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The Night Smokin’ Joe Fought Terry Daniels (But I Missed It)

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They say it takes two to tango, and in no sport does that old axiom hold true more than boxing, the ultimate one-on-one confrontation. We remember the great fights, even cherish the thought of those very special occasions when the combatants are highly skilled, determined to give it their all, and more or less evenly matched.

But classic slugfests are just prettier swatches in the patchwork quilt that is the entirety of any boxer’s career. For every unforgettable slugfest, there are two or three pairings, and sometimes a lot more, that are as non-competitive as George Armstrong Custer vs. the Sioux at the Little Bighorn. But history has carved out a place of honor for the gallant but doomed Custer, and maybe cynical fight fans shouldn’t be so quick to sweep into the dust bin of memory those no-hopers who were offered up as human sacrifices to vastly superior champions.

Jan. 15 marks the 43rd anniversary of one such fight, and one that by all rights I should have witnessed from ringside. In his first title defense since outpointing Muhammad Ali in the “Fight of the Century” on March 8, 1971, in Madison Square Garden, heavyweight king Joe Frazier took on mystery man Terry Daniels at New Orleans’ Rivergate Arena. The following afternoon, in Tulane Stadium a few miles away, Super Bowl VI would take place between the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins.

Why am I still a bit sad, all these years later, that I missed watching Smokin’ Joe floor the willing but outgunned Daniels five times before referee Herman Dutrreix stepped in and waved off the massacre 1 minute, 25 seconds into Round 4? Well, part of it is that I was then, as now, a boxing guy, the son of former welterweight Jack Fernandez, and whose childhood was spent watching flickering black-and-white telecasts of the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports as my dad gave his own running commentary alongside that of the inimitable Don Dunphy.

But another part of it is the fact that, as the Boy Wonder (I was all of 24 then) sports editor of the Houma Courier, a Louisiana newspaper in a town about 45 miles southwest of my hometown of New Orleans, I somehow had been accredited to cover Super Bowl VI by the nice folks at the NFL. I would be among the hundreds of credentialed media members in the chilliest (game time temperature: 39 degrees) Super Bowl played to that point, part of a near-capacity crowd of 81,000 that would watch the Cowboys dominate the Dolphins, 24-3, to an extent that nearly matched what Frazier had done the night before to Daniels.

Alas, my application to cover Frazier-Daniels – which was viewed live by 8,500 or so spectators, a sizable portion of whom likely were football fans taking a break from Bourbon Street – was denied. No reason was given for my exclusion, but it has been suggested that maybe the seating area for the press was much more limited than for Super Bowl VI, and, well, the Houma Courier and its kid reporter didn’t come equipped with the prestige granted representatives from the major metropolitan media centers.

Oh, sure, I knew Frazier was an overwhelming favorite, but I had watched Ali-Frazier I via closed-circuit at a New Orleans theater, and it disappointed me mightily that I had been denied the opportunity to see the left-hooking wrecking machine up close and personal. There was, of course, no way of my knowing that someday I would become the boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News, in Smokin’ Joe’s adopted hometown, and on close enough terms with the great man and his family that I often was invited to functions that otherwise were off-limits to other media types.

Terry Daniels? He was merely The Opponent, a pale-hued, reasonably warm body imported from Texas to take his expected walloping from Frazier for a career-high purse of $35,000 (the champ was paid $350,000) and then to slink away, probably never to be heard from again.

It did sort of work out that way, but Daniels had a tale to tell, as does every ham-and-egger who is offered a dream shot at the title knowing that his vision of glory probably will dissipate into blood, pain and the realization of his own limitations. But, hey, 18 years after Frazier-Daniels, a 42-1 longshot named James “Buster” Douglas went to Tokyo, took down the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson and again reminded everyone that lottery tickets sometimes are cashed.

