In the wake of Anthony Joshua’s latest victory and after the announcement of his 2017 contest against a fighter of note in Wladimir Klitschko, we look to discuss if the IBF Heavyweight Champion will ever gain the respect of ‘hardcore’ boxing fans or will be forever seen as a poster boy for ‘casuals’ and the increasing wave of new boxing fans.
Joshua is an Olympic Champion, and however you view his victory over Charles Martin in terms of credibility, he is also a recognised World Champion. Whilst he hasn’t yet been pitted against the divisions top level operators he appears to receive very little acclaim for his achievements to date from many long standing boxing fans.
Will a victory of Klitschko change this?
I see it two ways;
The casual approach:
Joshua is loved and adored more than he already is by the casual/crossover fan. The man in the street will tell you he is the best heavyweight on the planet, the greatest ever, better than Cooper, Bruno, Lewis ever where. What about Fury? Unfit to lace Joshua’s boots in the eyes of many.
The hardcore view:
Klitschko is over the hill. If Fury could play with him for 12 rounds then why would we expect anything less from Joshua. This is another case of good fortune and excellent timing akin to the Martin fight. Joshua is still unproven and needs to fight a big name to prove his worth at elite level.
The question remains, what does Joshua need to do in order to win the respect of the many sceptical hardcore fans? Will his huge cross over appeal, the influx of so many new fans at his ‘events’ and the mainstream adoration work against him? Will it cause a constant divide that resembles resentment towards a man that could soon become the unified heavyweight champion of the world?
Is it feasible to consider that regardless of what Joshua achieves he will never be truly appreciated in certain boxing circles?
Assuming he beats Klitschko, something I for one consider to be a 50/50 fight, where does he go from there?
Wilder – Casuals will say he’s a knock out artist and as WBC champ must be the real deal. Hardcore fans will tell you he doesn’t have a single top level name on his record, who has he beaten of any note other than Stiverne? The only man he hasn’t been able to stop.
Haye – The former undisputed cruiser weight champion and WBA heavyweight champion is surely a fighter to be feared. A win over Haye would cement Joshua as World Class. The flip side being that Haye hasn’t had a genuine heavyweight fight in 5 years. He could be labelled as past it, without enough heart and commitment when the chips are down. Whilst the casuals could lord Joshua, hardcore fans would discredit this win with vigour.
Fury – the man who beat the man, or the guy who beat an ageing champion on the way down?
Who, if anyone can AJ fight that will earn him universal acclaim? What would be his defining fight given the current crop of potential opponents? Is there anyone currently available that offers a significant enough test that a win in any fashion could not be disputed?
The PW view is this:
Joshua needs significant tests – that much is obvious.
If he beats Klitschko by either stoppage or decision, it would be a significant result, not least due to his limited experience and the quality of his opposition to date.
Wilder would offer a real examination of Joshua’s chin – something that to date has remained well guarded and untested.
Haye’s ring raft, speed and power makes him the most complete and well round test available at the moment.
A fit and motivated Fury would offer a test unlike any other heavyweight, if Joshua was able to cut off the ring, hunt his man down and nullify Fury’s undeniable skills and movement, this would answer many critics.
In short, Joshua doesn’t need any of the current heavyweights, he needs ALL of them!
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