Heavyweight boxing is back

Anthony Joshua puts Charles Martin at bay with a left hook during their IBF heavyweight title fight at O2 Arena in London last Saturday. Joshua won by a second round knockout and he is being touted as Britain top-class world champ Picture: Reuters / Andrew Couldridge Livepic
Anthony Joshua puts Charles Martin at bay with a left hook during their IBF heavyweight title fight at O2 Arena in London last Saturday. Joshua won by a second round knockout and he is being touted as Britain top-class world champ Picture: Reuters / Andrew Couldridge Livepic

Britain’s new kid on the block, Anthony “AJ” Joshua, has punched his way into global boxing’s hall of fame by winning a world heavyweight title with an unblemished 16-fight record.

The 2012 Olympic gold medallist needed only two rounds to demolish American opponent Charles Martin and lift the International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight crown at the O2 Arena (the Millenium Dome), in Greenwich in London last Saturday.

AJ’s victory extended his enviable ring exploits and gave him a sense of assurance that he has what it takes to dominate the world heavyweight scene for years to come. At 26, he is regarded as young for a heavyweight.

Joshua’s crunching combination of punches to dethrone Martin had the out-of-sorts American on the deck twice in the second round before the referee counted him out. Martin had won the then vacant IBF crown in January by beating Ukrainian Vyacheslav Glazkov with a third-round technical knockout in New York.

Joshua’s win makes him the second British boxer, after James DeGale, to win both a gold medal at the Olympics and a major professional sanctioning body’s world title. He is the first British heavyweight to do so.

He joins ex-greats Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, “Smokin’ Joe” Frazer and Leon Spinks as the only men to be professional heavyweight world kingpins while still reigning Olympic champions. Joshua’s feat adds more world heavyweight power in Britain in a division that used to be dominated by Americans.

Following his accomplishment last week, Joshua is in such great demand in the UK that his countrymen are lining up to slug it out against him.

Former undisputed cruiserweight title holder David Haye said this week he was targeting an all-British battle with Joshua next year. Haye believes he can secure a bout with the new IBF holder before his compatriot Tyson Fury can.

Fury is scheduled to trade punches with erstwhile victim Wladimir Klitschko for his first defence of the World Boxing Organisation (WBO), World Boxing Association and International Boxing Organisation crowns in a rematch in Manchester on July 9.

Fury dethroned Klitschko by unanimous decision in Düsseldorf, Germany, in November. He takes AJ (who he called “a pumped-up weightlifter out of his mind on drugs”) so lightly that he said this week he was prepared to trade punches with him on the same night he would be fighting Klitschko. Fury briefly held the IBF title, but was stripped of it after agreeing to a rematch with Klitschko, which the IBF said went against its rule of fighting the mandatory challenger.

Joshua says he does not fear Fury.

He told BBC Radio 5live: “I’m going to walk through Tyson Fury when he’s ready. I’m not messing around, believe you me. Scrap all this 16-fight nonsense. I’m training hard and I mean business. I’m here to stay and I want to make some real noise in this division.”

He faces a tough task to emulate some of the British boxers who have ruled the world heavyweight scene with aplomb in the past.

Frank Bruno, Lennox Lewis, David Haye and Bob Fitzsimmons complete the list of erstwhile British heavyweight world kingpins. Herbie Hide and Henry Akinwande were WBO title holders when the belt was not taken seriously by many of the elite fighters in the division. Lewis and Bruno were awesome, with devastating punching power.

Already boxing pundits are punting Joshua as the best pugilist to emerge from the UK in a long time.

“I want to go until I’m 35 – I want to maintain this for a decade,” said Joshua.

A fight with Fury is a tasty prospect, with both men eager to unify the division.

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