At 6-foot-1, 191½ pounds and with a deceptively impressive record of 29-4-1 that included 25 victories inside the distance, Daniels, might not have been a complete fraud. But, in retrospect, he can now be described as a precursor to Peter McNeeley, who served as Mike Tyson’s first designated victim after Tyson had served three-plus years in prison on a rape conviction.

In an interview a few days before he was to swap punches with Frazier, Daniels spoke boldly of his intention to shock the world. Asked if he possessed the wherewithal to douse Smokin’ Joe’s fistic inferno, Daniels said, “I don’t think I do. I know I do. I feel confident. I feel I’ve done everything I can do to get ready for this fight. I know I’m ready. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been. I feel strong, I feel good.”

Perhaps Daniels bought into his own bravado, or maybe he was just whistling past the graveyard. But he was going to be fighting for the title and, well, anything can happen in the ring, right? In any case he was going to come away with the kind of purse he never could have gotten fighting other semi-anonymities on the far fringes of actual contention. Sometimes all it takes for a guy like Daniels to float into wider public consciousness is to be in the right place at the right time, and New Orleans, on Jan. 15, 1972, was definitely the right place, and not just because of the Super Bowl that would be played the following day.

Much was made of the fact that Frazier-Daniels was to be the first heavyweight championship fight to be held in the Big Easy since reigning champion John L. Sullivan was stopped in 21 rounds by “Gentleman” Jim Corbett at the Olympic Club on Sept. 7, 1892, the first title fight under the Marquis of Queensberry rules. Forget Buster Douglas, whom nobody had heard of at that point (and why should they have? Buster was still in grade school); could Daniels, hyped by his publicity-savvy manager, Doug Lord, as a “Great White Hope,” replicate what Corbett had done to the legendary John L. almost 80 years earlier?

“I told the fight promoters I’ve got a white kid from Dallas, he’s friends with the Cowboys, and everyone knows the Cowboys are going to the Super Bowl in New Orleans,” Lord said. “They loved it. They bought it. For us, it was a fantasy world.”

Daniels had his own connection to football, having gone to SMU to play that sport as well as baseball, until a knee injury crushed those ambitions and steered him into boxing. Although Daniels might not have been anybody’s idea of the real deal, he wangled his dream shot at Frazier with a third-round stoppage of Ted Gullick, who was rated No. 9 in the world and was coming off a 10-round, majority-decision loss to a once-very legitimate contender, Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams.

Truth be told, maybe Daniels wasn’t in as futile a situation as universally accepted. Although Frazier had temporarily displaced Ali as the king of boxing, he was enjoying himself, perhaps a bit too much, in the afterglow of his electrifying victory in the Garden. Three months after his leaping left hook in the 15th round sent Ali crashing to the canvas, and served as an exclamation point to his unanimous-decision victory, Smokin’ Joe was in the south of France, entertaining miniscule European audiences with his musical group, the Knockouts. The tour mercifully ended when the Knockouts – who were hardly the second coming of the Temptations or the Four Tops – drew 50 paying patrons for one concert, obliging their chastened lead singer to get back to his real job.

In December 1971, Frazier was hunkered down in the dark and frigid (11 degrees below zero) predawn hours at his training camp at the Concord Hotel, in Kiamesha, N.Y., getting ready to go out and do roadwork with a sparring partner, Ken Norton, who would go on to make some noise in his own right. But try as he might, Frazier couldn’t quite summon the energy he had marshaled in his preparations for the first Ali bout, when so much more was at stake. Terry Daniels clearly did not inspire the 5-foot-11 champion to push himself into peak condition, and it showed on fight night when he stepped inside the ropes at a then-career-high 215½ pounds.

Even though Frazier kept bouncing Daniels off the floor as if he were a basketball, this version of Smokin’ Joe was set at a comparatively low flame. Former light heavyweight champion Jose Torres was even moved to observe, “I, for one, think that Joe didn’t look at all like that indestructible machine. My conclusion is that Frazier has lost interest in the sport of flat noses. He is ready to retire at any time. And now is that time.”

