This Saturday at the Echo arena in Liverpool, two of the brightest stars to emerge from Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics, will be returning to the ring to continue on their transitional journeys from amateur boxing to the paid professional ranks. Heavyweight Anthony Joshua MBE and Middleweight Anthony Ogogo will both be in action on the undercard of a show headlined by Cruiserweight rivals Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly competing in separate bouts set up as a prelude to their eventual rematch.
Whilst both ‘Anthony’s’ have had varying degrees of success since turning pro, the British born fighters both of Nigerian descent have taken different career paths over the last two years to arrive at where they are today.
Since signing with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport, it would be fair to say that Anthony Joshua has had things relatively easy. His current record is now 6-0 with all six wins coming inside the first two rounds. Since his last fight (an 83-second demolition of American Matt Legg), the murmurs for a ‘step up’ in class have grown louder and more persistent.
According to Joshua’s promoter Hearn, July 12th will mark his “first true test, where questions will need to be answered”. Whilst this appears to be his toughest opposition yet, critics of Matchroom’s seemingly slow calculated development path have described this latest opponent as yet another ‘Turkey’ being fed to the Super-heavyweight gold medallist. The latest announced opponent, causing divided opinion is former British, European and Commonwealth champion ‘the Bedford Bear’ Matt Skelton. Skelton has also challenged for a world title and to put things into perspective, has fought just under 200 rounds of boxing in comparison to Joshua’s less than 9 full rounds. Whilst ‘on paper’ this appears to be an intriguing matchup, the flip side is that Skelton has been inactive for well over a year, lost his last 2 fights and is 23 years Joshua’s senior (47 years old). In one of Skelton’s recent losses, he was knocked out in the second round by former Olympic Bronze medallist David Price, which begs the question why isn’t Joshua being matched against the winners of these bouts rather than the loser?
Joshua has recently been quoted as expressing interest in fighting for the British title early next year. Given that ‘Del Boy’ Chisora and Tyson Fury will be contesting for this vacant belt on July 26th, you would imagine it highly unlikely Hearn would be in a hurry to match his ‘prize asset’ with either of these dangerous fighters. Winning Olympic gold meant there was always going to be high and arguably unrealistic expectations after turning professional. Whether or not this is fair, the level of expectancy will continue to grow further until Joshua is matched with somebody who’s at least willing to hit back or stay upright for more than two rounds. Anthony stands at 6-foot-6, chiselled weighing around 235-pounds and is well spoken with all the looks of a future champion but until he’s in more competitive bouts it will remain difficult to gauge how good a professional he really is. Anthony has been quoted as saying “I’m not trying to run a 100m sprint. I’m on a marathon now”. This could be viewed as a sensible approach given the fact the heavyweight division is starting to open up again with Vitali recently retired and current champ Wladimir Klitschko coming towards the end of his career. However, it remains to be seen whether boxing fans will remain as patient as the current British Olympic champion.
After winning the middleweight Bronze medal, Anthony Ogogo went on to become somewhat of a household name and one of the poster boys of the London games. He made appearances on TV shows such as Big Brother: Hijack and Splash and featured in advertisements for Subway and Maximuscle. His exploits in and outside the ring dramatically raised his profile and attracted the attention of numerous promoters, most notably Los Angeles based Golden Boy.
“Anthony Ogogo has everything you look for in a boxer,” said Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer. “He can fight, he has style and charisma and he has amazing crossover potential.”I have no doubt that Anthony has the skills in the ring and the personality outside of it to make him a global boxing star”. Anthony’s decision to sign with Golden Boy has enabled Anthony to continue building his home fan base whilst also featuring on undercards of some of the biggest names in the sport abroad. Ogogo’s last bout was in supporting the huge Marcos Maidana Vs Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather event in Las Vegas. Mayweather is often referred to as the ‘cash cow’ of the sport as his fights generate more interest, money and pay per viewing figures than any other fighter.
Like Joshua, Ogogo has also had 6 professional contests with 6 wins with 3 of them coming by way of knockout. He has also had his fair share of critics regarding his standard of opposition but according to Anthony “Out of all the guys that have turned pro since the Olympics I’ve had arguably the toughest competition”. On Saturday, Ogogo will be squaring off against Sheffield’s Wayne Reed in what is generally seen as a ‘stay busy’ fight few would expect him to have much trouble in (Reed has already lost 8 times). Despite the event being a Matchroom Sports fight card, the close working relationship between Eddie Hearn and Goldenboy has enabled Agogo to perform at the event and reconnect with his UK fan base.
Should Ogogo pass this challenge as expected it’s likely he’ll be making an immediate return to the ‘squared circle’ to feature on the huge ‘Showtime’ Shawn Porter Vs Kell ‘The Special One’ Brook title fight scheduled to take place in NYC next month.
Anything less than a straightforward victory for either Anthony on Saturday night will be viewed as a huge upset and derailment of a promising career. However, along with the likely wins, will no doubt come a barrage of criticism regarding the level of opposition. While at times for up and coming fighters it may seem like a ‘no win’ situation, this is the nature of the sport and without doubt, regardless of the outcome, boxing fans will continue to tune in and track the progress of both these exciting young prospects.