Mr. Big Stuff (and other stuff)
In front of more than 70,000 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, IBF/WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua successfully defended his titles by stopping Carlos Takam in the 10th rounds. Yes, the waving off of the fight by referee Phil Edwards was certainly questionable but this fight’s result was never in doubt.
The hulking Joshua, 20-0 (20), was simply too big, too strong and too skilled for the game Takam, who was sturdy and durable but simply out-gunned throughout the fight. It was a workmanlike outing for Joshua.
This much is clear, by judging by Joshua’s last two bouts – he just might literally and figuratively be the biggest star in boxing. And really only Saul “Canelo” Alvarez comes close to the latter in that department.
It’s come to a point in which he has long outgrown mere arenas and now has to perform in football stadiums in the U.K. His two most recent bouts have had a total attendance of 160,000-plus. Its not all that much of a surprise that his April showdown with Wladimir Klitschko drew 90,000 in Wembley Stadium. After all, that was a battle of titans with worldwide interest. But this past fight was originally scheduled to be against Kubrat Pulev, who then pulled out of the fight and was replaced by Takam – a solid if unspectacular opponent.
Yet they still drew 70-large.
Currently there is no other boxer who can do this.
And the thing with Joshua is there is a real substance to him as a fighter. Coming out of the 2012 Olympics with a gold medal for Great Britain, it was evident that there was a certain built-in marketability with him. If the fans loved Henry Cooper and Frank Bruno, and if this guy could really fight, he’d be a walking ATM. Well, it turns out Joshua is a legitimate heavyweight and, just 20 fights into his career, the consensus is that he’s the baddest big man on the planet.
It doesn’t hurt that he looks like he came straight out of central casting for a modern-day heavyweight and is a well-mannered, intelligent sort. It’s why companies like Under Armour have signed him to an endorsement deal (The other major boxer they have under contract is Canelo.)
Moving forward, it looks like Showtime – which has televised Joshua’s last five bouts in the States – will soon have to open up the vault and hold off the advances of rival HBO, at some point in 2018.
Then there is the question of just when Joshua and Eddie Hearn (the Group Managing Director of Matchroom Boxing) will make the decision to initiate their version of the American Invasion. There’s a train of thought, from a certain faction of fans, who believe Joshua needs to come to the States. That line of thinking is jingoistic and flat-out wrong. Joshua will come across the pond when he wants to – not because he has to. The bottom line is his business is booming in England/Europe and, as aforementioned, he does eye-opening numbers at the gate.
When – and if – they decide to come over, they will do so on their terms. This isn’t Carl Frampton, James DeGale or Amir Khan here. This is more like a much bigger and better version of Ricky Hatton.
And then the question is: When will the showdown with WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder take place? Well, when Wilder and his representatives understand and accept that they are the decided B-side. By any reasonable measure, the market value of Wilder is dwarfed by Joshua. While Joshua fills stadiums, this weekend, Wilder will play to the usual papered house against Bermane Stiverne at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. In all fairness, if it Wilder’s originally scheduled dance partner Luis Ortiz were allowed to compete, this event would have drawn better but we’re still talking about a fraction of the live audience to whom Joshua now plays, regardless.
There’s a huge difference between being big in Birmingham, Alabama and all of Britain and beyond.
It’s why Hearn (who, it seems, has a love-or-hate relationship with U.K. fans) is playing a game of diversion or keep-away by dangling Dillian Whyte in front of Wilder, for the time being. It’s a bit odd but it is amusing to see him dismiss Lou DiBella as Wilder’s “sham” promoter on Twitter. Hearn can be quite the pistol on social media.
(And let’s be honest; if the roles were reversed, would anyone demand that Wilder face Joshua in Europe to expand his worldwide brand? Yeah, exactly.)
My fellow Americans may not want to hear this but, while this country brings about a new revenue stream for foreign fighters (and hey, this is prizeifghting, after all), it’s not clear that America is still the epicenter of boxing. The sport in this market is now a niche.
So let’s make this clear: Joshua doesn’t have to come to America.
He will, perhaps sooner rather than later.
But it will be on his terms.
Because, as Reggie Jackson would say, he’s the straw that stirs the drink.
It came as a bit of a surprise last week when Terry Flanagan, who held the WBO lightweight title, announced that, instead of facing Jorge Linares (the WBA beltholder) or Mikey Garcia (who holds the WBC strap) in unification bouts, he would instead vacate his strap and move up to 140, where he will most likely face Maurice Hooker for the WBO title vacated by Terence Crawford.
So with that, Eric Gomez, the President of Golden Boy Promotions (which represents Linares) put forth this tweet over the weekend:
— Eric Gomez (@makeawar) October 28, 2017
Well, the gauntlet has been thrown down. Now the ball is in Garcia’s court; it seems.
Rob Brant looked befuddled through much of his 12-round loss to Jurgen Braehmer on Friday…Speaking of DeGale, he and Lee Selby are co-headlining at the Copper Box Arena in London on December 9. Both are facing Tom Bob Anderson, as of now…OK, after looking rather putrid versus North Carolina, Miami’s season really starts this Saturday night vs. Virginia Tech at Hard Rock Stadium in prime time…Right now, Notre Dame is playing as well as anyone in the country…Mango with a healthy sprinkle of Tajin is now on my pound-for-pound list…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.