Does Anthony Joshua need to fight in the USA to become a boxing legend?
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Almost as soon as referee Phil Edwards controversially jumped between Carlos Takam and Anthony Joshua, promoter Eddie Hearn was peppered with questions regarding the location of AJ’s next fight.
Joshua’s defence of the WBA and IBF World titles was ensured courtesy of a controversial tenth round stoppage extending his record to 20 wins from 20 fights all being won by knockouts.
The Watford born 28-year-old fought in front of 78,000 fans under a closed roof at Cardiff’s Principality stadium; breaking the previous indoor attendance record of 63,315 set when Muhammad Ali beat Leon Spinks by unanimous decision in 1978.
Traditionally the US is known as the mecca of boxing and many purists would argue that for a European boxer to truly make it, they have to have had big wins stateside. However, considering Joshua's record-breaking Cardiff crowd, and the fact that he defeated Wladimir Klitschko in front of 80,000 supporters at Wembley last April, we have to ask: is there even a need for Joshua to fight in the US?
Given that US boxing crowds aren't equalling those at Joshua's last two fights and US fighters don't seem as dominant in the division, the tables may have turned on an age-old boxing tradition. Joshua still thinks a fight in the U.S.A. could be valuable though...
“I would love to fight (in the US) because of the great champions the United States has produced,” Joshua said in a press conference before the Carlos Takam bout. “I’d love to drip sweat there and add it to the scrapbook. At the same time, I’ll fight anywhere. There’s talk of Africa, the Middle East, staying in the U.K. But the US is at the top of the pyramid, for sure.”
The last five of Joshua’s fights have been broadcast by American network Showtime. His bout against Charles Martin in April 2016 was viewed by 275,000 Americans and 659,000 watched his fight against Wladimir Klitschko. These are healthy numbers considering Joshua is fighting in the late afternoon in the US.
His support from across the pond is steadily growing, as a good English speaker with an easily pronounceable name he's ideal for an American market, especially as the US’ own Deontay Wilder has yet to become a box office hit.
But it remains doubtful that Joshua would sell out stadiums in the states on the same level he routinely does back home. Americans are watching AJ fight on TV and with each bout comes more exposure yet truthfully the former Olympic champion is still likely to make more money fighting in London than Las Vegas.
It is certainly possible to gain legendary status without regularly fighting in the land of the free. The Klitschko brothers serve as a perfect example to expose the “big fight in the US in order to become a big name” myth.
Former heavyweight champions Vitali and Wladimir did not need to cross the pond often, as the Klitschko name in Europe constantly sold-out stadiums and the pair made tens of millions of pounds each time they stepped into the ring. Vitali only fought five times stateside in 47 career fights and Wladimir 12 times in 69 career fights.
History proves that Joshua can become a world superpower without visiting the world’s superpower, yet the reasoning behind a decision on future locations may ultimately be a refreshingly humble one.
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"If the opportunity presents itself, so be it. But the reason I'm not in a rush is that people have supported me for so long here, let them enjoy it now. Going to America is a whole different ballgame to a lot of people." For more on Anthony Joshua, read about the man Frank Warren thinks can beat him HERE.