Britain’s Anthony Joshua has enjoyed a meteoric rise in boxing.
From clinching Olympic Gold at the 2012 Games in London as one of the country’s biggest and brightest prospects to securing his maiden world heavyweight title as a professional fighter, his journey has been swift and successful.
After leaving the amateurs behind him in light of that Olympics triumph, it took ‘AJ’ just 16 ring outings in the paid ranks before he got his hands on the ultimate goal. Albeit against one of the worst heavyweight titleholders in recent times, Charles Martin. The Briton was able to enjoy a routine night at the O2 Arena in April 2016, dethroning the unworthy IBF king within two comfortable rounds.
Joshua had only just overcome bitter British rival Dillian Whyte before that feat, stopping him in seven rounds after being wobbled himself for the first time ever up to that point. The Watford-born fighter then halted Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina ahead of that historic encounter with Wladimir Klitschko last year in April.
In front of a record-breaking 80,000 spectators in the capital’s Wembley Stadium, Joshua rallied to his most impressive and memorable achievement to date, as he sent the Ukrainian legend into retirement in a heavyweight battle for the ages.
The now 28-year-old looked set for another simple victory, but he was then forced to dig deep to eventually end Klitschko’s career in the 11th round of what was eventually voted as the Fight of the Year by many of the sport’s leading organisations.
A 10th-round stoppage of stand-in French-Cameroonian opponent Carlos Takam and his first ever points decision win over the distance against New Zealander Joseph Parker have since followed that high-profile night in London.
But, for the man who has rampantly become one of boxing’s biggest stars, and undoubtedly the face of the sport in the UK, his ultimate legacy is still hampered simply by the current heavyweight landscape.
Yes, Joshua’s career to date has been impressive, with all but one of his victories coming via a heavy-handed knockout. But the popular unified WBA ‘Super’, IBF and WBO champion is running out of worthwhile challengers in a division that is already enduring somewhat of a decline from previous illustrious times.
Regarded as the sport’s most prestigious weight class, the big men have always been the most attractive when it comes to trading leather, and ‘AJ’ has evidently continued to maintain that in the current climate. This is proven every time a Joshua bout rolls around, as the fan chaos ensues.
His present stature in the sport is unquestionable, he is the most marketable fighter there is, alongside Mexico’s Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, and a leap into America will only help his cause. But other than the brash-talking Deontay Wilder and returning Tyson Fury, Britain’s main man is without many key protagonists to ensure he goes down in history as a true great. Joshua would enter the ring against both men as the respective odds-on 4/9 and 8/13 favourite in the latest boxing odds.
The big names just simply aren’t there. A win over Wilder would settle the ongoing debate as to who is the biggest hitter among the heavyweight kingpins. While an eventual victory over compatriot Fury would arguably be his most decisive, but questions would then be asked whether he truly got the better of a prime Mancunian.
Joshua can only continue to beat who is in front of him, but it’s clear that he will likely become a victim of the heavyweight times in his already admirable career when he eventually decides to call time on his short but sweet career to date.