Boxing: Anthony Joshua gets ready to join big boys on heavy duty

Olympic gold medallist could finally turn pro on undercard of Haye v Fury

Click to follow
The Independent Online

When Andy Murray punched the air after his historic Wimbledon triumph last Sunday it was the reaction of a man who knows how to throw a mean right hook. Outside of tennis, boxing is his favourite sport – he has sparred with Amir Khan and been taught the rudiments of the ring by David Haye, both close buddies – so no doubt he will be happy to pass on a few tips that may help one British noble artist break an age-old jinx.

Murray is one Olympic gold medallist who has gone on to win a world title, as Wimbledon is generally recognised, an achievement that no British Olympic boxing champion (and there have been seven men since the Second World War) has accomplished. But the expectation is that London 2012's heavyweight hero Anthony Joshua will buck the trend if only someone can persuade him to put pen to paper and turn professional.

News last weekend that Joshua was to join Eddie Hearn's Sky-backed Matchroom stable was described subsequently as "premature" in tweets by both parties. Hearn tells me: "I believe we have a deal but nothing has been signed yet." The delay could be because Hearn did not want the publicity impact to be lost in the euphoria of Murray's victory, as well as the hoopla surrounding the one big deal that has been done – for the appetite-whetting collision between Haye and Tyson Fury which Fury's promoter, Mick Hennessy, generously labels "the best heavyweight fight in world boxing".

It could be that Joshua and his agent are waiting to see if there are further bids in the auction, with BT believed to be keen to add boxing to their sports portfolio when their new satellite channel is launched next month.

As previously reported in these pages, Joshua had seriously considered linking up with the former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, with whom he spent some time in Jamaica earlier this year. But while he may well have benefited from such eminent weaning, I doubt he was greatly impressed by Lewis's failure to revive the flawed fortunes of the 2008 Olympic bronze medallist David Price in Liverpool on Saturday, when veteran American Tony Thompson emphatically repeated his previous KO victory.

Lewis had been drafted in to coach and condition the British heavyweight champion but even he could not put muscles on chins, though the shattered Scouser surely can take heart in the knowledge that Henry Cooper once lost four fights in a row – three by KO – and still went on to challenge Muhammad Ali for the world title.

The one certainty is that Joshua will be a prized recruit to Britain's heavyweight scene, which will be enriched by the bonanza in Manchester on 28 September.

There was much feigned animosity on the banks of the Thames last week when former world champion Haye and the unbeaten Fury formally pledged to punch each other's lights out. Both are understandably hyping a fight that could see them split a £10 million purse, depending on Sky Box Office sales. Which is why the next 10 weeks will be full of sound and Fury.

So far the epithets have been relatively restrained, but both Haye and the garrulous giant have previously been upbraided by the Board of Control for foul and abusive language in the build-up to fights.

So who will occupy the air-is-blue corner at the 20,000-capacity Manchester Arena, where ringside seats are going for £800? Fury reckons he won the first round in the verbal tussle after a tirade that left Haye uncharacteristically speechless at times, though he later suggested Fury was "mentally deranged".

"All you need in the heavyweight division is heart, determination... and a pair of balls like King Kong," Fury roared. "He may be the Hayemaker, but I have the Playmaker," he declared, waving aloft a huge right fist before adding: "He's just a celebrity fighter... a big tart."

"He's very entertaining," Haye sighed. "But you can't argue with an idiot, I just let him crack on with it. It's easy for someone who's never won a world title to be dismissive of someone who has been world champion for 10 years.

"He said that he's the greatest boxer there has ever been. He genuinely believes that. I think he's mentally deranged. Not in a bad way, he's not a danger to anybody – particularly in the boxing ring.

"He's like a rottweiler puppy I once had named Bonzo, all clumsy and tripping over. He looks a bit dangerous but not really. On the other hand I am a lot smaller than him, I'm like a pitbull. When it comes to it he won't be able to get me off. I'll give him a nice juicy payday and let him ride off into the sunset."

All good knockabout stuff, just as there was before Haye despatched Dereck Chisora in the last big domestic heavyweight bust-up a year ago. Chisora is hoping to project himself back into the big picture when he tops the bill again at Wembley next Saturday for Frank Warren against a slick and undefeated American, Malik Scott, on a show to be screened by BoxNation.

Meantime the heavyweight world awaits the pleasure of Mr Joshua. If he gets himself sorted there is speculation that he could even be on the Manchester undercard. Then there's the matter of who should be in his corner motivating him towards that Olympian goal of a world title. Maybe Big Josh should give Murray a call.

Britain's bruisers

David Haye Aka The Hayemaker. Born in London, aged 32, 6ft 3in. Former world cruiserweight and heavyweight champion. Beaten twice in 28 bouts, by Carl Thompson and Wladimir Klitschko when he blamed a bruised big toe. Highlight: defeating Russian giant Nikolay Valuev for WBA heavyweight title.

Tyson Fury Named after Iron Mike. Born in Manchester, aged 25, 6ft 9in. Former British champion. Descendent of gypsy bare-knuckle legend Bartley Gorman. Undefeated in 21 bouts. Highlight: Getting up to KO former world light-heavyweight champion Steve Cunningham.

Dereck Chisora Aka Del Boy. Born in Zimbabwe, aged 29, 6ft 1in. Lost British title to Fury, and was knocked down and stopped by Haye last year. Lost four of 20. Served bans for biting and a brawl with Haye after bout with Vitali Klitschko. Highlight: Close points loss to Klitschko.

Anthony Joshua Born in London to Nigerian parents, aged 23, 6ft 6in. Olympic gold medallist at London 2012. Late starter at 18, has done community service for minor drugs offence. Highlight: Defeating reigning champion Roberto Camarelle in Olympic final.

Alan Hubbard

Comments