A battle of unbeaten heavyweights headlines Sky's latest PPV offering this Saturday night. Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte meet at the O2 Arena, London, to settle a long-standing grudge.
The pair have a rivalry dating back to 2009, when Whyte knocked down and beat Joshua on points in a bout that was in the early part of both fighters amateur careers. There were words exchanged before and immediately after that meeting, and the bitterness between the two has steadily increased ever since.
Sometimes you get a rivalry purely fabricated for publicity and promotional purposes, this isn't one of those cases, there's genuine bad feeling between them with an air of nastiness whenever they're in the same vicinity. The good thing is that the fans look to be in for an entertaining fight when they collide on Saturday. With a big crowd and massive pressure on both, as well as their history, it's hard to see anything other than a spectacular outcome.
In reality, their amateur bout means very little. Both were novices and were clearly lacking in the basic fundamentals, it was a case of swinging their arms like windmills and hoping that one big punch landed, which it did for Whyte, catching a disorganized and off balance Joshua clean enough to send him to the canvas - the only time Joshua has been down as an amateur and professional.
Despite the loss, it was Joshua who matured the quicker of the two and ended up fighting at the higher level, culminating in him winning Olympic gold in 2012. Although Whyte's dispute with the ABA did himself no favours, allowing Joshua to win two ABA titles without facing any serious opposition and to gain international selection, an experience that was vital in his development.
There's little to separate the two in their professional records - Whyte is unbeaten in sixteen, Joshua in fourteen; Joshua hasn't been past three rounds, Whyte hasn't been past four; both only have one noticeable scalp on their records, both of whom were decent but past their best in Kevin Johnson and Brian Minto.
This fight is a step-up in class for them both, neither man has had to worry too much about what's being thrown back at them before and have looked sensational in dealing with opposition offering such little threat. It's expected that they'll be slightly more cautious in their approach against each other, respecting the fact they've knocked out twenty-seven of the thirty opponents they've faced.
There are many questions to be answered - neither have had their chins tested, have had to use their stamina, show they can handle big fight pressure or have had to dig deep or survive a crisis. Hopefully Saturday will answer one or two of those questions, even if the fight does look likely to be over in quick time.
Joshua is correctly viewed as the overwhelming favourite (1/16), he's the more rounded fighter and seems to have advantages in hand speed, reach, power and timing. Whyte carries significant power of his own but is sometimes found wanting when it comes to footwork and keeping his technique together, as he showed last time out when beating Brian Minto, he got the job done but looked disjointed and ungainly at times.
One thing that has been suggested as an advantage for Whyte is his nasty streak, a supposed ruthless street thug mentality. He unquestionably has that but if anyone considers Joshua to be lacking in that area then they are very much mistaken, you only have to see the way he smiles after bludgeoning an opponent down to see he has a nasty streak as well. And let's not forget the two or three times he's continued to throw punches when an opponent is already down, he may play the nice boy in the media but once he gets in the ring he's all business.
Whilst the fight seems to be a case of what round will Joshua finish it in, you can't ignore Whyte's punch power. If Joshua gets careless we may get to see what his chin is made of, and I believe there aren't many boxers that possess the raw punch power Whyte does. Joshua seems like a dedicated professional and is a student of boxing, he'll know neglecting your own defence is more the cause of an upset than a lucky punch is. I'd expect him to be far more cautious and more aware defensively than he has been before, jabbing his way into range and developing openings rather than trying to force them.
If Joshua can keep his composure and not let his personal hatred of Whyte affect his tactics, he should get the job done convincingly. Whyte can be open to straight right hands, Joshua's honey punch, and I believe that will be the shot that ends proceedings sometime inside four rounds.