Anthony Joshua remains huge odds-on to add a fourth world belt to his collection but Ralph Ellis fears there's more to Joseph Parker than meets the eye...
"What if it all goes wrong at the Principality Stadium? What if Parker, himself young and hungry with a 24-fight undefeated record, comes out on top? Suddenly it’s straight down the snake to the bottom of the board and start all over again."
The Easter holidays, and I've been playing snakes and ladders with my grandson. I was winning, too, until I got to square 98 and landed on the serpent's head and came whirling all the way back down to 20 something.
I resisted the temptation to throw the board over in a temper! But it struck me then that what had just happened was not unlike what Anthony Joshua is risking in Cardiff on Saturday night.
He's thrown the dice, skilfully guided by Eddie Hearn, climbed the ladders, and is agonisingly close to becoming arguably Britain's greatest ever boxing champion, our first home-grown undisputed world heavyweight champion.
With this fight to unify Joseph Parker's WBO title with his own IBF, IBO and WBA versions he can go on to meet Deontay Wilder for the WBC belt and wrap the lot up, a passport to becoming potentially boxing's first billionaire.
But what if it all goes wrong at the Principality Stadium? What if Parker, himself young and hungry with a 24-fight undefeated record, comes out on top? Suddenly it's straight down the snake to the bottom of the board and start all over again.
Parker getting respect he deserves
That's as good an idea as I can give about what's at stake for Joshua this weekend. And the more you look at the fight, the bigger the risk appears to be.
Joshua is currently [1.22] in the Match Odds, but that in itself is an indication of the amount of respect that New Zealander Parker, who has finished an 11-week training camp in Las Vegas, is beginning to garner.
Back in January when the fight was announced Joshua was [1.15]. I said then that it was unlikely to be so straightforward and it seems more are beginning to come to that line of thinking too. Parker, once matched at [10.9] is now [5.8].
It's easy to dismiss Parker because of his heritage from a country not known for boxing heroes - but on the other hand how much more talent and dedication does it need to reach the world stage from that background?
Since he started working in Vegas with Kevin Barry in 2013 he's developed and been guided skilfully, and there are many who share his trainer's view that he has the quickest hands among any of the cluster of heavyweights who have breathed new life into the sport's traditionally most glamorous division.
Not scared to travel
He's proved he is durable enough to go the distance, emerging in the final couple of rounds to earn a decision over Hughie Fury in Manchester last September. That also nailed the idea that he couldn't handle a hostile atmosphere away from his native New Zealand.
And a guy who plays the piano for fun - his party piece apparently is Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody - has also shown the mental dexterity to adapt his tactics during a fight and somehow turn losing to winning.
I do think Joshua is the better fighter, and I'd go with Nathan Gorman's view from when we did the Betfair Big Interview that he wins inside eight rounds (Joshua round 7-9 is [5.1] in the Grouped Round Betting Market).
But I don't see it as a walkover, and so a big odds-on bet for AJ is definitely not for me. Keep thinking about that snake.