Britain’s 2012 Olympic champion Anthony Joshua faces his first real opponent of any stature when he takes on the durable American veteran Kevin ‘Kingpin’ Johnson on the banks of the Thames at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday, May 30th.
The Watford heavyweight has made it clear that he is entering ‘phase two’ of his development in the Professional ranks and with that comes a step up in the level of opposition that he will face.
Johnson has never been halted in 36 professional fights in a career that stretches back to 2003 so is expected to take Joshua a few more rounds than he has been used to thus far. ‘Kingpin’ reached the apex of his boxing career when, back in 2009, he challenged for the WBC world title. He lost via a unanimous decision to champion Vitali Klitschko over the full twelve rounds but he has experienced the sport at the highest level and will need to use every ounce of his experience to make this encounter last.
Johnson took Tyson Fury the full twelve rounds at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast in December 2012 although didn’t offer much in the way of offense as he became pinned on the end of a long jab in a very disciplined performance by Fury.
His recent record doesn’t look good. He has lost three of his last four fights against Manuel Charr, Dereck Chisora and Christian Hammer all by unanimous decision. His recent form gives you the indication of the sort of level that the 35 year old is now operating at; he has become a stepping stone fighter.
Nonetheless he is without doubt a marked step up in quality in comparison to Joshua’s first twelve opponents who have been unable to take him even past the third round of a contest. If Joshua can maintain his 100% knockout rate against Johnson it will lay down a statement to the rest of the heavyweight division and prove that he is ready to take a few more risks this year and challenge for a domestic title.
Most heavyweights can whack hard given their size and there can certainly be no room for complacency from the favourite but Johnson isn’t known to be a particularly big puncher. He knocked out Australasian champion and recent Vladimir Klitschko challenger Alex Leapai in the ninth round in 2012 in his opponent’s backyard in Queensland, Australia but since then his only knockout wins have come against real novices or unknown boxers.
In many ways this is the ideal opponent for Britain’s brightest prospect to be facing at this stage of his career. Kevin Johnson is the first opponent that Joshua has had that is giving him some pre-fight verbal’s but despite his willingness to test his young opponents mentality there seems to be a lack of genuine conviction to most of his press conference comments.
If Joshua stops him early it will only enhance his growing reputation but if he doesn’t, he will get the benefit of banking some important rounds and probably learn a bit more in the ring by trying things that he has been working on in the gym that he hasn’t needed to use as of yet. Certainly against the top names who can take a bit of punishment he will need to utilise his boxing skills and he hasn’t had much opportunity to develop them in live fight situations
I would expect Johnson to get himself in reasonable shape for the fight he hasn’t been the most dedicated pro in recent times when it comes to being in good condition. However at six foot six inches tall Joshua will again have the height and reach advantage over his opponent who stands three inches shorter at six foot three.
Johnson is also a fairly static target so Joshua should have no problems delivering those powerful straight shot combinations with accuracy. Johnson could well be looking at a first career stoppage loss although given his durability there’s a good chance it will come from the referee intervening and stopping proceedings with him still on his feet.