It has been nearly 30 years, since June 1988 when Mike Tyson fought Michael Spinks for all the major belts and the lineal title, that two heavyweights with perfect records and a major recognized championship met in the ring.
That will change Saturday when the 20-0 Anthony Joshua faces the 24-0 Joseph Parker before an expected crowd of 80,000 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, before a worldwide television audience, including in the U.S. on Showtime.
Boxing always thrives with a competitive heavyweight division, and the sport is on the verge of the best heavyweight era since the 1990s, when luminaries such as Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Tommy Morrison, Ray Mercer, Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir Klitschko and others were active at the same time.
With the 40-0 Deontay Wilder waiting in the wings for the winner, the sport could have two heavyweight title fights of significance for the first time in more than a decade.
Joshua has 20 knockouts and has been past the third round three times in his career. Parker, who has 18 knockouts, has gone to a decision in his last three fights and, by his own admission, hasn’t looked great in the process.
Parker’s biggest issue is going to be finding a way past Joshua’s jab and getting inside where he can negate Joshua’s power and his reach. Joshua has a six-inch reach advantage and will no doubt try to use that to keep Parker at the end of his punches.
Parker is a big man, even by modern heavyweight standards, he looks far smaller than Joshua when they’re standing side-by-side. And so, while Parker is used to fighting from the outside much of the time, he’s probably not going to be able to do that against Joshua. Joshua’s jab has knockout power and Parker won’t be able to simply eat it while trying to counter it with his right hand.
For Parker to win, he’ll have to create angles and leave Joshua confused about where he’s coming from. He’ll need to jab to the body and then to the head, and mix his punches effectively. Parker will also need to push the pace, particularly when the bigger Joshua looks like he is tiring and needs a breather. Parker can’t allow him to get a break.
Joshua, though, will need to pump that jab and not allow himself to follow Parker around the ring. Parker is quick and athletic, and while he’s not a big mover ordinarily, he’s likely to use his lateral movement in this fight in an effort to defuse Joshua’s power.
As a result, Joshua has to be able to cut off Parker’s avenues of escape and make him fight. An exchange of punches is always risky when big heavyweights are the ones throwing, but it would favor Joshua should the fight turn out to be a shootout. He’s proven his chin against the hard-hitting Wladimir Klitschko, while Parker’s chin remains suspect, if only because it hasn’t really been tested by a great puncher.
Joshua’s jab is sharp and thudding and probably will slow Parker by the middle rounds, which is when you should see Joshua go for the finish. Look for him to stop Parker in the ninth to add Parker’s WBO belt and give Joshua three of the four major titles.
In that event, we can only hope that the first words out of Joshua’s mouth after the bout are “Deontay Wilder.”
No matter how great a fight it is, anything less would be a disappointment.
More from Yahoo Sports:
• NHL team forced to use local accountant as goalie
• Cuban info reportedly sought in Mavs noose incident
• Rodman posts picture of Kim Jong-Un in MAGA hat
• Why does soccer continue to ignore its racism problem?