Heavyweight Statistics
  
Anthony Joshua has a lot of hype around him at present.  Undoubtedly he’s a huge talent; 14 fights, 14 wins, 14 KOs.  In his last victory on Saturday night he picked up the Commonwealth title.  He came to the professional game on the back of the London 2012 Olympics having picked up the gold medal and has carried on that form through his professional heavyweight career.  There are those that are sceptical – after all he has only had 14 fights and has yet to be tested by a top level fighter.  There are those that are critical of him – 14 fights in and he already has 2 Sky documentaries and an ITV programme about him.
 
There are many ways to judge a fighter, many of which are intangibles and hard to quantify.  “His chin” is often a term used to be doubtful of a fighter’s ability to take a punch, but there is no way of testing that method without taking a flush shot to it.  Even then, you can’t measure in a boxing ring how hard that fighter was hit.  “His heart” – how badly do they want it?  You can’t put that on a scale. 
 
One thing you can analyse though is the level of opposition to date.  Allow us to remember that Joshua’s career is fledgling – those calling for him to be stepping in the ring with Klitschko are way off the mark.  He has stated he wants to win the British title, then European and then consider a world title tilt.  The British shot comes in December against long time adversary Dillian Whyte and Erkan Teper, the current European champion and demolisher of David Price, has been spoken about for March 2016 should Joshua dispatch Whyte.  But how does the start of Joshua’s career stack up against some of the greats, and some of the great hype jobs?
 
Well, we have taken a look over some of those heavyweights over the past 20 years who have come to the professional game with the task of taking Britain to the peak of heavyweight boxing.  The fighters selected for comparison are:
1) Lennox Lewis:  An Olympic gold medallist himself (albeit for Canada) and the one time undisputed heavyweight champion
2) David Price:  An Olympic bronze medallist and at one time seen as the great hope of British heavyweight boxing.  His two losses to Tony Thompson saw the decline of the Liverpudlian.
3) Tyson Fury:  Less decorated as an amateur, he rose through the professional ranks alongside Price.  Where Price has declined, Fury has risen and sees himself challenge for Klitschko’s world title in October
4) Dillian Whyte:  Joshua’s old amateur opponent has a record of 16 wins and no losses and faces Joshua for the British title in December
5) Wladimir Klitschko:  The man accepted as the current top heavyweight fighter in the world, he too has an Olympic gold medal from the 1996 games in Atlanta
6) Audley Harrison:  The 2000 Sydney Olympic gold medallist turned pro to huge anticipation but ultimately failed to reach the levels expected
 
Now, before we get on to the scoring let me make it clear: I do not fall in to the Joshua fan camp.  He is undoubtedly hugely talented but he does need to be tested.  Just to clear this up, the statistics are not manipulated to work in his favour nor scoring analysed to help him appear at the top.
 
Methodology:
 
Without wishing to sound too much like a school report, I still best explain my workings out.  I admit my scoring process is flawed, but it is the best I could do (that wouldn’t take a NASA computer and 6 months of research).  Simply, I have taken the aggregate record of each fighters opponents over their first 20 fights (it’s a nice round number).  I have compared over various time frames (overall & fights 4 to 14 – given the first few fights are always going to be tailored).  So, if an opponent has won 10 and lost 10, their aggregate score is 0.  If they have won 20 from 20, their aggregate score is 20.  If the named boxer lost (such as Price to Thompson) then the aggregate score becomes a minus.  Also, if the opponent has a losing record (e.g. won 5 lost ten) then that score is also a minus.  That helps with the flat comparison, but I have also added in another element, to allow for competitiveness.  So, I have done a second comparison that attempts to take into account two factors: 1) if a title was won in the fight (being British or European – sorry Klitschko, you don’t qualify for one of them) 2) if the opponent was undefeated.  I have only counted the title being won, not defended.  The reason for the undefeated opponent is because this presents a larger challenge (in theory, although Gary Cornish pissed on that bonfire at the weekend).  So, for each title won and each undefeated fighter beaten an extra five points gets added on.
 
