight titles against Carlos Takam in Cardiff at the weekend.

It was an ugly win for the British boxing star who moved to 20-0 in his career, all by stoppage, but the Watford man mountain maintained his pledge to unify the heavyweight division next year.

The next step in the journey will either be a mandatory defence of the WBA belt, or a fight with World Boxing Organisation champion Joseph Parker, the promoter Eddie Hearn intimated hours after Joshua had forced a 10th-round referee stoppage against granite-chinned Takam.

Parker could face Joshua as soon as February although negotiations will be complex. Yesterday he called the Briton "just average, robotic" while the World Boxing Council champion Deontay Wilder criticised the 28-year-old as an over-muscled weightlifter with "stamina problems".

Matters will all come to a head in 2018. The intriguing aspect, of course, is that the three holders of the four world title belts are undefeated. So, indeed, is Tyson Fury, who could be in the mix by the end of next summer.

"We all have to fight each other. It's good for the sport and the public wants to see that," said Joshua, who pledged going into this contest that he will commit to making the unification fights next year. And it is Joshua, in whom there is huge interest, who holds the key to the match-ups.

New Zealander Parker, who defeated Takam on points in May last year, saw nothing to fear in Joshua's outing against the same opponent, who came in on 12 days' notice.

"I've said it many times: I'd love to fight Joshua so I can show what I've got. He's good - he's big, strong and learning, but I think he's just average, he's robotic. The jab he was throwing was very slow. He steps up all the time but I don't think he looked that impressive. There wasn't a lot of movement.

"He stood on the spot or tried to chase Takam down and catch him with big shots, but couldn't knock him out. On 12 days' notice [Takam] was very impressive - imagine if he'd had a full camp?"

Wilder, meanwhile, defends his WBC belt against Bermane Stiverne in a rematch next Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. He added: "Joshua definitely has stamina problems. If I was him, whoever his stamina coach is, they need to be fired.

"There are a lot of things that Joshua is doing wrong that's making him have those stamina problems. He works out way too much. All those muscles can be so heavy. It looks good but does it really benefit you though? This is boxing... not weightlifting."

However, former undisputed world champion Lennox Lewis was far more encouraging. "This was just the type of fight - experience and adversity - that Anthony Joshua needed," he wrote on Twitter.

"He wasn't at his best but, sometimes, you won't always be and it's those times you have to find a way. Some fall apart after a broken nose. He remained composed and controlled."

Indeed, Joshua's developing fighting IQ will be the key to longevity if he is to fulfil his promise. The urgent instruction delivered by head trainer Rob McCracken from the corner not to simply hunt for the knockout punch against Takam was telling.

There was an air of relief from Joshua, and promoter Hearn, that a potential banana skin was avoided after the late withdrawal, through injury, of original opponent Kubrat Pulev. Hearn, indeed, has not ruled out a clash next year with Fury, who is still waiting for a final ruling from UK Anti-Doping on a suspended drugs ban after the hearing was adjourned in July.

"I think the Wilder fight is potentially one of the biggest in world boxing and I think that fight is realistically going to happen in the summer of 2018. I would like AJ to box three times in 2018," Hearn said after the Takam fight.

"He doesn't have to, it's down to Anthony. We may have a mandatory with the WBA which is unclear at the moment.

"There's Parker, there's Deontay Wilder. I would like him to have an international fight in 2018, but it does seem a shame to leave all this.It's about sitting down and seeing what he wants to do. He's capable of fighting in any territory. We need a clear plan moving forward."

Indeed, Stephen Espinoza, head of sport at Showtime, the American broadcasters with whom Joshua has a deal, floated the possibility of a major fight in Africa 43 years after the Rumble In The Jungle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

"I think it would be a tremendous move if Joshua went to Nigeria or anywhere in Africa," he said.

"I think it provides a really interesting story because of his heritage. It invokes the memory of Ali.

"Sometimes there are different perceptions of Africa but Nigeria has a thriving middle class. Bigger than anywhere else in Africa.

"It's a safe place with a good middle class. I think the time is right to host a world heavyweight championship there."


Photo by: ANDREW COULDRIDGE/ REUTERS (Caption: Anthony Joshua knocks down Carlos Takam in their world heavyweight boxing title fight)