Torres wasn’t spot-on in his assessment – the best of Joe Frazier emerged one more time, in the unforgettable “Thrilla in Manila” against Ali on Oct. 1, 1975, which ended with trainer Eddie Futch refusing to allow the half-blinded Frazier to come out for the 15th round – but the unstoppable force of nature that blew through Bob Foster, Jimmy Ellis and Buster Mathis like a Category 5 hurricane was a receding shadow of his former might. His final successful defense came on May 25, 1972, in Omaha, Neb., against Ron Stander, a Midwestern version of Terry Daniels. The “Council Bluffs Butcher” lasted four rounds, but wasn’t allowed to come out for a fifth by a ring physician who disapproved of the multiple cuts on his swollen face, which would require 17 stitches to close.

It should be noted, however, that both Daniels and Stander – whose wife at the time was so dismissive of her husband’s chances that she noted “you don’t take a Volkswagen into the Indy 500 unless you know a hell of a shortcut” – stung the champ with jolting punches, which perhaps presaged Smokin’ Joe’s next, far less successful defense, in which he was dropped six times by George Foreman in losing on a second-round TKO on Jan. 22, 1973, in Kingston, Jamaica. There is a good chance Foreman would have won anyway, but Big George was seated at ringside for Frazier-Daniels and maybe he saw something he believed would be useful whenever he and Frazier got around to rumbling.

I had hoped to contact Daniels for this story, but my inquiries drew blanks. But he once admitted he was so impressed by Frazier, and the aura of impending violence the Philadelphian wore like a comfortable robe, that “I felt like shaking his hand when he stepped in (the ring).” It is a familiar feeling among standard-issue fighters who have the privilege of being battered by the very best; Stander kept a small, autographed and laminated photo of Frazier in his wallet, and Seamus McDonagh, who went on to run a shoeshine stand in San Francisco, handed interested customers photos of himself landing a hard right hand to the jaw of future heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.

What we do know of Terry Daniels is this: Unlike the Miami Dolphins, who were thrashed so soundly by the Cowboys in Supe VI but came back to go 17-0 and win the Super Bowl the following season, there would be no second chance at redemption for a fighter whose first real shot at the big time would also be his last. Daniels, who would now be 68, finished his career with a 35-30-1 record that includes 28 KO wins, but also 13 losses inside the distance. After the pummeling he took from Frazier, he lost his next five fights, and 18 if his final 20.

There would be good moments for Daniels, too. He married twice and helped raise three sons, but he later was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, which some have called “pugilist Parkinson’s.” It is the sort of sad closing chapter that often is written about fighters who linger too long at the fair, and there can be no denying that destiny sometimes deals the same unhappy cards to the great and the mediocre.

So celebrate the best of Joe Frazier and the Ali who threw down with, among others, Sonny Liston, Foreman, Norton and so many other top-tier opponents. But remember, too, Daniels and Stander, as well as such passers-by as Dave Zygiewicz and Manuel Ramos (other Frazier title foes when he was the New York State Athletic Commission “world” champion) and Ali’s non-taxing conquests of Juergen Blin, Rudi Lubbers, Jean-Pierre Coopman and Richard Dunn.

They all had a brief moment in time when they were allowed to bask in the reflected glory of actual ring royalty. It’s not quite heaven, but it’s closer than most fighters ever get.

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George Groves and Callum Smith Finally Meet in the WBSS Capstone

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The 168-pound tournament of the inaugural World Boxing Super Series, an 8-man invitational, kicked off on Sept. 16 of last year with a match between Callum Smith and Erik Skoglund at Liverpool, England. Tournaments of this nature in boxing almost never play out as planned and this tourney was no exception. But on Friday we will finally crown a winner when Smith meets George Groves at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia of all places. At stake will be the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy and the bundle of cash that comes with it and Groves’ WBA “super” world super middleweight title.

