Boxing: Fame for Adams but fortune awaits Joshua
Gold medallists will be treading very different paths as super-heavyweight turns professional and earns millions while lightweight woman will get nothing
Sunday 19 August 2012
Mo Farah, Jess Ennis, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Bradley Wiggins, Ben Ainslie, little Tom Daley and all. These are Britain's names of the Games whose fame will also be their fortune, though none is likely to come close to banking as much bullion as Anthony Joshua, the super-heavyweight who now has the world at his fists as the new golden boy of boxing whenever he chooses to turn professional.
But one 2012 performance stands out for me, that of Nicola Adams, the supreme example of girl power who, in becoming the first Olympic female boxing champion, has done much for women's rights – and lefts. The nation has fallen in love with the tiny Leeds larruper. Boxing's sunshine girl is such a sweetheart out of the ring and a veritable demon inside it.
Yet while big Josh stands to make more dosh than any other winner in these Games – including Usain Bolt – Adams is as famous but will never be remotely as rich. The little and large of Britain's most successful Olympic boxing squad contrasts not only in size. Joshua has a potential gold mine; Adams a gold medal – and that's it. More or less. Never mind all that Million Dollar Baby talk, there's no real money in women's boxing, even on the American and European circuits. Anyway, Adams won't join them.
Adams, 29, has been boxing since 1999 and scraped a living as a TV soap extra and part-time painter and decorator before she became more proficient with the gloves. The British Amateur Boxing Association are wisely organising a management company to collate the offers she is receiving for endorsements and public appearances, so she will make a few bob – deservedly so because she is worth more than the occasional guest spot on A Question of Sport.
It is her happy humility that has enchanted us. "It doesn't bother me that I'm not going to make vast amounts of money," she told me. "I've never even thought about that. Things have been manic for these past few days, everywhere I go I seem to be recognised and people just want to see my gold medal. But I'm just a normal girl from Leeds who's won a gold medal doing a sport I love and I am content with that, though I would like to be the world champion and defend my title in Rio."
She added: "The Chinese girl I beat in the final, Ren Cancan, I fought three times and lost to twice in World Championship finals, so this was really satisfying. I never knew I could box so well. When I knocked her down, I thought, 'Is this really happening? I'm going to be the Olympic champion.' I just couldn't believe it." Well, she does now.
And so does Joshua now that fistfuls of promoters from both sides of the Atlantic are scrabbling for his signature, reckoned to be worth at least £3 million for starters. They may have to wait a while but sooner rather than later the 22-year-old from Finchley will be following the pro path taken by former Olympic heavy-weight champs, including Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Wladimir Klitschko and Audley Harrison. Like the flyweight Adams, he has a winning smile, and he is also a lucky young man. To be brutally honest, I thought he lost his opening bout to the classy Cuban Erislandy Savon and got a rather dodgy result from the ringside judges in the final against Italy's veteran reigning champion, Roberto Cammarelle.
But even better judges are convinced Joshua can be a professional world-beater. "This kid has what it takes to be the world champion," says Lewis, and one hopes that Joshua turns out more like him than Harrison as a pro. Both were at ringside for the final – as was Klitschko, who is keen to add Joshua to the K2 promotional stable run by himself and brother Vitali, grooming him as their successor rather than an opponent.
British promoters Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn are also in contention, but soon after the fight Joshua was locked in deep conversation with Amir Khan, who aims to become a promoter in his own right and whose US backers Goldenboy sent their chief executive, Richard Schaefer, to size up the Londoner.
Also like Adams, Joshua says it has never been about money, and he would like to stay amateur as long as possible. Khan told him there is no rush. "Anthony has the physique and personality that boxing needs as well as the talent," he says. "They'd love him in America because they are desperate for a new heavyweight to come on to the scene. He needs the right people around him."
At least Adams can find comfort in the fact she already has the support she needs after women's boxing has taken such a long time to get into the Olympic ring. If nothing else, it has been worth her wait in gold.
Legends who never turned pro
Dick McTaggart The Dundee-born lightweight was Olympic champion in Melbourne in 1956 and won bronze in Rome four years later. Won 610 of his 634 fights.
Teofilo Stevenson The Cuban heavyweight won gold in 1972, 1976 and 1980, and claimed three world amateur titles. Died in June aged 60.
Felix Savon Another Cuban heavyweight, who won gold in 1992, 1996 and 2000 and picked up six World Championship titles. Now helps train young Cuban fighters, including his nephew Erislandy Savon, whom Joshua beat in his opening bout of London 2012.
Mario Kindelan Cuban lightweight won Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004 – beating Amir Khan in the final. Unbeaten from 1999 to his retirement in 2004, winning three world amateur titles.
Roberto Cammarelle Italian super-heavyweight champion in Beijing 2008, he lost his title to Joshua in London. World amateur champion in 2007 and 2009.
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