For some he is the mild-mannered Mike Tyson; a warrior who has managed to knock out all in front of him but retain the affability to keep people on his side, despite the world in which he operates. You see boxing does not breed gentle people; boxers spend their lives knocking people on the head whilst trying to avoid being hit themselves. Described as the sweet science, perhaps it is just a confusion wrapped up with a bow when it is done properly and brutally devastating when things go wrong.
So why do we always want a nice guy and get disappointed when they turn out to be at least partly bad? And then along comes our hero?
Now in the UK, particularly in Scotland, we love glorious failures. So, when a genuinely nice guy with all the sporting attributes of a superbly honed athlete comes along we get a tad silly about him. We then learn that he still lives with his mum and spends most of his free time signing autographs for fans, posing for photographs with fans and being the genuine arrival we allow ourselves to swoon a little.
We also love a rags to riches story so if there is one of them thrown in the mix – heady days indeed.
Step forward Anthony Joshua, 18-0, 18 KO’s….
Now I got to hear his name for the first time about 6 or 7 years ago, when the UK’s premium boxing commentator, Steve Bunce, was using his BBC show on the radio to campaign for Joshua to be included on the Olympic team. Joshua had blotted his copybook by getting into trouble with the police over some drugs which were all about his environment and not about his upbringing. It made the British Olympic Committee nervous about his inclusion on a team for London that ought to be beyond reproach.
It is very hard to think that this Olympian, the first reigning super heavyweight Gold Medallist to win a heavyweight world title since Joe Frazier might have been left on the side lines at the home Olympic Games when he has had such a meteoric rise since, but he nearly wasn’t on the team.
In 2009, Joshua was in prison for fighting and “other crazy stuff”. On release from remand he was put on an electronic tag. In 2011, he was then caught speeding but found with cannabis in a sports bag. He was charged with possession with intent to supply that could carry a 14-year sentence. He pled guilty and got 100 hours of community work instead. He was immediately suspended from the GB boxing squad until he, literally, fought his way back into it.
Fortunately, the team had him in and the rest, we hope shall become history. In 2016, progress for a guy who only began boxing at 18 years old has been very steady; 3 fights and 3 wins – all at World level.
Joshua’s story began when he joined his local gym and started training at the same venue as Dereck Chisora. Despite starting late, in 2007, by 2009 he was winning the prestigious Haringey Boxing Cup for the first – but not the last – time.
In 2010, it was the ABA Championships which he won in, ironically as he is now 18-0 professionally, his 18th amateur fight. He was then offered professional terms and refused them. That same year he became British amateur champion, though in 2011, he came a lowly, for him, 7th at the European Championships. It was Silver again at the Worlds in 2011 before Gold in 2012 at the Olympics – after only 5 years in the sport as an amateur.
Amateur defeats which he suffered along the way were to Dillian Whyte in 2009, then to Mihai Nistor and Magomedrasul Medzhidov in 2011. Professionally he has avenged his defeat to Whyte and whilst he does not have the same boast as Andre Ward – unbeaten amateur and professional, he does have a distinguished pedigree. Following those 5 years in the amateurs he now has 5 years in the pros which does not equate to lengthy but we are talking a dramatic and massive impact on world boxing!
In that context – one of incredible hype and lowly battles with the law and drugs –some have suggested Anthony Joshua might just not be the real deal. There are doubts over whether he can take on the aging Wladimir Klitschko, 64-4, 53 KO’s, and show the world that it is not hype and all the bad stuff is right behind him.
At his latest show in Manchester we got the announcement that this stiff test, between the affable Londoner and the suave, sophisticated and charming former champion would travel to London in 2017. Around the ring, we saw the ugly side of David Haye and Tony Bellew bellow insults, whilst the brutal battle between Dereck Chisora and Dillian Whyte had the crowd on their feet and the world in awe at their brute qualities. Luis Ortiz got to showcase that he can actually box against a guy, David Allen who actually came to fight. But all 6 of these guys are pretenders, waiting for the chance to take on one of the main attractions – Joshua or Klitschko.
They all witnessed Joshua dispense effectively with Eric Molina who had the grace of a swan – the bottom half – as he tried to escape the thumping he seemed to know was coming. Joshua with athleticism and youth on his side managed to look better than Molina could have hoped to make him before the fight and waited till the 3rd to show his prowess.
Joshua has the charm, he has the punch power and he exudes an elegance that is the antithesis of the robotic Klitschko’s. Whether Joshua has the ability to dominate the heavyweights for years will be determined in those years to come. Beating Klitschko will only serve to prove those that think he is the real deal correct, whilst those that don’t rate him will point to the sell by date of the Ukrainian.
It is a fight we all want to see. It is a fight that even if he wins it, will not necessarily mean he has won. 2017 would have to be filled with other scalps to prove his mettle with Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury being the principal villains to his super hero status. 2017 should get the hell here as quickly as possible because it is one hell of an exciting year and it hasn’t even started yet!!!!Contact the Feature Writers