There’s no doubt that the boxing world has fallen in love with the UK’s Anthony Joshua and, quite likely, that love will spread to casual fans as well as the curious non-fight fan. The 27-year-old is just THAT charismatic and has THAT much high-end prizefighting potential. The question, however, is whether he can become a truly respected elite fighter with the kind of legacy that speaks of all-time great (ATG) status.
A lot of HOW we answer that question, though, has to do with who, exactly, will be around to challenge the emerging superstar.
Anthony Joshua betting odds for next fight show those kinds of challenges are not available at the moment and may not be available for quite some time (if at all).
Already a -4000 favorite to beat November 11 challenger Kubrat Pulev, Joshua’s own popularity and the novelty of him being a bankable, native English-speaking heavyweight champ will be fueling the buy rate of this particular show. This could go on for a few more fights as curious onlookers flock to get a glimpse at the rising star so many fight fans are fawning over. But, eventually, Joshua’s legacy will come down to who he fights and how he takes on those with a legitimate chance to beat him. And, honestly, there just doesn’t seem much there to motor a push to a true ATG legacy.
Heavy-handed American Deontay Wilder, who owns the WBC heavyweight title, is Joshua’s closest thing to a natural rivalry and that showdown could definitely be used to create a gigantic event, perhaps the biggest money-making heavyweight bout since Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis.
Competitively, however, Joshua-Wilder is hardly Ali-Frazier. Two big men who can punch and who walk around with pieces of the heavyweight title puzzle will generate tremendous heat– especially this one where both fighters are great on the mic– but the fight is unlikely to be a classic. Most likely, it will be an entertaining event that is barely remembered past the post-fight buzz.
Beyond Wilder, there’s pretty much nothing in terms of legitimate and bankable challenges for Joshua– and certainly nothing that could be considered legacy-defining.
Top heavyweight Luis Ortiz will have to be eliminated from the scene for Wilder to get at Joshua since Ortiz and Wilder are set to face off this November. The talented Alexander Povetkin may be stuck in Russia after a recent history filled with failed and questionable doping tests. Twenty-something big men Joseph Parker and Hughie Fury failed to deliver in a dull WBO heavyweight title bout this past weekend for Parker’s belt and have pretty much soured the entire boxing universe on seeing them again.
So, who, exactly is there for Joshua to measure himself against? The answer is… nobody. And this creates the exact same situation Wladimir Klitschko found himself buried in as he dominated a weak division as critics and experts rated him on an entirely different scale as heavyweight legends such as Ali, Frazier, Louis, Holyfield, etc.
All of this points to the fact that there’s a very low ceiling when it comes to just how great Joshua can truly become. A legacy of beating Klitschko, Wilder, and a half-dozen other fringe-types is okay, but not exactly legendary.
Mind you, these coming years of the Anthony Joshua era should be entertaining, but we won’t likely see the kind of intensity generated from when boxing’s glamour division is teaming with quality, high-end talent. Like the Klitschko Era before it, the Joshua Era will be more about solo, virtuoso greatness rather than all-out dominance in times of war.