Talking Boxing

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December 8, 2016

The Dempsey Digest: Vol. 1

Luke Blackledge

Image credit: Matchroom Boxing

Internationally acclaimed TV and radio sports presenter Paul Dempsey is one the most respected voices in the boxing industry. For over 20 years Dempsey has covered the sport for Sky Sports, Setanta, BT and more. Now, Dempsey lends his thoughts and views to Talking Boxing. And the first edition of The Dempsey Digest sees him take a look at the rise of Anthony Joshua, and warn of the potential pitfalls that lie ahead.

I think Anthony Joshua is the business. I think he’s the best heavyweight in the world right now.  

There are questions still to be resolved, but I don’t have an issue with how he's been brought through. Before you made this call, I looked through the rankings. It’s very difficult to find credible opponents, so weak is the division at the moment. I think they’ve done a very reasonable job in trying to get him the kind of work that will help him, but it’s difficult at the moment because finding realistic good young heavyweights is virtually impossible who are world class.

The only problem with the level he’s been fighting at, and it’s not his fault, is does that prepare anybody for a test like Klitschko. It’s like climbing a pyramid. You get closer and closer to the top and the size of the pyramid just becomes more steep, and more easy to slide off. The guy remaining on top of the pyramid is still Klitschko. The guy has basically been inactive, but he is the guy at the top of the pyramid. Joshua is the guy who’s been climbing up the pyramid very comfortably. My issue is he doesn’t yet understand how easy it is to come sliding back down again, and that’s not his fault because he’s not been in hard fights. It’s all been easy because he's so talented. I think he’s a great pro. Moreover, he’s not been hit, really hit because there’s nobody there to do that to him. I think he’s a great pro but there is a big ‘We don’t know about Joshua’ and that is because he’s not been in hard fights at world level.

I watched the fight against Dillian Whyte. That reminded me of Lennox Lewis for the Commonwealth, British and European titles against Derek Williams. It was a long, long time ago in the early 90s. I watched it and I said, ‘This fight bears no relation to the rest of Joshua’s career’. Just like Lennox against Williams bore no relation to the rest of Lennox’s career, because it was like a local derby in football. It was bragging rights between two different tribes, two different posse’s. Lennox represented one, Williams the other and it was the same with Joshua and Whyte.

I don’t begin to understand the detail of it. It was like watching the same horrible local derby football match. It’s only about getting a win, and if you can mess the bloke around so much the better. It was like a rerun of that. He had to win, but he’s miles better than Whyte. He didn’t cover himself in glory but he went about it in a way which I kinda liked. I thought it showed real dog in Joshua because he was quite ugly in it, and sometimes you have to win ugly. So, I actually thought it was a good sign, not a bad sign. He performed ordinary because he wanted to prove something to a group of people that you and I don’t understand. It was Lennox v Williams. Williams wasn’t in Lennox’s league but Lennox knew this man’s going to mess me around like you can’t believe, and I am not going to allow that. And I am just going to boss him and do it back to him, and actually ignore what I’m good at for tonight. And that is exactly what I thought Joshua did to Whyte.

Ultimately it comes to this: He has not been hit hard and often in a fight. Whyte messed him around. Whyte’s not bad by the way, and I watched his last fight I was quite impressed, but Whyte cannot work at the intensity to really give Josh’ what it’s all about so we don’t know. I actually don’t think there’s anybody out there to do that. Which leads me to the bigger point about Josh’ which is this, and Lennox found this out for himself. They’ve all found it out for themselves. You will beat yourself if you are not careful. And he has not learned that lesson in life yet. It’s like when Lennox went to South Africa [to fight Hasim Rahman]. Lennox beat himself that night and we were getting the vibe that Lennox thinks this is an easy night.

Two-three months beforehand you’ve got to think about the acclimatisation, you’re probably overlooking the opponent a little bit. And Lennox took these risks, and took the decision in that fight. He himself, with his conditioner Courtney Shand. There’s two ways you can do it to go out there to places like South Africa and fight. You can either do it long-term, which is to say a month of acclimatisation or you literally go out the week before so you don’t give your body the chance really to absorb the effects of the altitude etc, and Lennox decided to do it that way: mistake. He thought it was an in and out job, easy. And that was a mistake. Very unlike Lennox who was a great, very calculating guy. He made that mistake and acknowledged it afterwards privately. ‘I did the wrong thing and I should’ve listened, but I didn’t’. So, that’s an example of a guy of real talent beating himself.

Somewhere along the line that is going to be Josh’s problem, I’ve just got to hope that happens later rather than sooner. I don’t think this is the case, but if Joshua even in this fight against Molina thinks ‘Another easy night’, don’t make that mistake. Robert McCracken is now officially on board, which is a huge thing, very good. Tony Sims done an unbelievable job with this kid incidentally. They’ve got to be in his ear every 20 minutes. Don’t think we’ve just got to turn up. Don’t be thinking about Klitschko, don’t be thinking about Haye etc etc. Do what you need to do. I don’t think it’s happening, I’m not suggesting that it’s happening but it’s very difficult to tell him that. You can tell him and tell him and tell him, but until you experience it you don’t understand it. Lennox came out after that disaster in South Africa and said ‘I was wrong’. Sometimes that’s what it does take and Josh’ has not been anywhere near that yet.

Paul Dempsey was talking to Shaun Brown.