As Anthony Joshua awaits the announcement of his December 10 opponent, debate continues over the standard of fighter he has faced.
In 2016 – his third full year as a professional – he has dispatched average Americans Charles Martin and Dominic Breazeale and many would say domestic rival Dillian Whyte, beaten ten months ago, remains his best win.
Boxing Truth looks at who some of the greatest heavyweights in history were sharing a ring with at a similar point in their careers.
Turned pro – September 1953
Equivalent Joshua stage – 1956
Liston only had one fight – a rubber match with factory worker Marty Marshall who he was 1-1 with. He won a unanimous decision. Two months later Liston assaulted a police officer, which led to a stint in jail.
He returned to the ring in 1958 and it would be another four years before he dethroned Floyd Patterson, pictured above.
Turned pro – October 1960
Equivalent Joshua stage – 1963
Ali, then Cassius Clay, began the year by knocking out Charlie Powell. He then survived almighty scares against top contenders Doug Jones and Henry Cooper. New Yorker Jones hurt him early on but Ali prevailed.
A number of observers thought the wrong man got the decision and champion Liston said: “Clay showed me that I’ll get locked up for murder if we’re ever matched.”
Next up was Cooper in London and the most famous knockdown seen in a British ring. Eight months later, Ali shook up the world.
Turned pro – August 1965
Equivalent Joshua stage – 1968
‘Smokin’ Joe stopped unbeaten amateur rival Buster Mathis, above, for the New York State Athletic Commission’s version of the world heavyweight title.
That was followed by a knockout win over Mexican puncher Manuel Ramos and a unanimous decision victory against tough Argentine Oscar Bonavena – a rematch of their 1966 bout.
At the time, the boxing landscape was chaotic after Ali was stripped of his belts.
Frazier later told The Guardian: “He’d be phoning every other day to say, ‘You got my title, man! You got to let me fight you!’”
Turned pro – June 1969
Equivalent Joshua stage – 1972
Big George enjoyed five knockouts from five outings against an unheralded quintet with a combined 71-74-17 record.
On paper it didn’t look earth-shattering yet the bouts proved to be the perfect preparation for his biggest fight so far – a meeting with Frazier in January 1973.
He told the media: “Frazier ain’t no different from anybody else. I’m going to knock him stone-cold.”
Turned pro – March 1973
Equivalent Joshua stage – 1975
The Easton Assassin boasted a 19-0 record by the end of the year. But it would be over two years before he emerged as a real threat in the division. At this stage, he made a living as a sparring partner for Ali, Frazier, Earnie Shavers and Jimmy Young.
He later said: “I was Ali’s sparring partner, I was Joe Frazier’s sparring partner, I was everybody’s sparring partner. Nobody gave me nothing, nobody gave me a chance.
“But guess what? I did. I did it with dedication and hard work.”
Turned pro – March 1985
Equivalent Joshua stage – 1987
Tyson was already the youngest heavyweight champion in history; he’d destroyed Trevor Berbick in November 1986.
He added James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith’s WBA title to his WBC strap in March before defending them against Pinklon Thomas in May and collecting Tony Tucker’s IBF belt three months later.
He ended the year with a seventh-round knockout of Tyrell Biggs, above.
Tyson said: “I was hitting him with body punches and they were hurting him. He was crying in there, making woman gestures.”
Turned pro – June 1989
Equivalent Joshua stage – 1992
After a ten-round decision over Levi Billups in Las Vegas, Lewis returned to London to defend his British, European and Commonweath titles against Derek Williams, stopping him in the third round. A four-round job on journeyman Mike Dixon followed.
However his career was transformed by his next scrap, against No1 contender Donovan ‘Razor’ Ruddock.
The Jamaican, who had lost twice to Tyson, was the betting favourite ahead of this WBC title eliminator. But in one of the most ruthless displays of his illustrious career, Lewis annihilated Ruddock in two rounds, dropping him in the first before finishing it in the second.
Within two months, the Olympic gold medallist would be crowned WBC champion after Riddick Bowe put his belt in the bin so he didn’t have to face the man who had demolished him at the 1988 Seoul Games.