Anthony Joshua exorcised his demons as he became world heavyweight champion for the second time in December 2019, and as we await the announcement of his next opponent we have been taking a look back at some of his most important wins.
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1) Joshua v Dillian Whyte (December 12, 2015)
Joshua followed up his brutal knockout win over Johnson by taking out Gary Cornish in 97 seconds a few months later, and that 14th professional victory for the rising star set up an end-of-year showdown with Dillian Whyte. Whyte was hardly a world-renowned heavyweight at the time, but the two men had a heated rivalry that dated back to their days as amateurs so while trash talk is often used to sell a fight to the general public, the heat between the pair building up to this one was very real. That was confirmed for any doubters at the end of the first round when both men threw punches after the bell, sparking a near riot as corner-men, hangers-on and security all dived into the ring. The ugly incident appeared to know Joshua off his game and Whyte threatened to take full advantage in the second as he rocked his rival with a big left hook, but AJ rode out the storm, composed himself and refocused on the task at hand. Once he did that he regained control of the bout and in the seventh he brought it to an end, unleashed a devastating uppercut that left Whyte slumped in the topes and gave the referee no option but to call it off.
2) Joshua v Charles Martin (April 9, 2016)
Little did Joshua know that when he stopped Whyte in the seventh round of their grudge match, his next outing would be for a world heavyweight title! Promoter Eddie Hearn had been keen to take his time building up his budding star, but when the opportunity to challenge for the IBF heavyweight title was presented it was too good to turn down. Charles Martin had won the vacant belt at the start of the year by stopping Vyacheslav Glazkov, but his reign would last only 85 days and his first defence just four minutes and 32 seconds as he gave up the gold in timid fashion. Joshua was on top from the start and dropped the champion with a straight right in the second round, and when he flowed him again moments later Martin did not get back to his feet in time, with many accusing the American of simply surrendering the title to the challenger. That did not matter to Joshua though – he had fulfilled his dream of becoming a world heavyweight champion in only his 16th professional outing.
3) Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko (April 29, 2017)
With successful defences against Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina in the books, Joshua signed on for the toughest test of his professional career when he agreed to defence the IBF title against the legendary Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium. A record crowd of 90,000 descended on the home of English football for a bout for the ages, and they were treated to an instant classic that will be talked about for years to come. Having lost his world titles in a poor performance against Tyson Fury several months earlier, Klitschko had plenty to prove coming into the bout and it was no real surprised that the first few rounds were a cagey affair. But once the knockdowns started to come the drama did not let up until the end. Joshua dropped Klitschko in the fifth round only to be knocked down for the first time in his career in the sixth, and it was not until the 11th round that a winner was determined. ‘Dr Steelhammer’ was knocked loopy by a monstrous uppercut and then dropped by some follow-up punches from Joshua, but he was on shaky feet when the fight resumed AJ did not let him off the hook, trapping the former world champion in the corner and unleashing a barrage of shots that left the referee with no option but to wave it off. It was incredible stuff from both men and not only had Joshua added the WBA (Super) and IBO titles to the IBF one already in his possession, had also added a victory over one of the biggest names in the history of heavyweight boxing to his CV.
4) Joshua v Joseph Parker (March 31, 2018)
With three heavyweight titles now in his possession all of the talk was about when Joshua would look to claim another and move a step closer to unifying the division. That did not come straight way, as AJ ended 2017 with a successful defence against Carlos Takam, but it did come during the first half of 2018 as the unbeaten British star signed on the dotted line to take on WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker – who also possessed a flawless professional record at the time of the fight. Somebody’s ‘0’ had to go at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales and it turned out to be Parker’s, but he did take the honours for becoming the first man to go the distance with Joshua in the professional ranks. Having finished each of his previous 19 opponents, AJ had clearly learned a big lesson from being dropped by Klitschko almost a year before and he was not going to allow Parker an opportunity to ruin his plans for global domination of the heavyweight division. Joshua fought a smart, mature fight to get the job done… something he failed to do just over a year later when he walked into Madison Square Garden a world champion and left it beaten and humiliated.
5) Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr (December 7, 2019)
Joshua’s defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in New York was one of the biggest upsets of 2019 in any sport and his career would have been in ruins had he lost the rematch when the two men met in Saudi Arabia several months later. The former champion made some major changes in the build-up to the fight, most notably losing some of the size that many felt had begun to hinder him in fights, and it was an approach that worked as he looked fit, sharp and full of energy in the Saudi heat. Ruiz Jr, meanwhile, offered nothing other than the threat that he could land one big shot that would see him take out Joshua again. The first ever Mexican heavyweight had clearly been enjoying his newfound celebrity during the months leading up to the fight and it was clear for all to see that he was not in shape for a world heavyweight title fight. Joshua outclassed him for 12 rounds to ensure that he returned home with all but one of the heavyweight belts and with his career intact.