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Joshua expects test from Skelton

7/1/2014
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Through six professional fights England's Anthony Joshua, the 2012 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist, has fought six marshmallows. And knocked them all out. Easily. Inside two rounds.

He has yet to have a moment of real competition as a pro.

The 6-foot-6, chiseled 235-pound Joshua has all the looks of a future champion, but who really knows until he has a test? Any kind of test. Somebody that just might hit back. At least a little.

That is the job of countryman Matt Skelton (28-8, 23 KOs), who faces Joshua on July 12 at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England on the undercard of a show featuring cruiserweights Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly in a separate fights as a prelude to their eventual rematch.

Now Skelton is 47 years old and has lost two fights in a row (a decision to John McDermott and a second-round knockout to David Price). But the point of the fight with Joshua is for promoter Eddie Hearn to put an experienced fighter in front of Joshua who at least has a chance to stand up for a few rounds.

Compared to the opponents Joshua has faced so far, Skelton might as well be Muhammad Ali.

"Matt is my toughest test in the pros, there's no doubt about that," Joshua said. "I hope he's training hard so that we can put on a good show in Liverpool. It's my first fight in the city and it's on a great bill so I'm looking forward to a really big night and looking to put in a performance worthy of the stage.

"I am sure he's going to come to make a statement and he's certainly a different type of challenge. He'll be sitting on my chest, putting pressure on me and throwing shots and testing my chin so I have had some new things to work on in the gym and that's what it is all about for me, working on the inside, working on my defense and my counters and looking to keep it long and using the double jab."

Skelton is a good puncher and has plenty of experience (nearly 200 rounds worth of pro fighting compared to Joshua's fewer than nine full rounds). He has won the British, Commonwealth and European titles and lost a decision to Ruslan Chagaev in a world title bout in 2008.

So if Skelton can catch Joshua on the chin -- a big if -- we just might see him tested. Joshua is aware of his opponent's power.

"People are asking 'what's his chin like?' Well, I'm not going to stick it out there to be hit by Skelton so people can find out. Every fight is a dangerous fight at heavyweight and the sensible thing his not to get hit," Joshua said. "Carl Froch said that the greatest chin is the one that doesn't get hit and he's right. At the minute it's about evading shots and working my way up the rankings. I am so far away from where I want to be that it's hit and not get hit, hands up and chin down, slipping shots and get my opponent out of there as soon as possible.

"Mike Tyson knocked out 12 of his first 16 opponents in the first round. People were saying in his early days that he needed more rounds and he had to step up. Obviously, there will be questions on the way and as long as I come up with the answers then that's all that matters."