Everyone is back in love with boxing
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“Everyone’s back in love with boxing, ‘cos of AJ” John Terry told Sky Sports News as he featured in a montage of stars singing the sport's praises. The departing Chelsea captain hit the nail on the head. British boxing has launched into a meteoric rise in popularity of late, returning to its prominent place in the pantheon of British sporting achievement.
Promoter Eddie Hearn has called the match-up of Anthony Joshua versus Wladimir Klitschko “the biggest fight in British boxing history”, and its special 90,000 attendance (ticket sales are normally capped at 80,000) will equal a record from 1939, making this by far the best attended match in post war Britain.
While Carl Froch versus George Groves sold 80,000 tickets the pair never carried the same weight in popular culture and media coverage that AJ has amassed.
However, the 90,000 people that will make up today's sell-out crowd at Wembley for Anthony Joshua versus Wladimir Klitschko are, if all goes to plan, only the beginning.
Anthony Joshua already holds a world title but the aim of any great champion in boxing is to unify the division, which in practice means holding all the available heavyweight belts from the various boxing authorities.
At present New Zealand’s Joseph Parker and the USA’s Deontay Wilder also hold world heavyweight title belts, while Britain’s own Tyson Fury is still the lineal champion of the division and is planning a come-back.
The resulting landscape of the heavyweight division is an exciting one, set to offer behemoth fights of immense importance over the next few years. For British boxing fans this is an exciting time as, when the chips are down, AJ - on paper - has a reasonable chance of unifying the division if he’s well managed.
Of course it’s not so long since a British heavyweight pulled off that feat. Tyson Fury did it, but his misogynist and racist comments left him a long way from the popular limelight that Anthony Joshua currently occupies.
Here’s hoping for a historic win for Joshua on Saturday that will see one great champion - Klitschko - pass the baton to another.