Despite the odd location, this is a domestic affair. Groves, the top seed, and Smith, the #2 seed, are both Englishman. And if the fight were on British soil, it would have certainly drawn well. In the UK, Groves is enormously popular. His second fight with Carl Froch attracted a crowd of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium, a British post-war record eventually broken by Joshua-Klitschko.

Groves (28-3, 20 KOs) suffered his lone defeats at the hands of Froch, who defeated him twice, and Badou Jack, and there’s no shame there. Carl Froch, in the minds of many, has a plaque waiting for him at the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Jack, a title-holder in two weight classes, is currently ranked #1 as a light heavyweight by the WBA and WBC.

Although both fights with Froch ended inside the distance, both were nip-and-tuck until Froch closed the curtain. Badou Jack defeated Groves by split decision in Las Vegas.

Groves has a high boxing IQ as he demonstrated on Feb 17 in Manchester where he scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Chris Eubank Jr. Groves, observed ringside reporter Gareth Davies, “was just a step too far, too strong and ultimately too technical and experienced in the championship rounds.” Eubank’s father and trainer Chris Eubank Sr. saluted Groves for fighting the perfect fight.

The victory was bittersweet as Groves dislocated his left shoulder in the final round. It required surgery, pushing back the finale until this Friday, a full two months after the conclusion of the other WBSS tourney, for cruiserweights, the finale of which was also pushed back from the originally scheduled date. For a time the promoters seriously considered bumping Eubank into the finals in place of the incapacitated Groves but eventually thought better of it. (Eubank will appear on the undercard in a stay-busy fight against Ireland’s J.J. McDonagh.)

Callum Smith (24-0, 18 KOs) is the youngest of four fighting brothers, each of whom captured one or more regional titles. In the family, the relationship between talent and birth order is inverse, which is to say that Paul Smith, the oldest of the foursome, wasn’t as good as his younger brother Stephen and Stephen wasn’t as good as younger brother Liam.

Liam “Beefy” Smith accomplished what his two older brothers could not, winning a world title. He won the WBO 154-pound diadem in his twenty-second fight and successfully defended the belt twice before it was sheared from him by Canelo Alvarez who knocked him out in the ninth round.

If Callum Smith wins on Friday, he will be recognized by hardcore fans as a more legitimate champion than was the case with his brother Liam. That’s because Callum, who stands six-foot-three (none his brothers is taller than 5’11”), was touted from the very onset of his career as the most gifted of the fighting Smith brothers. He solidified that opinion in November of 2015 when he knocked out Liverpool rival Rocky Fielding in the opening round. Fielding went on to win the “regular” version of the WBA 168-pound title and that remains the only blemish on his record.

In recent bouts, however, Smith hasn’t looked that sharp. His last two opponents, the aforementioned Skoglund and Neiky Holzken, lasted the full 12 rounds. The obscure Holzken, a converted kickboxer from the Netherlands, was a late sub for Juergen Braehmer who was forced to bow out of the tournament with an illness.

George Groves was a slight underdog to Eubank. On Friday, the odds favor him, but only slightly. At last look it was 13/10 which portends a very close fight. Groves has the edge in experience and in ring savvy and has fought tougher opposition, but Smith will have a three-and-a-half inch height advantage and is judged to be the harder puncher.

Fight fans in the U.S. can access the fight on the new DAZN app. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is seven hours ahead of New York and other precincts in the Eastern Time Zone and adjust accordingly.

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Three Punch Combo: A Bouquet for “ShoBox” and More

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THREE PUNCH COMBO — We are embarking into a new age in boxing. There are new television contracts and digital platforms available that are making the sport more visible than ever before to the masses. But with all these new deals and platforms, it is important not to forget some of the consistent programming that has been around for some time. There is no better example of this than the ShoBox series on Showtime.

