December 12th will see – according to many experts, pundits and boxing fans alike – the next step towards a world title shot in 2016 for Olympic gold medal winner Anthony Joshua.
It is a measure of not only the manner in which he has blown his previous opponents away (all 14 dispatched within 3 rounds) and how the nation has taken to him, that what could and should be a fairly one sided British and Commonwealth title fight has sold out the O2 in a matter of hours, and is on pay per view. There has been a glut of – mainly successful – world title fights involving British boxers of late and few have been afforded the same status.In a purple patch for British boxing, it would be a good way to end the year, and if Joshua is successful, surely he is running out of opponents at this level. No one wants him to step up too quickly – the dramatic rise and even more dramatic fall of David Price is still painfully fresh in our minds – but there is only so much that can be learned from continually winning in the manner he is. We know he has devastating knock-out power. The vital questions are, how can he take a punch? What will happen when he is put under real pressure, when he is hurt, when he is forced on the back-foot, and when he hits someone and they don’t go down? The latest man who is confident he will ask these questions is Dillian Whyte.
Whyte is no mug. Anyone with a 16-0 record needs respecting. He also has that all important victory over Joshua when they were amateurs. What bearing that will have in this contest is questionable, but it will certainly give the Jamaican born boxer an added confidence boost when he steps through those ropes, as well as dampening the aura of invincibility his opponent is increasingly bringing into his fights.
So, has Whyte got a chance? Will he fare any better than the last undefeated British heavyweight in the six foot seven shape of Gary Cornish? Maybe he should look for slightly unorthodox methods to give himself every opportunity of being successful. Maybe he should take a leaf out of card players’ strategy books; in particular those who play blackjack, and play blackjack well. Bear with me.
One of the biggest regrets boxers often have after a fight, and the biggest frustration trainers have during the fights, are that all the tactics and the strategies painstakingly laid down and worked on in the gym go out the window when the adrenalin kicks in and the leather starts to fly. By making the strategy as simple, but at the same time as flexible and both reactive and proactive as possible, you are giving him the best chance possible of transferring those hours spent in the gym into the ring.
Any boxer, any footballer, any athlete would be naïve and misguided to ignore the tactics, methods, techniques and mind-sets employed by successful people not only in their own profession, but in any profession – in much the same way that successful businessmen repeatedly cite such things as playing poker as a massive advantage around the board table, and when negotiating. White collar boxing has never been as popular, and its rise is not only down to the fact that frustrated middle managers are looking for a way of letting off steam. It is a proven way of increasing your discipline and tactical nous as well as one of the best ways to get and keep fit.
In order to stand a chance on the 12th December, Whyte has to do two things that no opponent of AJ has done before. He needs to hurt him – really hurt him, and take Joshua to the dark places that no one knows how they will cope with until they’ve been there – once again David Price is unfortunately the perfect example.
He also needs to cope with the knock-out punching power that will inevitably come his way. Easier said than done, particularly the second one, but if he can take into the ring a simple strategy that is second nature, one that becomes instinctive, one that won’t be knocked out of his head when the first punch of note connects, then he could be the first person to back up the Watford born fighter since he turned professional.
From the Baize to the Ring
Blackjack is an extremely popular game that has a long history. While it may be known to many as a game you play for fun while having a cocktail, those who take it seriously understand that it is a mental challenge that requires focus and discipline – which are traits that every successful fighter also possesses. When knowledgeable blackjack players sit down at the table, they are well-versed in how the game works; they understand the probability of specific outcomes, and they have two techniques that they never ever deviate from. The first – the technique of what cards to play is of no relevance here. The second however, is very relevant, and that involves how they bet on the next hand, based entirely on what has happened on the last hand. This is called betting progressions and come in two types: negative and positive. Those adopting a positive progression will bet aggressively after a win, while those playing a negative one will bet aggressively after a loss.
By adopting both of these strategies, Whyte will give himself a chance. No matter how confident Joshua is, there will inevitably be doubts in his mind, no matter how well buried. No heavyweight boxer can step into the ring and not be aware that everything they have dreamed and worked for could be taken from them with one punch. Unless you have taken those punches, bitten down on your gum shield, shrugged it off, or even got up off the canvas, there will be that element of doubt. Whyte needs to exploit that. By employing a positive progression blackjack strategy, every time he has success – no matter how little, how fleeting – he should react to it by putting more and more pressure on his opponent. Connect with a jab, follow up, make that seed of doubt in Anthony’s mind grow, take root.
Likewise, Joshua is used to seeing every opponent he connects with hit the canvas. By also adopting a negative progression technique, Whyte would return any punch he receives. Once again, planting that seed of doubt in his opponent’s mind.
Joshua has never been taken out of his comfort zone. By employing both of these progressive blackjack betting techniques, and sticking to them religiously, Whyte is not guaranteed a win, but he is surely not only giving himself a chance of claiming that British and Commonwealth belt, but he will also give the watching public a better indication of just how good Anthony Joshua is, and can be. Whatever else happens, I for one cannot wait to see it.