With Wilder and Joshua successfully negotiating their most recent fights, and the news yesterday that the ‘Bronze Bomber’ is apparently willing to come to the UK for the showdown, it is almost certain that the pair will clash in the near future with all four main belts on the line. Joshua has long been considered the favourite, especially in British circles, but have their recent fights changed this at all?
Over the past few years, it is Joshua who has noticeably improved the most, going from a raw, inexperienced banger to a savvy boxer-puncher who has every punch in the book. In particular, his jab, counter-punching skills, and ability to go deep into fights have developed leaps and bounds, to go with his fearsome power. Wilder in comparison may not be as reliable technically, but is arguably the greater athlete.
On Saturday night, Joshua went the distance for the first time, winning a lop-sided decision against Joseph Parker. The cards didn’t reflect the night’s action; Parker proved to be a frustrating opponent, and had plenty of success in the middle rounds, but Joshua generally did a decent job of keeping Parker at bay, and finished strongly to seal what was, in the end, a fairly comfortable win. On the whole, it was a disciplined, workmanlike performance by Joshua, but what can Wilder take from that display?
Parker’s gameplan was to stay out of range, which did nullify Joshua to a degree. However, from distance, he was unable to get any of his own offense going, and eventually faded a little down the stretch. Wilder is rangier and more athletic than Parker, and has had little trouble going deep into fights in the past. As a result, we may see him try to replicate Parker’s tactics against Joshua. It worked to great effect when he won the WBC belt against Bermane Stiverne back in 2015, although Joshua promises to be a much harder opponent than Stiverne was that night.
However, throughout Wilder’s career, there have been plenty of examples of him fighting erratically and not taking full advantage of his physical gifts. Too often his jab is not effective, such as during his last outing against veteran Cuban Luis Ortiz. All too often, Ortiz was allowed to march right up to Wilder and fight at a range where Wilder wasn’t comfortable, at times landing shots at will.
Granted, Wilder may have been worried about Ortiz’s countering ability, but it was a fight in which Wilder was struggling, and despite the judges having him ahead at the time of the stoppage, on my card he needed that sensational ending to pull out the win and keep the Joshua fight alive. In any case, it is not just in that fight where Wilder has not used his jab enough to keep his opponents away.
Wilder is also infamous for his wide, swinging shots. This can negate any handspeed advantage he may have, and leave him open to counters. This is an area where Joshua can take advantage, especially with his jabs and straight shots. On the flip side however, this unpredictability can also work in his favour. Wilder is far from conventional, and firing shots from odd angles may take the more textbook Joshua by surprise. Needless to say, Wilder’s power can always bail him out, as it has done many times before, although of course, Joshua is equally capable of stopping Wilder too.
Joshua may still be the favourite in the eyes of the bookies, but make no mistake, Wilder can never be ruled out.
by Jack Noone