THE fame game’s a funny old thing. One minute you’re dropping a dime to Steph Curry for a three-pointer and the next Reggie Miller is getting your name wrong on a broadcast watched by millions.
For Anthony Joshua, courtside in California last night for the NBA basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, the conquering of America is not going to happen overnight.
Expertly promoted from day one, he is a big star in Britain, we know that much by now, he easily sells out football stadiums, and he has done more for the overall popularity of the sport in his country than any boxer in recent memory. Best of all, he carries it well, and seems to enjoy being a role model in between fights – someone the kids admire – and then a knockout machine on fight night.
That said, while his reputation stateside is undoubtedly on the rise, and while a fight with WBC champion Deontay Wilder could be the key to completion, Anthony Joshua, for now, is no global superstar. Not yet.
The great Steph Curry is aware of him either because he’s a fight fan who enjoys watching heavyweights punch each other on Showtime, or simply because he was told beforehand Joshua would be courtside and did his research.
— Anthony Joshua (@anthonyfjoshua) May 23, 2018
Similarly, the just-as-great Reggie Miller called him Anthony Johnson on a live broadcast either because he had no idea of Joshua’s real name, or because he merely got a little lazy and the wrong surname came out.
— Cornelius Bundrage (@K9boxing) May 23, 2018
It doesn’t really matter.
What does kind of matter, though, is the perception of Joshua in America and, moreover, the perception of Anthony Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder as some kind of heavyweight mega-fight to cure the world’s ills. The Rumble in the Jungle of the Instagram era, the sort of fight for which the world will come to a standstill, Joshua vs. Wilder is, if you frequent the right kind of social media timelines, in danger of becoming The Biggest Event In The History Of Sports.
Truth is, however, it’s not even close. Because just as Deontay Wilder could walk down the streets of London unnoticed, the same could be said for Anthony Joshua (and, yes, Wilder too) walking down the streets of New York. And it’s not on account of them being small men, I can assure you.
He wouldn’t have been aware of it before Saturday night, but Josh Warrington now knows he’s going to be a champion with a target on his head.
They will want to fight him for a host of reasons. First, they will want to fight him because they will believe, like Lee Selby, they can exploit elements of his style they feel are basic. Secondly, they will expect a good fight from him; an entertaining one; one that might gain plaudits and some recognition. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, such is the size of Warrington’s fanbase in Leeds, and such is his ability to already draw stadium crowds for fights, there’s a whole lot of money to be made in the Josh Warrington business.
Carl Frampton, a big draw in his own right, wants a share of it. So too does Kid Galahad, the slightly less popular contender from Sheffield, who currently finds himself positioned at number three in the IBF featherweight rankings and will soon be ordered to take part in an eliminator for Warrington’s new belt.
“Warrington did what he had to do,” Galahad told Sky Sports when asked to comment on Warrington’s magnificent win against Selby. “He boxed out of his skin and got it spot on. I think he will be a good champion.
“Selby may have underestimated him, and he had weight issues.
“Warrington’s style isn’t the best and he looks like he can’t even crack an egg, but it’s effective. It works for him.
“I do personally believe I have the style to beat him, of course, and I would do it in good fashion. It would be a great fight.
“However, I know he doesn’t want to fight me. I hope he doesn’t vacate the IBF title and look to go down another route.”
Galahad, a polarising figure who not long ago served an 18-month ban for failing a performance-enhancing drug test, boxed twice in 2017 and stopped Irving Berry in his only fight to far this year. He’s looking to build momentum, and eager to keep his name in the frame, but will probably need a signature win if he’s going to appeal to Warrington and his backers.
“This is the only path I’m thinking about going down,” said Galahad. “I have to force the fight because no one wants to face someone like me. I can do everything and am very hard to beat.
“I want to get on Kell Brook’s next bill and, hopefully, Eddie Hearn can make things happen and get me a final eliminator opportunity.
“I want a few more solid fights this year and then Warrington has to fight me within nine months.
“Once I’m in position, there is nowhere to run. He has to fight me.”
If he wants to keep his title, sure. That may very well be the case.
But, equally, with a fanbase like Warrington’s, the new IBF featherweight champion doesn’t have to do anything. It is he, after all, who calls the shots. It is he who brings the money to the table. You eat at his table, not the other way around.
A warning to heavyweights: Jarrell Miller will beat you and your promoter on the same night.
It’s not quite as cold or impressive as the old beat-you-and-steal-your-woman proposition used by fighters and cowboys alike, but it’s certainly a sign Miller wants to fight Joe Joyce or David Haye, or Joyce Joyce and David Haye.
— BIGBABYMILLER (@BIGBABYMILLER) May 22, 2018
Joyce, 4-0 (4), is set to defend his Commonwealth heavyweight title at York Hall on June 15. The opponent, rest assured, won’t be ‘Big Baby’ Miller. It won’t be him because the American is ineligible for that title. Moreoever, it won’t be him because these two men, despite the talk, won’t be fighting each other any time soon.
But that’s not to say Haye is holding ‘The Juggernaut’ back.
“He’d have my blessing to fight Dillian Whyte or (Jarrell) ‘Big Baby’ Miller next, no problem,” Haye told BN. “I think he’d take both of them apart.
“People are starting to see what Joe Joyce is all about now, but, trust me, they haven’t seen anything yet. He’ll beat all these guys.”
Polar opposites, Joyce, unlike Miller, fights better than he talks. And so long as Haye does the talking on his behalf, he should do just fine.