British boxing fans are dedicated and enthusiastic. As with any hardcore fan base, they have their share of knowledgeable members. But like any rabid group of sports nuts, their hearts are mostly on their sleeves. They are forever ready to embrace one of their domestic boys as a future champion. And they hold their current champions in high regards.
When one of their fighters rises to the level of the international spotlight, the English Fancy is always anxious to represent. Liam Smith will not bring as many fans across the pond as Ricky Hatton did for Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. But even as the MGM Grand is dominated by Canelo fans, you will know that Liverpool is present.
England was the birthplace of the modern sport and for better than a 100 years during the bareknuckle era, “British Heavyweight Champion” meant essentially the same thing as “Champion of the World.” But aside from Lennox Lewis, Great Britain has produced no great heavyweight boxers during the gloves era in particular, and over the past 150 years of gloved and bare knuckle history combined.
Anthony Joshua captured Olympic gold, fighting in his nation’s capital city. Joshua was an inexperienced amateur with outstanding natural gifts and good fight instincts. At 6’6″ and with an 82″ reach, he was simply too much physical package for some opponents.
It’s understandable that British boxing fans were salivating over the man’s potential. It was hard to see him coming out of London four years ago and not think about Lewis.
Fans like myself, with far less emotional investment in the Glory of Britania, were impressed enough to think about Lewis. But we also remembered Audley Harrison. Harrison won gold for Great Britain in Sydney in 2000. He was, if anything, more physically imposing than Joshua–a half-inch shorter, but with four more inches of reach, for an astonishing 86″.
At this point, Harrison is now 31-7, with 23 KOs, and has not fought since getting knocked out by Deontay Wilder, in 2013. Previous to getting knocked out by Wilder, Harrison has been put to sleep by David Haye and David Price. He also lost decisions to journeymen Martin Rogan and Dominick Guinn, along with fringe contender Danny Willians and way-past-his-prime Michael Sprott.
Anthony Joshua is 17-0 now, with 17 KOs. The IBF says he’s a world champion and if you read my columns, you know that this claim is an insult against integrity. But there’s no doubt Anthony Joshua has become a big man who serious fans take note of.
But let’s be honest. He still remains closer to Harrision than Lewis in terms of actual accomplishments. Knocking out Charles Martin and Dominic Breazeale were great wins for Anthony Joshua.
But they should be viewed as prospect/contender fights, not as world-title clashes.