TO say that Anthony Joshua has been put on a proverbial pedestal is a bit of an understatement. The 6ft 6in, 106kg heavyweight sensation has won the hearts and minds of the great British public unreservedly it would seem, all within the two short years of his professional career.
Joshua’s rise in popularity began when he won super-heavyweight gold at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. In July 2013 it was confirmed that Joshua would turn professional under the Matchroom boxing banner. Since then his fan base has grown exponentially as his presence within world heavyweight boxing has become more and more prolific, to the point of great fame and expectation.
With great expectations comes tremendous pressure, and up to now Joshua has not only handled said pressure with relative ease but has seemed to thrive under it. This being said it is worth note that this pressure comes from public and professional expectation and not the genuine possibility that he could have been put down in the ring by any of his opponents.
Joshua’s professional record currently stands at 15 fights, all won by way of Knockout. Just like Joshua, Mike Tyson won his first 15 fights by way of knockout as did Vitali Klitschko. This is very impressive considering the short time frame within which Joshua has achieved this admirable record, and how it mirrors that of some of his great predecessors.
Anthony Joshua is a gifted boxer there is no doubt about that and his potential to solidify himself as one of the greatest heavyweights of all time is extensive. However the fact remains that up until last Saturday Joshua had not fought anyone that had a remote chance of challenging him.
Saturday, December 12 was the first time we all got to see Joshua be tested inside the ring. His successful bout with amateur rival – who beat him at amateur level – Dillian Whyte saw Joshua box someone who was genuinely able to stand toe to toe with him and trade punches, with Whyte landing a few that rocked Joshua. Whyte was able to take Joshua to the seventh round which was very unfamiliar territory for Joshua as prior to this fight he had never went past the third. This is a testament to the point I am making. Whyte is the first high level contender Joshua has faced, and Joshua’s victory wasn’t easy.
The hype is alive and well. Many of his supporters believe that Joshua is ready for the top, that at this point in his short career he is already better than most, if not all of those currently in the upper echelons of heavyweight boxing. I say these people play foul to the man they covet so well.
Tyson Fury has just came off a win over Wladimir Klitschko, who is the second longest reigning heavyweight champion of all time, holding the position for 9 years. Klitschko’s gold included IBF WBA, WBO titles. Fury out-boxed Klitschko on Saturday, November 28 to take all of the gold, in what was a shocker to most boxing fans.
I find myself asking the question of whether or not Joshua could have done the same thing Fury did given the opportunity. To me the answer is no, not yet. If Fury and Joshua were to step into the ring now and both men performed the way they did in each of their previous contests, Fury would terrorise Joshua.
Betway.com, a major betting site, has set odds of 12/1 for Joshua to beat Tyson Fury, Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder by the end of 2017. Pretty decent odds in general for any betting individual, but when you consider what events need to take place for monetary returns to materialise, this is farfetched to say the least.
While fans apply pressure to Joshua the pros advise caution. Fellow Olympic gold medallist and former European Heavyweight Champion Audley Harrison said:
“Joshua is real sharp, he’s real fast. He’s a beast, he’s like a wrecking machine. He now needs those fundamentals. We’ve seen British fighters like Lennox Lewis and Amir Khan Wait until they stumble before getting that old-school training in America. I think Joshua needs that schooling now, so that he can stay ahead of the game.”
I think it is fair to say that if you are a British boxing fan you are an Anthony Joshua fan. The public are so eager – and rightfully so – to see Joshua in the ring with big names such as Tyson Fury. However true fans who want to see Joshua progress well and succeed will be patient and grant him the time he needs to improve to the point where he can become a world champion. Fans seem to support a boxer more after they have achieved great things, but it is the period of time in which a boxer works their way to world title level that they need the support most.
Anthony Joshua is a sight to behold inside the ring. His attitude, aesthetic and talent are deserving of the mass support he has garnered since the beginning of his professional career in 2013. Anthony Joshua will be great, he will be one of the best heavyweight boxers in the world and he will be a world champion, but he needs to be patient, and if fans want to see these things come to fruition so do they.
By: James McCrory