British Boxing Holds Its Breath As Anthony Joshua Aims To Reclaim Titles And Continue The Boom
June 1st, 2019 – a date that was etched into the illustrious history of the sport of boxing. British Superstar Anthony Joshua lost his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO titles on his US debut at the world-famous Madison Square Garden against underdog Andy Ruiz Jr.
The Mexican-American heavyweight was drafted in as a replacement with four weeks left following the scandalous amount of drugs found in Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller’s system. After being dropped in the third round, Ruiz rose off the floor to launch a vicious left-hook on the side of Joshua’s head and the Olympic gold medalist lost his bearing.
Joshua never recovered and was eventually stopped in the seventh round. The arena was stunned and so was the world.
However, before the news was even digested across the globe, Joshua exercised his rematch clause in the contract and while it seemed some way away at the time, we’re now just under two weeks away from the much-anticipated fight.
Just like a few legendary heavyweight clashes in the past, RuizJoshua2 will take place in an obscure, controversial location – Saudi Arabia. The country is building a 16,000-seater purpose-build stadium to host the fight, such is its magnitude.
Not only is Joshua’s future at the top-level at stake, but British boxing as a whole needs the 30-year-old to redeem himself if this boom that we’ve experienced is to continue. After winning gold at London 2012, Joshua captured the nation’s hearts and was immediately thrust into the spotlight.
It created an air of expectation and he definitely delivered. After just 16 fights, Joshua knocked out IBF heavyweight champion Charles Martin and he hasn’t looked back since. A unification fight against Wladimir Klitschko followed in 2017 in front of 90,000 people at Wembley, breaking British pay-per-view records. He then went on to defeat the likes of Carlos Takam, Joseph Parker and Alexandr Povetkin, winning another belt in the process.
Joshua’s success has certainly filtered down too. Since creating such a thriving boxing market in the UK – with the help of Matchroom Boxing and Sky Sports, London has hosted some of the best fights in recent history involving the pound-for-pound greats.
When looking at the landscape, the English capital goes down as one of boxing’s main fight cities alongside Vegas, Los Angeles and New York.
The likes of Terence Crawford, Errol Spence, Gennady Golovkin, Klitschko, Oleksandr Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko have all fought in London since 2014, something that would’ve been unimaginable before Joshua’s rise.
Those elite fighters have needed opponents too who have benefited from the high-profile fights and the massive paycheques that come with them. Luke Campbell, Tony Bellew and Kell Brook have all made generation-securing money in those bouts.
Also, at the grassroots level, participation levels have soured in the gyms since the rise of ‘AJ’. According to Statista, the average participation level of people doing boxing in England reached 772,000 between the years of 2016-2019. 2016 was the year Joshua became heavyweight champion of the world.
While people in Britain love a comeback story, kids love following a winner too. Joshua can afford to lose one, losing back-to-back may be one setback too many. The fallout may end the boom of British boxing.