By Paul Magno | April 01, 2020

In this series, we evaluate high-end, main stage fighters and make the ultimate decision on whether they are fact or fiction-- “for real” or just a big ball of hype. 

To come to this conclusion, fighters will be judged, not necessarily on skill or inherent ability, but on their overall level of opposition and the actual testing of their mettle in competitive action at the world class level. 

Today, we look at two-time IBF/WBA/WBO heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs), one of the biggest draws in the sport and, currently, a consensus top-two in the division. 

Best Performances (In Chronological Order):

Dillian Whyte (12/12/2015)

Whyte was not quite the fighter he is today, but he was still a legit tough guy and a fighter who managed to buzz the highly-regarded “next big thing.” Joshua had to get tough, ride out the storm, and mount a massive comeback. He rose to the occasion and managed to stop Whyte in 7.

Wladimir Klitschko (4/29/2017)

A true trial-by-fire fight for Joshua as the usually not-so-fiery Klitschko fought hard to keep from losing his second bout in a row. Joshua had to get up from a sixth round knockdown and survive through some heavy, heavy shots to win this bout via eleventh round TKO. Consider this win his biggest and brightest victory to date. 

Alexander Povetkin (9/22/2018)

Povetkin has never been a fall guy and, even at 39 years of age, he was no soft touch. Joshua had to work hard and endure some rough patches before eventually putting the Russian away in the seventh round.

Andy Ruiz Jr. (12/7/2019)

In a second crack at Ruiz, Joshua would come into the fight physically streamlined and dominate the pudgy, out of shape Mexican American over twelve one-sided rounds to win back his three world title belts.

The Bad (In Chronological Order)

Joseph Parker (3/31/2018)

Joshua would utterly dominate the New Zealand native, then-WBO heavyweight champ in a one-sided unanimous decision. The problem is that a tentative Parker didn’t put up much of a fight and looked ready to be taken out at any point—Joshua just never stepped on the gas to close the show. The performance created some doubt as to Joshua’s post-Klitschko fire.

Andy Ruiz Jr. (6/1/2019)

Joshua, perhaps over confident or under prepared, walked into his American debut at New York’s Madison Square Garden and seemed on his way to an easy win while on sleep walk mode. Then, the plucky underdog began to fight back—hard—and Joshua crumbled. The seventh round TKO loss put a lot of question marks into a lot of heads.

Defining Career Moments

-- Joshua’s toughness and determination in overcoming Wladimir Klitscko’s big punches and tenacious effort

-- The smart, efficient game plan carried out in his return bout against Andy Ruiz and his ability to stick to that game plan. 

-- Battling back against a street-tough Dillian Whyte to win a firefight.

-- Easily blowing away IBF champ Charles Martin to win his first world title. 

The Ten-Fighter Test

There’s a theory that the tenth best fighter on a boxer’s resume will tell you a lot about his established body of work. If he doesn’t have 10 quality opponents, then he’s either still a work in progress or a protected entity. Ranking the order of a fighter’s quality wins is subjective, but not too subjective. Most reasonably knowledgeable fans will be in general agreement as to who rates as a quality opponent and, more or less, where they stand against a fighter’s other wins. 

In Joshua’s case, his ten most impressive wins, ranked in order are:

Wladimir Klitschko…Andy Ruiz Jr…Alexander Povetkin…Joseph Parker…Dillian Whyte…Eric Molina…Carlos Takam…Dominic Breazeale….Charles Martin…Kevin Johnson

That establishes a faded Kevin Johnson as Anthony Joshua’s ten-fighter measuring stick. For context, previous “Fact or Fiction” subject Canelo Alvarez had Alfredo Angulo as his ten-fighter measuring stick. We’ll get more context for these as more fighters are analyzed. 

The Verdict

When you’re talking about a guy who, up until very recently, was considered the top heavyweight in the world and is now no worse than no.2 or no.3, Joshua’s resume is pretty slim. Aside from the Klitschko win and a return-to-where-I-came-from win over Andy Ruiz, there’s not a whole lot of depth to his body of work. 

Even throwing in Povetkin, Parker, and others, there’s still not a whole lot there, at least not for someone who had been handed the keys to the world not too long ago. 

Joshua is big, talented, and is not done developing as a fighter. But, for now, his resume tells us that his legacy is still very much a work in progress and, yeah, he’s still more “fiction” than “fact.”

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