What I didn’t take in to consideration was KO ratio – afterall a fight can be won over 1 round or 12 rounds (see:  Floyd Mayweather)
 
Yes there are flaws – some undefeated opponents are terrible.  Some titles are won against dreadful opponents.  Some opponents just have padded records.  But this is the best way I could think to compare like for like without assessing the skillsets of 100+ fighters.  On to the results then…..
 
Starting with flat scores (no additional points added).  The graph below (sorry phone viewers, may not be too clear so go check on a computer!!) shows the peaks and troughs of each fighter.  Underneath I have put the aggregate scoring of their opponent.  So how do the results stack up…..
 
  
Well, looking at the average score of opponents (for those with 20 fights I have taken the full 20, for Whyte & Joshua I have taken those available) the table looks like this:
1)  Joshua:  His average opponents had a record of 13 wins
2)  Harrison:  His average opponent had a record of 11
3)  Lewis:  His average opponent had a record of 10
 
OK, so let’s add in the additional points for championships and undefeated fighters:
  
1)  Joshua:  The average is now 13
2)  Harrison:  The average is now 12
3)  Lewis:  The average is now 11
 
Right, so now let’s focus on the fights 4 to 14 – again, assuming the first few fights to be throwaway efforts.  As flat scores, we have:
1)  Joshua:  The average opponent scores 17
2)  Harrison:  The average opponent scores 15
3)  Lewis:  The average opponent scores 11
 
Add in the additional points:
1)  Joshua:  18
2)  Harrison:  16
3)  Lewis:  11
 
We are starting to see a pattern here.  OK, so one final thing to look at is in isolation, who fought the best opponent at the start of their career based on their record?  Well, it’s some different names:
1)  Klitschko – his best opponent had a winning aggregate of 66
2)  Harrison:  His best opponent had a winning aggregate of 38
3)  Lewis:  His best opponent had a winning record of 35
 
Analysis
 
Well, it’s clear that looking over each of the fighters, Joshua has the most consistent record over the opening stage of his career.  With his opponents averaging a winning record of +13 he has taken on the biggest challenges.  Of course, 4 of the 6 fighters used for comparison also came through undefeated at the start of their career, so it is perhaps unfair to say they are any worse off.  But if experience is something that can only be gained not bought then undoubtedly Joshua is benefiting from some of that early in his career.  Even adjusted for undefeated and championship opponents, the man from Watford came out on top again.
 
An interesting point to note is the record of Audley Harrison.  The man eventually got found out when he stepped up, being exposed at world level against David Haye and then dropping down to various losses at domestic level in his numerous comebacks.  Lennox Lewis was consistently third placed in his opponents.
 
One area of interest is the fights 4 to 14.  Joshua's opponents improve against the overall average, moving from 13 to 17 on the flat scoring.  That shows a relatively decent jump in opponent level in comparison to other fighters
 
When it comes to standout victories undoubtedly Klitschko leads the way – his victory against an aged Jerry Halstead being the highlight amongst the upstarts.  Again Harrison fairs well with his win over Rob Calloway.
 
The man who comes off worst from this?  Dillian Whyte.  With a few real stinkers, his overall average opponent comes out as -5.  The anomalies bring down the average, but it doesn’t make pretty reading for the man who criticised Joshua’s last opponent, Gary Cornish, for having fought so many fighters not ranked in the top 200. 
 
The results may not be conclusive.  The intangibles are huge – as mentioned heart and chin are two huge elements.  Tyson Fury prides himself on his ability to get knocked down and carry on.  Perhaps Joshua has a glass chin and will fold the first time he is connected with.  Maybe he eventually displays the defensive skills of Willie Pep or Floyd Mayweather, evading the big blows.  The opponents only say so much about a fighter, but these stats stack up well.
 
But lets treat these with an air of caution.  His consistency may work out the highest but there is a warning sign that comes in second place…..another gold medallist, Audley Harrison statistically comes out second place in the results.  We all know that as soon as he was tested properly things came undone, so lets allow Joshua to grow organically, no need to rush him at the tender age of 25.  Who knows, by the time that he progresses like we all hope he can we may have another Britain at the top of the tree – a Fury vs Joshua fight for the world heavyweight title is enough to make any boxing fan salivate.  Until then, the tests will continue for Joshua, starting in December with the man who props up the table, Dillian Whyte.