PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — On Saturday, March 31, 65,000 fans will jam into an outdoor stadium to watch two heavyweights fight for a bunch of world titles. It’s going to happen live on SHOWTIME (5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT) from Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, between IBF/WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, the A-side fighter, and WBO heavyweight champ Joseph Parker, the B-side.
Hopefully, it’s the precursor to what will arrive on these shores sometime either this summer or in the fall; hopefully, in an outdoor stadium (like Dallas’ palatial AT&T Stadium, hear that Jerry Jones, or Yankee Stadium), before 70,000 here in the United States between WBC champ Deontay Wilder and the winner, which probably will be Joshua.
Heavyweights run boxing. Always have, always will. Presently, there is a good group of heavyweights out there that may rekindle interest in the sport, or at least the dormant heavyweight division. Joshua made great strides last April with his 11th–round TKO of heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko, a match that featured each fighter down and in trouble. It was selected 2017 Fight of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA).
Many American sports fans who tuned in were intrigued by Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs). He’s 28, stands 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and has a frame that looks as if was sculpted from marble.
Wilder, 32, just beat Luis Ortiz in what is an early candidate for the 2018 Fight of the Year. He has an amazing backstory, raising a daughter with spina bifida that got him into boxing, and a terrible, vicious right hand that’s made him successful.
Fans in the U.S. are no doubt excited about a future clash between Joshua and Wilder. Joshua says he won’t look past Parker, though.
“You’ve got to remember that a lot of that talk about me and Wilder started in 2017 after he beat Bermane Stiverne but I haven’t spoken much about it. I’ve got great people in my corner that handle the business while I focus on the handling of my boxing technique,” Joshua said. “We reached out to Deontay Wilder’s team before the fight with Joseph Parker was made. And once that fight didn’t happen, I put Wilder aside and focused solely on Parker.
“I’m not the one overlooking Joseph Parker and I’m not the one hooting and hollering about what’s happening next. I’m really focused on Parker because as you know, if I don’t get past Parker, it slows down the train and derails everything we’re trying to achieve in terms of becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.”
Parker (24-0, 18 KOs) may have something to say about that. Very few give the 24-year-old from New Zealand a chance.
“I feel like this is what we have to do. If champions don’t face off, then we won’t bring excitement to boxing, and I feel like we heavyweights are the flagbearers for the sport,” Parker said. “I’m peaking, but what I need to do is remain where I am. If you want to see my peak then I need to face stern challenges. The better opponent, the better I get.
“We embrace the challenge of facing an undefeated champion. He’s a champion, he’s done well for himself. He’s quick and he can take a punch. I have to mentally say the fight will go 12 rounds in my head, but if I had to pick I’d say nine rounds. I win by knockout, 100 percent.
“For a long time, I’ve had to rely on my strength and my physicality. Over the 10 years I’ve been boxing, I’ve built a lot of mental strength as well. And now I’m combining the two. I feel confident and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“I take it one thousand percent one fight at a time. A lot of talk has been happening about AJ vs. Deontay (Wilder). People need to be realistic. I’m looking at Joseph Parker, who is a lively challenger. He’s a champion for a reason.
“Let’s say we look into a crystal ball and I’m victorious, then we can start talking about future plans. But, for now, my future starts on Saturday. That’s where I’ve got to look to and not really beyond that moment. There’s definitely a fear of losing because it keeps me going. I have to make sure I stay focused on the task at hand. The fear of losing keeps me motivated because I know how quickly the tables can turn. One minute you’re the man and the next you’re not.”