- Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder have agreed to terms on a fight that will unify the heavyweight division.
- The powerful and still undefeated Wilder opened as a sizeable underdog against the also-unbeaten Joshua.
- Does the betting value lie with the underdog American or the Briton, who will be fighting in his native land?
Anthony Joshua (-230) vs Deontay Wilder (+175)
The heavyweight division is finally getting the unification bout it deserves. WBC title-holder Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KO) has agreed to terms with IBF, WBA, and WBO champion Anthony Joshua (21-0, 20 KO). While the specifics haven’t been settled, expect the fight to take place in Joshua’s native United Kingdom at some point in 2018.
As is common practice, the major sportsbooks have posted early odds, with the stipulation that the fight must take place in 2018 to have action. Joshua opened as a -230 favorite on 888Sport and -225 on Bet365, while Wilder is +175 across the board.
The respective odds give Joshua roughly a 70% chance of winning vs 36% for Wilder.
Is there any value for bettors?
The Matchup: Joshua’s speed & technique vs Wilder’s power
The tale of the tape is more like a tome. These are two enormous men, with Joshua standing 6’6 with an 82″ reach and Wilder 6’7 with an 83″ reach. That will put both fighters in somewhat unfamiliar territory, as they usually enjoy a height and reach advantage over their opponents.
An even physical matchup is a bigger concern for Wilder. The American didn’t start boxing until the age of 21 and it’s evident from his lack of technical prowess. He’s progressed in that regard over his 12-year-career, but he still relies on his massive power to overwhelm opponents. If Joshua can keep him at bay with jabs and straights – as he is wont to do – Wilder’s imprecise style will struggle to do damage.
Not only is Joshua a more technically gifted boxer, he has also been in the ring with better (and bigger) opponents. He stopped 6’6 Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th round back in 2017 and was ahead on two of three scorecards at the time.
In his most recent fight with Joseph Parker (March 31), he went the full 12 rounds for the first time in his career, winning by lopsided unanimous decision.
Wilder has never faced anyone near Klitschko’s – or even Parker’s – caliber. His toughest opponent to date was his most recent: a 38-year-old Luis Ortiz (March 3). In that matchup, Wilder was outboxed for over half the fight and was nearly finished in the seventh before storming back to KO the Cuban in the tenth.
It should be noted that Wilder was quizzically ahead on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage. But that was likely the product of the fight taking place in Las Vegas in front of a sympathetic crowd. Wilder will have no such advantage when he faces Joshua in the UK.
The Ortiz fight showcased Wilder’s many flaws. He’s not terribly fast; he’s not terribly fluid with his combinations; and his aggressive nature leaves him vulnerable to counters.
Thanks to his stature and lack of elite opponents, Wilder has never suffered the natural consequences of his feral style. He nearly did against Ortiz, but battled through to his credit.
When he matches up with Joshua, Wilder is apt to learn a lesson or two in boxing strategy. AJ, who is great at sticking to his gameplan, will likely craft a safe strategy that plays to his speed and technical advantages. He will pick Wilder apart from distance and nullify Wilder’s tremendous power by staying out of range of his hooks and all-too-frequent haymakers.
Against Parker, Joshua showed that he can sustain that type of fight for the full 12 rounds.
Wilder proved his own endurance against Ortiz, but remember, the Cuban was 38 at the time and had never been past the eighth in his life. Joshua is still on the right side of 30 and has gone ten rounds or longer in each of his last three fights.
The Pick: Joshua (by decision)
Deontay Wilder has one path to victory: land a few power shots out of the gate and finish off Joshua in the early rounds. Joshua is not going to be lured into a brawl and will outclass Wilder in all other scenarios. His speed and combinations will do damage when Wilder opens himself up while on the attack, and over the course of 10 to 12 rounds, both the damage and the points will add up.
Wilder has the classic “puncher’s chance,” since there is likely no man in the world with a chin that can stand up to his power, but a puncher’s chance, in this case, does not amount to a 30-40% chance to win.
The 70% implied probability on Joshua’s -225/230 odds undervalue the Briton. If they fought 100 times, Joshua should earn the victory in at least 75, especially with the fight in the UK. He may not finish Wilder, but that’s largely because he shouldn’t need to and won’t want to risk too much aggression against an opponent with Wilder’s type of one-punch power.