ShoBox, more formally ShoBox: The New Generation, began with a simple premise of matching young prospects in with tough opposition. To get their fighters on this series, promoters would have to find credible opponents who could potentially test and maybe even upset their prized prospect. This premise has led to consistently competitive and entertaining fights in the more than 200 broadcasts since the inception of the series in 2001.

This past Friday, we saw just how this premise works once again. There was a four fight card that featured competitive fights on paper in all the matches. However, in two of those matches there did seem to be clear favorites though each of the respective fighters was being matched with their toughest foe to date.

James Wilkins and Misael Lopez opened the telecast in a 130-pound contest. Wilkins was featured in a documentary that aired on Showtime just prior to the card and was expected to make a smashing television debut. He was a knockout artist and the thought was that he would put on a show to open the telecast. But instead, Wilkins got a boxing lesson from Lopez who was busier from the outside and managed to mostly avoid the power of Wilkins throughout the contest in winning an eight round unanimous decision.

The main event featured Jon Fernandez facing O’Shaquie Foster in another 130-pound contest. Fernandez had been getting a lot of buzz and many in the sport considered the Spaniard a future star. This was supposed to be a test for Fernandez as Foster (pictured on the right) represented a step up in class, but nonetheless many expected Fernandez to pass the test with flying colors. Instead, the power punching Fernandez was clearly out-boxed by Foster for ten rounds in an entertaining fight.

These two fights showed once again that when young fighters are matched tough we often get better than expected fights that can sometimes deliver surprises. This coming Friday, the series returns with highly touted lightweight prospect Devin Haney (19-0, 13 KO’s) in the main event taking on former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos (33-2-2, 21 KO’s). This is a fight in which Haney is favored but one in which he is facing the toughest challenge of his young career. At the very least, this should be a test for the highly touted 19-year-old Haney and I am certain we get a compelling fight.

ShoBox is boxing’s most consistent series and one that just continues to provide fight fans with high caliber, competitive fights.

10 Percent or 10 Pounds – How To Combat Fighters Who Blow Up In Weight

It is time to address the issue of fighters gaining an absurd amount of weight following the weigh-in. There is a reason why we have weight classes in boxing. If one fighter enters the ring weighing significantly more than his opponent, it gives the bigger fighter a big advantage. This can make for not only non-competitive fights but potentially dangerous situations. I have a simple solution that I think can combat this problem.

In past articles, I have touched on the issue of fighters who miss the contracted weight. My argument has always been to implement a system with stiff financial penalties. So in a similar aspect, I think stiff financial penalties can combat the continued problem of fighters blowing up in weight after the official weigh-in.

What I propose is second day weigh-ins where fighters would not be permitted to put on more than ten pounds or 10 percent (whichever is more) of the contracted weight limit. If they are over, the fight still goes on but the fighter who misses the second day weight limit pays a substantial fine. This simple adjunct can be easily administered by the various state commissions in the United States (or any other commissions worldwide).

Here is an example:  Let’s say we have a fight contracted at 130 pounds and each fighter weighs in at 129 pounds. The second day limit would be 10 percent of 130 pounds which was the contracted weight. So each fighter could come in at a maximum of 143 pounds. Now let’s say one fighter comes in at 146 pounds. The penalty I propose would be 20 percent of that fighter’s purse per pound over the weight. And this money goes directly to their opponent. Under this example, the fighter over weight would lose 60 percent of his purse.

Zero Shouldn’t Mean That Much

We are in an era, largely due to The Floyd Mayweather Jr. Factor, where fighters are often overly protected to keep that precious zero in the loss column. But to do so, they are frequently matched with soft opposition and learn little from dismantling their overmatched foes. There is little to no growth in their career during this period and though the record may get glossy, the development of the fighter may be stunted.

Setbacks can humble fighters and make them see what needs to be done so as not to experience that feeling again. They become better overall fighters and put themselves in a better long term position in their career.

This past weekend, we saw two once promising prospects bounce back with career defining wins after suffering an early unexpected defeat. They are both now in prime position to have their respective careers blossom which may not have otherwise been the case.

