Like many fighters before him, Anthony Joshua is a huge fight fan (it seems obvious a successful fighter would be a fan of his chosen sport but there are exceptions: Jermain Taylor for example, who said as champ that he is no boxing fan) – and AJ is also a student of the history of boxing.
Recently, as a guest on hit TV show ‘Top Gear,’ Joshua was asked to list his three greatest heavyweight champions. In order, the current WBA/WBO/IBF ruler gave his picks as follows:
1 Jack Johnson
2 Muhammad Ali
3 Mike Tyson
Nor a bad list at all, even if some younger fans might be a bit surprised to see Johnson, one of the earlier gloved heavyweight kings, on the top spot. Johnson – who ruled the world from 1908 to 1915 – was of course a master boxer. Way ahead of his time, with his defensive abilities and his use of psychological warfare in particular, “The Galveston Giant” also had his battles outside of the ring
It was Johnson’s ability to deal with the racist times and struggles that so inspired Joshua to place Johnson at the very top of his list. Also, AJ said that Johnson “was the best.” Was Johnson better than Joshua’s pick for second place, Ali? That would have been some incredible fight, that’s for sure.
Like Johnson, Ali also lived during a time that tested the black man, and like Johnson Ali overcame and inspired. AJ is far from alone in idolising Ali, and many historians (in fact practically all of them) rank “The Greatest” as the greatest ever big man of the ring. It’s as interesting as it is refreshing that Joshua places someone other than Ali at the top of his list.
As for Tyson, who AJ has at number-three, most fans will likely feel this is too high. But Joshua grew up watching and reading about Tyson, and “Iron Mike” was the very reason he got into the sport in the first place. Also, Joshua ranks Tyson – the youngest ever heavyweight ruler – due to the sheer excitement he generated. In terms of being one of the most consistently exciting heavyweights, we can all agree Tyson belongs in anyone’s top10 list
Joshua now faces the task of achieving the status of great the way the immortals on his list did. Can he do it? Will there be a time many years from now when the 22-0 star is recognised as an all-time great of the sport? Joshua needs those big defining fights with the likes of Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, and it is hoped he gets them soon.
Until he proves he is the best heavyweight of his era, Joshua can only dream of being celebrated and revered the way his three heavyweight heroes are. AJ does have a good deal of time on his side though.