I promised on the Anthony Joshua thread that I would take the time to watch a few of his recent bouts and compile a scouting report on the young lad.
A lot of people see "the next great heavyweigt" in Joshua, based on his physical appearance, his Olympic gold medal and the ease with which he has been knocking out opponents left and right.
There is quite a few talk in various comments sections about how he would fair against Deontay Wilder or even Wladimir Klitschko in the near future.
Myself, as a bit of a Joshua non-believer, have been urging people to calm down and give the young man time to develop, but then again I really am a hater regarding most boxing prospects.
So anyway, trying to get a more informed opinion on where exactly Joshua is as a fighter, I watched his 5 most recent fights: against veterans Matt Skelton, Konstantin Airich, Denis Bakhtov, Michael Sprott and Jason Gavern. Here are some of the things I noticed about Anthony Joshua, from best to worst:
The Very Best
1) Right off the bat, Joshua looks absolutely superb. He really is a stunning human being, with an immense sculpted muscular body that even Greek statues would find unrealistic. He has huge shoulders and biceps and long powerful arms.
2) In the ring, he exhibits superb footwork and movement. He glides effortlessly around the ring like a veteran and defensively he just flies out of harm's way using his legs, either moving back or laterally. He covers huge distances in just two steps in any direction. Truly a veteran's skill by the young man.
3) Joshua has a varied attack in the true sense of the word. He can fight tall setting up his opponent from the outside, he can brawl and fight dirty on the inside if he has to. He can punch in combination. He can start a combination in any number of ways. I have seen him start an attack with a jab, with a lead left hook, with a lead right hand or even with a lead right hook.
4) When he plants his feet Joshua really does have tremendous power in his hands, especially the right hand.
5) Punch accuracy is top notch.
6) His handspeed is good when throwing the final KO blows.
7) Has decent balance pretty much at all times.
8) Seems patient and leery of countershots at all times. Adept at jumping in and tying up if he feels his position has been compromised.
9) Throws many punches for a heavyweight.
The not so great but improving
10) His jab is not perfect but seems to be improving somewhat from fight to fight. It is accurate, it is long and it is used successfully to set up his offense. On the other hand it's slow and is only sometimes thrown with weight behind it. Because of this it does work to set up his offense but is not much of a defensive deterrent. Opponents have little trouble closing distance on him. He didn't use to double up his jab but he has started doing so (albeit rarely) in recent fights.
11) Conditioning seems to be improving from fight to fight. Against Matt Skelton he was already fighting with an open mouth in round one. Against Jason Gavern he was as cool as possible in round 3.
12) He is too squared up for my liking, but he is improving on this. The position of his torso used to face his opponent most of time, whereas in more recent fights he keeps his shoulder in front, better utilizing his length, resulting in better balance and a better protected chin. He still squares up and exposes his chin from behind his shoulder everytime he throws a right hand. This is not much of a problem in combinations but it is a big risk when throwing lead right hands.
13) He seems to be vulnerable when fighting at mid-distance. There is a fine specific distance where he is too close for his very long arms to get leverage but not close enough to engage. In this short distance he is both hittable and with no backup plan offensively. He does seem aware of this and is always lightining quick to either move in or out of range.
14) Joshua seems to have two very specific types of punches: those thrown with or without weight behind them. The ones without the planted feet don't do much damage. He doesn't seem to be able to improvise a power-countershot or a KO punch on the spot, Andy Lee - style; he needs to prepare his KO shots. This makes his power at least a little bit predictable.
15) Body shots don't seem to be part of the plan. He threw a grand total of 3 in the 11 rounds I watched.
16) Uppercuts are even worse, I have yet to see a single uppercut, which is strange for someone routinely taller than his opponents. The uppercuts and the body shots are exactly that mid-range game I felt he was lacking.
17) Upper body movement and head movement are "meh" at best with no sign of improvement. Right now he uses his terrific footwork and movement to get out of harm's way.
18) When not throwing with feet planted and mean intentions, all of his punches are slower than they should be. The lead left hook is particularly slow. I can sort of understand a pawing jab, but a pawing lead right is just begging to be countered. Badly!
The downright horrible
19) His guard is just all sorts of wrong. It's low, it's loose, it's at a wrong angle to throw a punch (which is why some of his lead shots seem slow), the two hands are at a weird angle from one another. And to make matters worse his chin is very rarely tucked behind his shoulder. It is squared up and way up there during punch sequences, and completely unprotected by his "guard". There is simply no way around this: this has to be corrected before he is stepped up to the world level; this should not be negotiable.
20) When throwing two punch combinations (which he does most of the time) there is this little pause between the first punch and the second punch. There's no other way to say it: 80% of Joshua's combinations are slow and supremely predictable. There is no way in hell that a top 8-ish world heavyweight doesn't counter Joshua all the way to the bank if he doesn't commit to his punches more. He can punch in rapid succession when he plants his feet but most of the time he is too tentative. This too must be completely eliminated. Neither of the last 2 points have shown any sign of improvement in the 5 bouts I saw.
I hate to admit it but Joshua is at the same time a more talented and a more polished prospect than I was initially prepared to admit. He has a lot of veteran moves in him, like controlling distance in and out, defensive footwork (which takes many people years to figure out), a varied and educated attack and of course the sick power and athleticism we all knew he had. I also like that he seems to have a gameplan in his mind and is calm in the ring.
He has a couple of bad habits that right now prevent him from tackling the world elite. I would pick about 8 or 9 of the World's top 10 heavyweights to figure out these weaknesses and beat Joshua. Also, unfortunately these will need to be corrected in the gym. It could take as little as 10-12 months or as long as 2 or 3 years but if he ever does correct them, I will finally concede that Joshua can be a good heavyweight champion.