Image: Asteur Films, Vimeo

Anthony Joshua needs to win; for Boxing as much as himself

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There were numerous moments in Anthony Joshua: The Road to Klitschko that made the behind-the-scenes documentary well-worth a watch. Apart from Eddie Hearn’s moments of comedic brilliance, the most touching part of the piece was doubtlessly Joshua’s return to early mentor and coach Sean Murphy – complete with snazzy BMW. The heavyweight did not shy away from the troubled path his formative years were leading him down, nor the sport and Murphy’s huge influence in correcting it.

as much as it was Boxing that saved Anthony Joshua, now it is Anthony Joshua who must save Boxing

But as much as it was boxing that saved Anthony Joshua, now it is Anthony Joshua who must save boxing. Or rather, continue to save it – a lot of good work has been done already. A sport that, at least on a national level, was a niche one generally in decline, is experiencing a surge of popularity amongst young people, and a distinct improvement in image.

No-one epitomises or can continue to induce that surge more than Joshua. Charismatic, explosively talented and likeable, he already transcends the sport. He has an ability to appeal to people of all colours and backgrounds in a way that election-campaigning politicians must curse. Sky’s £19.95 charge for the pay-per-view will be taken up by millions, for once without too much of a grumble, whilst Wembley (sold out) is a suitably grandiose venue for a seemingly unique talent.

 a win for Joshua would surely establish the latter as the dominant force of the division, if not the sport

A win against Klitschko, at the Ukrainians’ age and still haunted by the surprise loss to Fury in November 2015, will probably not convince the nay-sayers who have vigilantly refused to buy into the hype. And in fairness, there is a kernel of truth in that attitude – the sense that Joshua has fought the inadequate and the irrelevant is largely with basis (with the probable exception of Dillian Whyte). But even if Klitschko is far from the one-man dynasty he once was, he is clearly still a serious test, and a win for Joshua would surely establish the latter as the dominant force of the division, if not the sport.

The spectre of Fury, and Wilder, looms murkily in the background – if the former can continue to turn his life around there may be a definitive clash in the not-too-distant future. Two men who have traversed serious lows as well as the major highs would make for a compelling fight, more so than the tepid build up to tonight’s affair. Try as Fury might though to hit home his ‘character’ that can save the sport, it is Joshua who truly wields that power. A loss tonight to the old guard would be catastrophic for a lot more than the 27-year-old.

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