Rising heavyweight contender Joe Joyce did exactly what was asked of him in stopping former WBC Heavyweight Champion Bermane Stiverne on Saturday night at The O2 Arena in London.
Trainer Abel Sanchez is keen to let the boxing media know that he doesn't believe that Joyce is ready right now to mix it with the elite of the division. The problem with that is what comes after Stiverne but before Joshua, Wilder and Fury?
Whyte, Breazeale, Ortiz, Parker, Pulev, Povetkin are all winnable fights for Joyce right now.
What I think worries Sanchez is the experience these fighters have that his man doesn't. Well, beating Stiverne represents a big step up in opposition for "The Juggernaut" and with that comes experience. While Stiverne has declined since his heyday we haven't seen a rush from the other contenders to tackle him.
It feels to me that Joyce has put himself on to the same level as the other top contenders.
Fighters these days are able to peak at a later age due largely to advanced training techniques and nutrition. Joyce seems like a young 34-year-old but surely Sanchez must also worry about his man's age seeing as he has only become a viable contender since beating Stiverne?
I don't believe that Joyce can't get in the mix with the top guys but time has to be a factor for him. Some writers think that Joe should wait for another 2 or 3 fights before he tackles the likes of Povetkin, Whyte or Parker but if he takes the WBA regular title off Manuel Charr in his next outing as is being touted then surely the apprenticeship has to be over. The boxing fans know Joe is the real deal after he battered Stiverne into submission. They will expect him to defend against the guys that Sanchez seems to be avoiding for the time being.
Maybe Abel Sanchez sees some missing ingredients in Joyce during training camps in Big Bear. Joe isn't ever going to be a Golovkin as far as footwork is concerned and he doesn't slip shots enough at times but even in the dangerous place that is heavyweight boxing, there is such a thing as learning on the job. Look at Joshua before he fought Klitschko and Joshua afterwards. That one fight taught and matured AJ more than the previous 18 outings he had since he turned pro in October 2013.
Sanchez is a very successful trainer. That hasn't happened by accident. He knows the sport and the business as well as the technical abilities a fighter needs. He also knows that one breakthrough fight can take a boxer to another level. Maybe Joyce is at that point now!
Joshua won the IBF title from Charles Martin in his 16th professional outing. At the time many considered it a bit of a gamble on Matchroom Boxing's part. If Joe's management takes the same sort of timeframe then Joyce will be 36-37 years old when he challenges for a title. He can probably still achieve that but what then? 2 defences a year? He will be 40 years old making his 3rd or 4th defence.
I think Joyce could beat Whyte, Parker, Pulev and Jarrell Miller right now. They would all be hard fights for Joe to win and he may have to come back from knockdowns and or points deficits, but that's the training on the job that he most likely is short of right now. After one of those wins, he could beat the likes of Povetkin and Ortiz. That only leaves the big three and who knows what shape they will be in when the dust settles.
Wilder, Joshua and Fury don't seem in a hurry to fight one another at the moment so if Joyce's management move quickly "The big three" could become "The fab four." Four seems to be the magic number in boxing rivalries, Ali, Frazier, Foreman and Norton and later Leonard, Hearns, Duran and Hagler. Could we be looking at a similar scenario?