36 States is a weekly publication offering stories about culture, sports, music, business and politics of Nigeria. The blog aims to take its audience through a discovery of Nigeria through interviews, editorials and historical perspectives.

ANTHONY JOSHUA: REJUVENATING PRIZE FIGHTING FOR BOXING FANS...

There are several sports most informed adults would not participate in competitively because of the recent scientific research on concussion. The three relevant sports to North American sports fans are football, UFC and boxing. Boxing is the oldest prize fighting sport of the modern sports era. My first introduction to boxing came through the highlights of Muhammad Ali formerly known as Cassius Clay. This was back in 1997 or 1998 when the boxing documentary came out called “When We Were Kings”. The documentary followed the journey of the fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman on October 30, 1974. 

I haven’t seen the documentary in a long time but I got a glimpse of the oratory power of Muhammad Ali and imagined what it would have been like to live in that period. Furthermore, it gave the viewer an understanding of Zaire and how the fight was used as a propaganda tool by the government of Mobutu Sese Seko. However, the most interesting part for me at the time was the connection the African people of Zaire had to the sport of boxing and Muhammad Ali.

Today, there is a risk and reward imbalance with regards to boxing as a sport business and more mainstream sports such as basketball and soccer. Fighters are not paid as well anymore because the audience is no longer interested in any fight other than a major event between two established fighters - Floyd Mayweather for example fits in this category.

Back in the late 2011, I was watching the Tavis Smiley Show on PBS and the guest he had on the show mentioned the name Jack Johnson and how he was the fight African American heavyweight champion of the world. He was a 6-ft 2 inches black man fighting against white men in a racist society. He still managed to beat his way through the ranks and become the champion. While reading the book, I came across boxing being referred to as “prize fighting”. It was the first time I had ever heard of that term.

I came across a list recently titled - Top 10 Most Marketable Athletes of 2015. Anthony Joshua is ranked 5th in the world and I wanted to find out how a boxer got ranked and find out more about the boxer - Anthony Joshua.

Joshua is the current IBF World Champion and has had 16 fights with a spectacular 16 knockouts. He is ranked the fifth most marketable athlete in the world and has climbed from a 35th place ranking just last year. Born in 1989 to Nigerian parents in Watford, England, he began boxing late in his lift at 18 years old. He previously held the British Commonwealth and WBC titles and was a gold medalist in the 2012 Olympics. This key statistic made him the only other boxer after Joe Fraiser to win an Olympic gold and a heavyweight title belt.

Similar to Jack Johnson, Anthony Joshua is an orthodox prize fighter, which means he boxes with his weaker side leading his stance to allow for more power punches from his strong side. At 6-foot 6 inches, he is ready to dominate the heavyweight field lacking any major interest from mainstream casual fans.

Anthony Johnson is not the first Nigerian fighter to gain the heavyweight title. Samuel Okon Peter was a former world champion in the sport, however, Anthony Johnson is the first one with a presence that can bring new fans to the sport through his social media presence and his over marketability to young and old fans across the world.

The sport of boxing has been begging for an heavyweight fighter that can generate interest in the weight class given the dominance of the light heavyweight and middleweight fights that have taken prominence over the last decade. Following the reign of Iron Mike, Lennox Lewis and Holyfield, the Klitschko brothers’ were pushed to the forefront but could never sustain the interest of fans. Currently, Joshua is that fighter that can rejuvenate the missing heavyweight field of the sport.

I am sure he has many endorsements across Europe at the moment but when he finally transitions to the United States, he could end up getting ranked even higher on the list of marketable stars next year. Anthony Joshua’s next fight is against Dominic Breazeale this summer.

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