Worth his weight in gold: Big Josh just two fights away from landing big dosh
22:27 GMT, 9 August 2012
Big Josh is just two fights away from being given the key to a vault containing more dosh than any other giants of London 2012 will make from scaling Mount Olympia, the lightning Bolt and the darling Jess included.
If 6ft 6in Anthony Joshua batters an equally large Kazakhstani to defeat in his semi-final, then does the same to whichever super-heavyweight climbs into the opposite corner for the last competitive event of these Games on Sunday afternoon, then he will ride into boxing’s professional ranks aboard a bullion express.
How much of that cache — a very different kind of gold from the medals on offer here — he unloads at the end of that white-knuckle ride will depend on how quickly and completely he adapts to the more brutal rigours of the paid ring.
Ring it to win it: Joshua is just two victories away from a guaranteed future in the professional game
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Lennox Lewis, whose accountant became well-versed in such affairs after his client became Britain’s first world heavyweight champion for 100 years, values it in the hundreds of millions.
That estimate is based on the virtual void into which this sensible young man from London via Watford will find himself entering.
‘The heavyweight division is desperate for a shining new star,’ says Lewis. Of that, there is no doubt.
The brothers Klitschko have reigned impervious to almost every challenge to their duopoly of the world title alpha-belts since Lewis retired but Vitali, 41, is on the verge of hanging up his gloves and Wladimir, 36, will not go on offering pay-days to pretenders indefinitely.
Joshua, at just 22, is probably arriving too late to feast at the Klitschko table but if he leaves here as an Olympic champion he will find himself being fast-tracked into a place among those jostling for the succession.
They include two of his fellow Englishmen, 2008 Olympic bronze medallist David Price and Tyson Fury, the accelerating traveller.
David Haye still figures in some of the world ranking lists, at anywhere between fourth and seventh behind the Klitschkos. The Hayemaker’s comeback KO victim, Dereck Chisora, remains a fringe candidate despite losing four of his last five fights, which tells Joshua how wide open is the field of opportunity.
Apart from Russia’s Alexander Povetkin, who has yet to overcome his aversion to fighting a Klitschko, and Odlanier Solis, the Cuban who was troubling Vitali K for a round until he wrenched his knee, the rest is comprised mostly of such tired old names as Hasim Rahman, Eddie Chambers and Samuel Peter. If that cast list is not an added incentive for Joshua as he makes his return visits to the ExCeL Arena, he will never have a more enticing one.
The risk, of course, is that he will not be so much fast-tracked to the big time as rushed ahead of his years and experience. This evening’s rendezvous with Ivan Dychko, whom he is reported to have handled well in sparring, is only his 42nd amateur contest. That is not so much a career as a beginning.
In the blue corner: Joshua was impressive in his previous bout – seeing off China's Zhang Zhilei
As he makes vital decisions about his future, probably starting as early as next week, he needs to be aware that even if he becomes instant box-office he will need a defining rival — the Mayweather to his Pacquiao — if he is to capitalise to the full extent of Lewis’s calculations.
Ideally, that opposite number should be American and bring with him the riches of his country’s pay-per-view TV networks. Intriguingly, just such a figure appears to be rising from the ashes of United States heavyweight boxing.
Tipped for stardom
'I think Anthony Joshua is destined to get a gold medal. He's still a boy at 22 but he's very talented and in form.
I know how hard it is to win gold. It's an achievement just to get to the Olympics, amazing to get a medal and out of this world to win gold. He can do it.'
The Americans have always regarded the prize ring’s ultimate crown as theirs by right but their last unified heavyweight king was Evander Holyfield more than a decade ago.
Now, at last, they are daring to hope they have found the heir to the majestic succession of Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Mike Tyson and Mr Holyfield to name but plenty.
The new name is Deontay Wilder. The professional record is a straight 24 wins, every one by knockout. The plan, by Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Promotions, has been to bring him into contention under the radar.
Wilder was the only US boxer to win a medal at the 2008 Games, equalling bronze with Price in Beijing. It has required a total of only 40 rounds for him to compile that unbeaten record and he has yet to be taken beyond the fourth in any of those bouts.
The concussive power is in a
sledgehammer right hand but it is thrown in with the athletic agility of
a 6ft 7in former college American football player.
Put it there: Joshua can become one the headline results for Team GB if he can land gold
A native of the quaintly named town of Tuscaloosa, he goes by the nickname the Bronze Bomber in tribute to Louis, the Brown Bomber. The public wraps came off last Saturday when Fox Sports televised live his spectacular first-round knockout of Kertson Manswell in Mobile, Alabama.
At 26, Wilder is ahead of Joshua on the road to riches, as is Denis Boytsov, the 6ft 1in all-action Russian with a dynamite right hand who is being talked of as a new Tyson.
But the prospect of Joshua and Wilder forging a transatlantic rivalry in the not-too-distant future will most excite boxing impresarios who want to break the hold of the Eastern Europeans.
Not that Joshua is the only member of Britain’s boxing team with much to fight for this weekend.
Anthony Ogogo, Luke Campbell and Fred Evans are all Olympic championship contenders going into today’s semi-finals. They have distinguished themselves already by adding guaranteed bronzes to Britain’s phenomenal medals haul.
But it is the towering youngster who is working the graveyard shift at the climax of these tumultuous late nights in London’s Docklands who can see boxing’s holy grail shimmering beyond the gold.