Who will be the next dominant Heavyweight champion once the current stalwart Wladimir Kiltschko retires? Great Britain think they have the answer.
Anthony Joshua is believed by many to be the man.
Standing at 198cm and weighing in at 106kg, Joshua follows the Klitschko template of the modern super heavyweight. At 25 years old and boasting a record of 13-0 with 13 knockouts, its not hard to become infatuated with the athletic potential that he possesses. Joshua’s style is that of boxer-puncher who throws basic jab, cross, hook combinations consistently but throws them with great power, timing and accuracy which makes them hard to avoid. Considering he only started boxing at the age of 18, his skills are still largely developing, and is this is also why many hold him in such high esteem.
Starting his amateur career in 2007 Joshua rose quickly through the national ranks to qualify for the British Olympic team for the London 2012 Olympic games. In the first round a young Joshua beat number 4-ranked and highly talented Cuban Erislandy Savon, with the result 17:16 in what some saw as a controversial decision. In the Olympic final he took on 32 year old reigning Olympic champion and Italian Roberto Cammarelle, who he had already beaten a year earlier at the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships. The final scorecard was 13:11 in favour of Joshua. After winning the Gold medal he was compared by many to be on par with British-Canadian former 1988 Olympic Super Heavyweight gold medalist Lennox Lewis, who is also the last professional British Heavyweight champion.
With momentum and hype surrounding Joshua building, he turned professional and had his debut fight in October, 2013. On that night at the O2 Arena in Greenwich, London he won the fight in destructive fashion, TKOing Italian Emanuele Leo in the first round. Leo was tall and solidly built but lacked the defensive skill set and punching power to trouble Joshua. The pile driving right hands of Joshua rocked the Italian again and again and again. The referee eventually stopped the pummelling, and Joshua gained the attention of the boxing world, while British fans finally obtained the glimmer of hope they’d been waiting to see.
Stopping or knocking out the next 12 opponents in similar fashion, Joshua has so far lived up to the high expectations placed upon him. However, he has not faced any legitimate challenges that would give the critics and fans the capacity to announce him as a threat to the top contenders in the division. One man who has endorsed Joshua is Wladimir Klitschko. Klitschko used Joshua as a sparring partner last year in training to fight Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria. Kiltschko, AKA Dr. Steelhammer, also a former Olympic Super Heavyweight Gold medalist (Atlanta 1996) endorsed Joshua as “built how a champion should be, the right weight, very strong and technically capable”.
Anthony Joshua has an opportunity to become the next superstar of boxing. With the Heavyweight division looking increasingly more competitive and with Klitschko soon riding off into the Ukrainian sunset, Joshua’s time has arrived. The challengers to Kiltschko’s throne are many: Deontay Wilder, the current WBC Heavyweight champion who has extremely heavy hands but also possesses major defensive flaws; Tyson Fury, a loud mouthed English/Irishman who is soon to fight Kiltschko later this year; and Bryant Jennings, a tough challenger from Philadelphia who’s one loss was against Dr. Steelhammer himself.
Joshua has the technical assets, punching power and athletic physique to be world champ. In this age of extravagance, boxing deserves a Heavyweight champion who follows in Klitschko's footsteps of professionalism and humility. Joshua has the weight of a Nation, a Crown and the faint echo of an old proud empire on his shoulders. We will see if he can lift it.