AMERICA today got its first glimpse of Anthony Joshua in boxing gloves ahead of the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion’s US professional debut against Andy Ruiz Jnr on Saturday night.
What the sizeable crowd will have taken from the open workout – staged in the middle of a New York shopping mall – won’t be anything they didn’t already suspect. Anthony Joshua is a fine physical specimen, his punches sound like gunfire when they land, and he’s a personable chap who values his fans highly.
The fighters and trainers are rarely so stupid to give anything more away. Indeed, for anyone hoping to see something interesting, to be educated, these kind of affairs are always something of a disappointment. But of course, to expect anything more than what an open workout brings would be missing the point.
The majority of the fans that were inside Brookfield Place in the financial district were likely not there anticipating any last minute tactical clues or a gut-busting workout. They were there to see 29-year-old Joshua up close, to delight in sound of the odd one-two smashing into trainer Robert McCracken’s pads, to go gooey over that multi-million dollar smile and, if they waited around long enough, to get selfies with the leading heavyweight on the planet.
Therein lies the whole point of today’s event. Not so much an open workout but a meet and greet, Joshua, once he’d finished with commercial obligations like posing in the ring wearing a certain brand of headphones, endeared himself further to an American public who had previously only admired him from afar. Ushered away from any media hoping to grab an interview by his management (bar those who are broadcasting or sponsoring the event), Joshua insisted on talking to those who were there because they wanted to be rather than wasting his precious time with those who were paid to be. And there is something exceptionally honourable about that.
Almost as good at public relations as he is at fighting, Joshua has always ensured he makes time for such supporters. It’s all part of his charm; fist-bumping with fans before knocking his opponents out.
Expect his stock to rise even higher after today’s event. With arch enemy Deontay Wilder recently stealing the headlines by delivering death wishes to his opponents this close to a fight, Joshua showed the WBC heavyweight champion a much better way of boosting a profile.
The purpose of today, therefore, might be likened to the purpose of the entire New York expedition once it has culminated inside the Madison Square Garden ring. Dazzle the crowds, don’t risk injury, don’t give away any sign of weakness to future opponents and seduce the fans to such a point they will support you ever more.
For Anthony Joshua, it already seems like a case of job done.