Alan Hubbard

This is the time of year when we scribes make fools of ourselves by predicting what may - or may not - happen in the next 12 months.

So, as I peer into the pages of Old Hubbard's Almanac for 2018, let's look ahead to one possible happening which may surprise or even amaze more than a few who follow the fight game.

Let's first preface it by saying it is going to be a fantastic year for fans and fighters alike. No argument about that.

Boxing is burgeoning having re-established itself as one of the world's most popular and successful sports, not least here in the UK.

So let's ring the first bell with a highly controversial forecast.

Last month Anthony Joshua, a 14-1 on favourite with the bookmakers to become the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, lost out to Sir Mo Farah. In fact, the 2014 Olympic and current world heavyweight champion did not even make the top three, out-pointed by a relatively unknown motorcyclist and a Paralympic athlete-turned-ballroom dancer.

So is the personable puncher as popular with the public as those around him seem to think? Maybe not quite.

And maybe the controversy surrounding his alleged comment to American heavyweight boxer Eddie Chambers about him being "a disgrace to the superior black race" (although Joshua's people insist his account had been hacked) hasn't helped.

What will help even less is if Josh loses his three-belt world championship status - and I believe this could happen when he meets the World Boxing Association (WBA) champion Joseph Parker in his next bout.

Worryingly AJ seems to have accumulated a tad too much muscle of late, which is restricting his mobility - and he will need to be nifty against Parker who is a mover rather than a shaker.

A big favourite before the awards but Anthony Joshua didn't even make the top three of the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year ©Getty Images
A big favourite before the awards but Anthony Joshua didn't even make the top three of the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year ©Getty Images

Parker may not be the greatest of world heavyweight champions but he is a capable boxer who seems to have a decent chin and knows how to use the ring to steer clear of danger.

But perhaps more ominously I fear that AJ may be due an off-night after four years and 20 winning bouts and that the similarly unbeaten Samoan-born Kiwi, a relatively humdrum heavyweight as he may be, looks just the type who might nudge Big Josh towards a sensational points defeat.

Even Joshua's coach wants him to have a lower fighting weight as a unification bout with Parker draws closer.

Joshua, 28, scaled a career-high 18st 2lb in beating his last opponent Carlos Takam in October. The WBA Super, International Boxing Organisation and International Boxing Federation champion is aiming to hit 17st 10lb, says long-standing coach Robert McCracken.

"The emphasis is on being as quick as possible and taking as little punishment, and being a bit lighter would allow him to do that," says McCracken.

Joshua's weight was a talking point going into the 10th-round stoppage win over Frenchman Takam and followed his decision to employ an in-house chef at his training camp for the first time.

But McCracken says the week leading up to a fight - when Joshua eases his training load in order to rest - will be monitored "more strictly than we did in the past."

Joshua is expected to face WBO champion Parker in late March, with the New Zealand fighter's promoter currently in London negotiating a deal for a March date.

However, in fairness to Joshua, we must not lose sight of the fact that he is still something of a ring rookie.

Previous concerns about his durability certainly proved unfounded as he also demonstrated exceptional heart and resilience to avoid defeat after swallowing that Wladimir Klitschko right hand and to fight on into the 11th round, where a devastating uppercut set up his victory.

Anthony Joshua is expected to face WBO champion Joseph Parker in late March ©Getty Images
Anthony Joshua is expected to face WBO champion Joseph Parker in late March ©Getty Images

He has, however, still got some way to go before he can call himself the best, despite what a posse of pundits are saying. 

The flaws that exist in Joshua's game were, on occasions, brutally exposed by the 41-year-old Klitschko. 

That Joshua found the capacity to ride out the storm and snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat is to his enormous credit, but a little perspective is required.

Klitschko, remember - albeit with a lengthy delay not of his making - came into the fight off the back of another defeat that occurred in his own back yard against Tyson Fury.

Fury took the ageing warrior to school on that Dusseldorf night.

Clearly there are parts of Joshua's game that make him vulnerable. He remains very much a work in progress and to talk about him like he is Muhammad Ali reincarnated is nonsense.

I was lucky enough to go around the world with Ali, and yes, there are some similarities. He is handsome, charismatic and has quick, hurtful hands, plus the gift of the gab as well as the jab.

But The Greatest was more supple and less predictable with a far superior defence - a one-off. Joshua must be his own man, not a pugilistic pastiche of Ali. With all due respect, he has some distance to go before he can be bracketed with his hero.

In my view , for all Klitschko’s qualities, Joshua didn’t beat a Liston, Frazier or Foreman but a once-formidable opponent with great heart but ageing legs whose best days were behind him. And like many others I am astonished that two of the Transatlantic judges had Joshua ahead at the time.

So while it is admirable what Joshua has achieved up to now, until he fights the Fury (who hopes to be re-licensed and back in the ring soon after a backdated two year suspension following drugs allegations) or WBC title holder Deontay Wilder, bestowing such lavish plaudits on him seems a tad premature.

The next cab off the rank? Daniel Dubois is 20, is six feet tall and is just turning professional. He is physically bigger than Joshua ©Getty Images
The next cab off the rank? Daniel Dubois is 20, is six feet tall and is just turning professional. He is physically bigger than Joshua ©Getty Images

Personally I think Joshua would struggle to lay a glove on a fighting fit Fury - though it would be fun watching him try. But first he has to get past Parker, which won’t be easy.

And here’s a long-term prediction from Old Hubbard’s Almanac. 

In two or three years time it won't be Joshua or Fury's name that will be on everyone's lips. Instead we will be singing the praises of another young British heavyweight just as enthusiastically.

He is Daniel Dubois. He's aged 20, is 6ft 0in after just turning professional, physically is bigger that Joshua, bangs even harder and already has reportedly knocked him cold - along with other heavyweights of some repute - in sparring.

He gave up the possibility of winning gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics because his ambition is to become Britain's youngest heavyweight champion of the world - a record held by Herbie Hide at 22 years four months

Already the Southern Area champion, the young Londoner has made remarkable progress.

In his first eight months this 6ft 5in, 17 stone plus wrecking machine with devastating power in both hands has knocked out his six opponents and he has yet to be taken beyond the second round.

Promoter Frank Warren has such faith in Dubois' ability and dedication he moved him from four rounds to ten rounds in just his fourth fight - unheard of in a British ring for one so young.

He's going to be sensational.