29 Sport 1 Anthony Joshua

Fury bout too soon for Joshua despite convincing O2 victory

Anthony Joshua’s rise has been meteoric. The 26-year-old has won 16 out of 16 fights – all by knock out. His record is perfect and his boxing career now stands at a pivotal crossroads. Having defeated Charles Martin on April 9 to claim his IBF world heavyweight title and apparently overcome a Fifa 16 ‘addiction’, Joshua is now very much in the spotlight, and who he fights next is a crucial step in determining whether he becomes the boxing legend so many are billing him to be.

The fighters most commonly mentioned in connection with Joshua’s next fight are, at present, David Haye and Tyson Fury, but how likely are those matches?

Fury would arguably represent being thrown in at the deep end for Joshua at this stage. Firstly, and somewhat simply, Fury stands at a gargantuan 6ft 9in to Joshua’s 6ft 6in and, more importantly still, is a far more experienced fighter. The WBA, WBO, IBO and The Ring Magazine heavyweight champion of the world has 25 professional bouts under his belt, all of which he won and 18 of those victories came by knock out.

The only reason Fury did not hold the IBF heavyweight belt (now in Joshua’s possession) is his refusal of an IBF organised title defence, which he rejected in favour of a re-match with ex-world champ, Wladimir Klitschko. Fighting Fury at this stage would likely be too much too soon for Anthony Joshua. Despite having now claimed his world title he remains untested against a fighter of Fury’s calibre.

Testing Joshua against fighters with real world-level pedigree is seemingly the logical and ideal next step. A few more rungs up the ladder are necessary for team AJ before any potential best-of-British, Fury v Joshua showdown.

David Haye, though, could well be an ideal match for Joshua at this stage. The London-born ex-WBA heavyweight of the world demonstrated his quality before a short retirement.

Now he is making a comeback and has had a lot to say about young Anthony Joshua; he backed him to beat Charles Martin and has already suggested his interest in fighting the Watford-born IBF world-champ at some stage.

Haye is 35 years old and slipping into the back end of his career, but his record is commendable. With the world championship behind him he boasts 29 professional fights, only two losses, and 25 knock outs.

Beating Haye, fading star though he is, would show Joshua has what it takes to compete on a world-class level. Charles Martin was expected to present a high-calibre challenge at the O2 in the IBF title fight, but on the night his performance was deeply underwhelming and Joshua’s second round KO never looked in doubt. Joshua outclassed the American just as he did Dillian Whyte before him and as a result still needs a real test. David Haye may be the ideal candidate to fit the bill.

Whether or not Joshua fights Haye, British boxing fans will be hoping his rise to prominence continues. He is young, likeable, hardworking, and technically brilliant. These traits would likely see him become the most well supported British heavyweight in recent memory, as Tyson Fury, in his place atop the podium of world boxing, has been heavily criticised for sexist and homophobic comments and as a result has seen popular support for his career wane. Haye suffered controversy during his time at the top too, at one point abusing his talents by starting a press-conference brawl. A likeable but ruthless British fighter who can compete at the top level may well be exactly what British boxing needs. Where these other fighters have, in places, been a bad advertisement for the sport as a whole, Joshua is anything but.

The Watford boy is on form, he is impressive, and he is very supportable. British boxing fans are bound to support him in their droves and with a few more wins under his belt Joshua could be knocking on the door of greatness. His world title comes earlier in his career than Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis or Mike Tyson earned theirs – in short, Anthony Joshua is a rising star worth keeping an eye on.

Image courtesy of Flickr – Bill.

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