Boxing: Anthony Joshua sets his sights on crossing into mainstream

 

Anthony Joshua will mould himself on the Klitschko brothers as he seeks to build on the  crossover appeal generated by his success at London 2012. 

Joshua makes his professional debut against unbeaten Italian Emanuele Leo tonight, co-headlining the O2 bill alongside Scott Quigg’s clash with Yoandris Salinas for the WBA world super-bantamweight title.

The 23-year-old Olympic  champion wants to give boxing a role model of which to be proud and believes that is best achieved by emulating heavyweight kings Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko.

“I like the way the Klitschkos carry themselves. You have to carry yourself properly, be professional about your sport and in your attitude,” he said. “That’s what you have to do in order to cross over in to the mainstream and to help everyone understand what a great sport boxing is.”

Joshua turned down an array of offers to sign for Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable and the promoter believes he is capable of becoming a true household name.

“I think he can be a crossover superstar. He talks the talk, looks the part and can be a great ambassador for the sport,” Hearn said.

Meanwhile, one of Joshua’s idols, Wladimir Klitschko, yesterday derided British world heavyweight title hopefuls David Haye and Dereck Chisora as “barking dogs” ahead of his defence against Alexander Povetkin in Moscow tonight.

Haye and Chisora, plus Haye’s future foe Tyson Fury, are all  expected at ringside to witness a showdown which Klitschko  believes has the potential to be the toughest of his career.

Klitschko swatted Haye in July 2011 while Vitali out-pointed Chisora early last year – and the younger Klitschko believes the manner of Povetkin’s build-up proves he is a cut above the British pair. Klitschko said: “He is a very respectful, calm and a very self-confident guy. There is no controversy like Haye did when he said all that crazy stuff before our fight, there’s no spitting water or slapping like Chisora did before he fought my brother. Barking dogs never bite and Povetkin is not a  barking dog. He will deliver a great performance.”

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