Anthony Joshua, the man who made boxing ‘sexy’

Anthony Joshua has not only won three world heavyweight titles inside the ropes, he’s also made boxing “sexy” according to Matchroom Boxing CEO Frank Smith.

The 30-year-old Joshua, who boasts a 23-1 professional record as well as the IBF, WBA and WBO belts, is huge news every day in the UK along with big rival and fellow world champion Tyson Fury.

Add in Dillian Whyte and up and comers like the highly-touted Daniel Dubois, and it’s easy to see why the heavyweight division is leading the way in making the sport so popular to a wider audience.

But according to Smith it’s AJ who is the golden ticket, the man who has provided the precious crossover appeal to really drive up interest domestically.

He told The Athletic: “He’s taken it to the mainstream. Taken it away from the back of the sport pages to becoming a star. Boxing has become a cool, sexy sport that everyone wants to get involved in. Everyone wants to be seen at the boxing. Everyone wants to get into these boxing classes – it’s the ‘in’ thing to do.

“For us, we’ve got to build the individual but also build the sport and make it an event people want to go to and be seen at. That’s a big part of what we do. In the past in boxing, too many people just knew boxing. They didn’t really know how to build a star or how to build an event or entertain people.”

With Matchroom along with Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions having such star quality in their ranks, the UK is now very much there with a prime seat at the top table of boxing globally.

Former fighter and now trainer Gary Logan said:  “I don’t know if it’s ever been that way in history where two of the biggest names in the game are both British and both promoted by British promoters. When I first turned pro, the big powers in Europe were the Acaries brothers in France, and the Sauerlands and Universum in Germany, and you knew that when you went to those countries you weren’t getting the decision. Now we’re the big player in Europe, if not the world, other than America.”

Fury and Joshua of course are being lined up to meet in what would likely be the biggest fight in British boxing history – a unification showdown which could happen in 2021. They have agreed in principle the financial structure for a two-fight deal with a 50-50 split for the first bout and the winner of that taking a 60-40 split for the rematch.