Floyd Mayweather ‘s reputation as the “Money” man of combat sports is under threat as a British star is looking to invade America and bank a billion.
Anthony Joshua is the unified heavyweight champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and a fighter with an ambassadorial image thanks to his articulate interviews, his winning smile, and his immaculately-sculpted, hulk-like body.
He regularly sells out Wembley Stadium, home of the England national soccer team, and is a household name in Britain, at least.
But having conquered the UK market after an impressive amateur career and a flawless professional record that now reads 22 wins unbeaten, with thumping victories over Wladimir Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Dillian Whyte, Joshua is now looking to score the biggest win of his career.
No, it’s not just against the brash American fighter Jarrell Miller, his June 1 opponent in New York City. It’s against the whole of America, and then the world.
He has every chance to be as successful as Mayweather in monetary terms.
According to those closest to him, it’s time to take the “AJ” show on the road and conquer foreign markets like the fighter conquered the British market.
It’s time to make Joshua a global superstar and one of the biggest and most famous athletes on the planet. It’s time to turn Joshua from a millionaire to a billionaire.
“He’s a huge star in Britain, he’s the face of boxing, one of the faces of Sky an ambassador who is crucial to our business,” Adam Smith, head of boxing at Sky Sports, which is Joshua’s broadcaster in Britain, told Business Insider at a recent media event in London.
“Now he’s going over to America to take on the Americans, the world. I think he’ll be a global superstar and if he keeps on winning in the ring, smiling, and maintains that wonderful appeal he has to all sorts of men, women, old, young, then he has every chance to be as successful as Mayweather in monetary terms.”
Joshua fights outside Britain for the first time in his pro career this summer when he takes on the unbeaten challenger Miller in the American’s backyard at Madison Square Garden, a venue coined the “Mecca of boxing.”
It is a fight of the utmost importance to Joshua’s future. Not because Miller is particularly challenging, but because the fight, and the expected win, is a springboard to much bigger fights, bigger audiences, and, of course, bigger paychecks.
This fight will already provide Joshua with his career-high purse. Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, confirmed this to Business Insider but stopped just short of telling us whether it was the $32 million we had previously reported a figure that matches what Mayweather earned in his penultimate fight against Andre Berto in 2015, proving he’s already capable of following “Money” Mayweather into the mega check-cashing business.
“It is a career-high purse,” Hearn said. “I won’t comment on the [exact figures of the] purses, but it is career-high.”
Joe Markowski, the executive vice president of DAZN, which is Joshua’s broadcaster in the U.S., told Business Insider that to be known globally, athletes, actors, and musicians all have to conquer America.
“It’s the next chapter of the movement to being a global superstar,” Markowski said, and Americans are already warming to the Londoner.
“AJ has developed a real rapport with the American market,” Markowski said. “He is well spoken. Americans respect that. They like the fact he’s British. He’s good-looking, marketable.”
Mayweather, despite his extraordinary skill and talent, did not possess a truly TV-friendly fighting style during his superstar years.
Though he scored knockouts in the first half of his career, his approach in later life compensated for brittle hands . In the second half of his career, he adopted a hit-and-don’t-get-hit, shoulder-roll technique. This allowed him to land accurate and point-scoring punches, while taking the minimum amount of damage possible. He did this remarkably well. His status as the finest defensive fighter since Compubox records began proves that.
But defensive fighters tend not to have Box Office appeal, and this is because blood-thirsty audiences prefer seeing highlight-reel knockouts. Mayweather rarely provided that in the last 10 years of his decorated career but people tuned in because of his divisive personality, his abrasive comments, and on the off-chance that somebody was able to actually beat him. Nobody ever did.
Joshua has something Mayweather lacked when the American was a pay-per-view sensation and that is brutal punching power. And he does not mind getting hit, to hit. Only one of Joshua’s 22 opponents as a pro has been able to survive the fight to hear the final bell. All the others were annihilated. He laughed off a near in-ring riot to put Whyte on his back, got off the canvas to flatten Klitschko, and overcame a busted nose to trounce Carlos Takam.
Joshua also has something else going for him he is a heavyweight, which is traditionally boxing’s ruling class.
From Jack Johnson at the start of the 1900s, to Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano in the middle of the century, through to Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, the role of the big man was, traditionally, crucial to boxing’s status as a mainstream sport.
If you remove Mayweather from the equation when looking at the best-selling pay-per-view events in boxing history, heavyweights dominate. And Joshua may be the one to make heavyweights dominate yet again.
“He is a heavyweight,” Smith told us. “So if you get the big fights with Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder over the next few years, Joshua’s well on the way to being our equivalent of Floyd Mayweather, if not bigger.”
Of the summer’s fight against Miller, Hearn said: “We’ve seen the interest and the numbers, it’s the greatest move we’ve ever done. It’s worked out great.”
And Hearn doesn’t expect anyone tuning in on June 1 to be disappointed once the fight is over: “Every Joshua fight is electric and that will be the same on June 1. He is the perfect athlete. He’s that guy.”
Hearn even said things will get bigger and bigger for his star client: “It’s not that 2019 defines his career. He wants the undisputed fight. This doesn’t just include UK or America, it includes many territories.
“He’s dominated the UK, many markets will follow. America is a significant one, and if he gets it right you can earn several times what you earned in the UK.”
Joshua, 29, has a 10-year plan to compete. This means he won’t retire until he’s approaching his 40th birthday. By that point, he could be pushing toward 50 fights, the landmark Mayweather used to call time on his own career.
But Joshua might not be able to retire undefeated like Mayweather was able to. Joshua “will have to come back from adversity” because “every fighter has a defeat at some point,” Smith told us, though, he was quick to add that “there’s no sign of that right now.”
Indeed, neither Hearn or Markowski expect Joshua to truly be troubled against Miller, but both anticipate a slightly more competitive contest than fans and bookmakers, who expect a fairly easy stoppage win.
“The danger is going to someone’s backyard in a new timezone and arena,” Hearn said. “This is the new challenge.”
We’re expecting a real tear-up between two highly-ranked heavyweights.
As for what DAZN expects, Markowski said: “AJ said he’ll go over there and knock Miller out to introduce himself with a bang to the U.S. public.
“Miller isn’t going to be easy to knockout because he’s 23 stone [322 pounds], with a good chin, and has never been knocked down.
“In a partisan MSG with a tremendous atmosphere in a different environment to the one he’s been comfortable with in Cardiff and London. It’s a good match-up. He’s favourite, but Miller’s not a walk-over, that’s for sure.
“As a broadcaster, we’re expecting a real tear-up between two highly-ranked heavyweights.”
Flattening a huge heavyweight in a “real tear-up” in his American debut would ultimately do wonders for Joshua’s popularity, which continues to climb year-on-year.
Joshua will soon turn 30, an age where Mayweather was only just about to contest his biggest fight against Oscar de la Hoya in a bout that would launch him into a pay-per-view star forever.
Joshua, already pay-per-view material, is clearly on an impressive trajectory. The Fury and Wilder fights will attract Mayweather-style money, we’re talking hundreds of millions, and should he win then his inner circle will, of course, be proved right. The Londoner will have been the face of boxing all along, the sport’s brightest star, this new era’s “Money” man.