Earlier I mentioned O’Shaquie Foster’s upset win against Jon Fernandez. Three years ago, Foster was a highly touted prospect. He had a good amateur background and was blessed athletically with dynamic speed. After building up an 8-0 record against less than formidable opposition, he lost in a dreadful performance to Samuel Teah. Another loss would follow several months later to Rolando Chinea. But Foster clearly learned from his mistakes in these fights and bounced back, layering his natural athletic ability with much improved skills in frankly outclassing Fernandez. Foster’s losses made him take a step back and re-evaluate what needed to be done inside the ring. He is now in prime position to become a contender in the 130-pound weight division.

Luke Campbell was a 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist and considered a can’t-miss future star in boxing. But in his 13th pro fight, in a rather shocking development, he was put on the canvas and lost a split decision to veteran Yvan Mendy. Another loss followed two years later against Jorge Linares but Campbell performed well while losing a split decision and flashed signs of improvement from the Mendy setback.

The rematch with Mendy for Campbell took place this past weekend and Campbell did what many expected him to do in their first encounter. He boxed effectively from the outside and mixed in precision combination punching to easily avenge the defeat. It was a dynamic performance by Campbell and put him in line for a big fight at lightweight.

Luke Campbell is a vastly different fighter from the one who lost to Mendy three years earlier and appears primed to potentially live up to the once high expectations. He is in a better spot today in his career due to what he learned from that first loss to Mendy.

Photo credit: Dave Mandel / SHOWTIME

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In Dismantling Povetkin, Joshua Recaptured His Swag among the Heavyweights

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He was in against a very crafty and experienced opponent in former WBA titlist Alexander Povetkin 34-2 (24). And although he was troubled by the dangerous Russian fighting small as he tried to inch his way in and time him, AJ adjusted well and started to take the initiative and dropped and stopped Povetkin in the seventh round, retaining his WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight titles and thus becoming the first fighter to ever stop Povetkin, something Wladimir Klitschko failed to do.

During the fight AJ was forced back. He had to adapt to Povetkin making him punch down and that caused him to be a little tentative, especially after being bloodied from a broken nose in the first round. And early on, AJ was a little confused and busy trying to keep Povetkin occupied from outside so he couldn’t get in on him. His most effective weapon in doing such was his left jab, delivered to the head or body, although the fight really turned when he began putting his one-two together. Then after a fairly evenly-paced bout, AJ slowed some with the hope it would lure Povetkin to close in a little harder, and he did.

As Povetkin, who came to fight, became more assertive, he became more vulnerable. AJ found the openings for his big right hand and left hook. With the first really solid right hand that bounced off his chin, Povetkin buckled and instinctively went back. Joshua pursued him and then, with near Joe Louis-like accuracy, put his right hands and hooks together, along with a beautiful right to the body in the middle of the assault and finished his game opponent.

Once again it was shown that trading with AJ is almost certain suicide. Povetkin was in great shape and would’ve been a handful for any other heavyweight in the world because he no doubt brought his A-game. Sometimes it takes AJ a little while to get going, and if you don’t do anything to bother him or wake him up, he doesn’t fight with the urgency of a “Smokin” Joe Frazier. However, when you wake him up and force him to cut loose, he’s so dangerous that he doesn’t need too many clean shots to end it. And making Joshua more lethal is that he has both short and inside power in both hands.

After months of hearing how Povetkin was the most serious threat to Joshua, that’s now finished business. Prior to the bout The Ring magazine rated the top six heavyweights in the world as follows…..Joshua, Wilder, Povetkin, Ortiz, Whyte and Parker, in that order. Now Joshua is 3-0 (2) versus Povetkin, Whyte and Parker which squashes the narrative that he has fought weaker opposition than WBC title holder Deontay Wilder 40-0 (39) who has only faced Ortiz among the top six.

Today, the most widely levied criticism of any elite fighter is that he didn’t fight the best man or men in his division. Fighters can’t control who their contemporaries are but they can control fighting the best of their era. Rocky Marciano’s era wasn’t stellar, but he fought every top fighter who was in line to challenge him. Floyd Mayweather fought in a stout era – the difference is an overwhelming majority of his bouts with big name opponents were strategically manipulated so that he faced them on the downside of their career – and that’s a fact, not a theory.

Forty years after his last victory in a title fight, Muhammad Ali is respected and revered as a fighter even by those who don’t claim to be a fan of his. Why? He wasn’t the most fundamental boxer in heavyweight history nor was he the biggest puncher, and not all of his fights were edge of your seat exciting. The thing that’s often cited as to why he was a marvel is that he fought the best of the best during one of the deepest eras in heavyweight history. There were a few times between 1975-77 that he held a win over every fighter ranked among The Ring magazine’s top-10. Sure he fought a few Brian London’s and Jean Pierre Coopman’s, but London was encompassed by Sonny Liston and Ernie Terrell during the 1960s and Coopman by Joe Frazier and Ken Norton during the 1970s.

Anthony Joshua hasn’t yet sniffed the greatness of Ali on many levels, but he is on the same trajectory in regards to meeting and defeating the best of his generation. By the end of this month, the WBC heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and former champ Tyson Fury will likely become official with them meeting in early December. And regardless of who wins, Joshua, if he really wants to etch a great legacy, must pressure the winner to meet him in their next bout. In addition to that, he must tell his brain, aka Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, to forget about winning the purse war if it is the only stumbling block. If the winner of Wilder-Fury is impressive, he will have earned a 50-50 split.

During the faux negotiations between the Joshua and Wilder camps this past summer the purse split was the focal point. And prior to the prospect of Wilder and Fury meeting, Joshua clearly held the better hand based on his resume and owning three titles to Wilder’s single title.  But the Wilder-Fury winner will have closed the gap and Joshua needs to be next while the fighters are at or near their prime. The fact is Joshua versus the Wilder/Fury winner will be the most widely anticipated fight in the heavyweight division since Lewis-Tyson and maybe even since Tyson-Holyfield I. The onus is on the fighters to make it happen and they both have the clout to make sure it does, especially Joshua.

Interviewed in the ring after dispatching Povetkin, AJ said it didn’t matter to him who he fought next as long as it’s Wilder or Fury, but it was obvious that he preferred Wilder. A lot depends on how Wilder fares with Fury, but until then, here’s what we know…..Alexander Povetkin and Luis Ortiz are about on the same level; having never faced each other, it’s a tossup as to who’d win. Both Joshua and Wilder scored impressive stoppages over Povetkin and Ortiz respectively…AJ needed seven rounds and Deontay needed ten rounds. During his bout with Ortiz, Wilder was knocked around the ring and had to endure a few big exchanges, some of which he came out second-best. Wilder was also nearly stopped in the seventh round but battled back, summoning great courage and reserve to win a fight he was losing. Against Povetkin, Joshua was more troubled than he was beaten up. And once he found his range and pace and began putting his punches together, the fight ultimately ended when AJ got off with his best stuff. In essence, Joshua was more impressive against Povetkin and had fewer close calls than did Wilder against Ortiz.

Between now and the time Wilder fights Tyson Fury, it’ll be debated as to who was more impressive – Joshua against Povetkin or Wilder against Ortiz; the answer is clearly Joshua for the reasons stated. Moreover, when analyzing a fight, A + B doesn’t equal C. Joshua will be favored over either Wilder or Fury, but probably along the line of 7-5 and nothing will change that.

The thing that emerged from Joshua dismantling Povetkin is that AJ recaptured some of the limelight and swag he ceded to Wilder this past March. AJ is again the fighter to beat in the heavyweight division and will probably get the bigger purse split regardless of whether he faces Wilder and Fury.

That said, he better not let the fight fall through over it!

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@gmail.com

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