By Jack Sumner @Jack_Sumner_
September was a mixed bag for boxing. There were the mountainous highs of Mayweather versus Alvarez across the pond, a record-breaker and an exhibition of pugilistic excellence from a modern great, with it’s stellar undercard that confirmed a new star in Danny Garcia. Another star was born last Saturday in Montreal, when Adonis Stevenson proved to be the goods against Tavoris Cloud and on British shores a week earlier, boxing had found a new home with the successful coronation of the Copper Box in London.
There were however some pretty unsavoury lows, with several judging controversies over the past four weeks and the farcical prelude to one of those encounters, with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr’s struggles in making weight. September also saw the highly anticipated showdown between Tyson Fury and David Haye postponed due to a cut, an injury that no doubt cuts deeper into the heavyweight division, which remains the sport’s measuring stick at least in the eyes of casual fans and is in dire need of some fresh excitement.
Excitement might just be on the way however and sooner than you think and it doesn’t come in the form of Wladimir Klitschko’s big money clash with Alexander Povetkin on Saturday. As you flip your calendars over to October, anticipation also builds before the debut of a British heavyweight this weekend, an Olympic champion with all the qualities required to garner interest in the sport’s glamour division.
Anthony Joshua makes his entrance onto the professional stage this Saturday as the headline act on a Matchroom show at London’s O2 Arena, when he takes on unbeaten Italian Emanuele Leo in his first bout in the paid ranks. The 23-year-old from Watford is clearly not taking the direction of Britain’s last Olympic super heavyweight champion, being matched tough from the start with this six-rounder, as the 32-year-old Leo arrives with a record of 8-0 with three first round knockouts.
The Italian has never fought outside his home country and his last four opponents have taken him the distance, whilst it’s also pretty unthinkable that those in charge of Joshua’s matchmaking would schedule a debut in which he had a sizeable chance of losing. However, just about anything can happen in this sport and Leo comes with a winning mentality. If nothing else, he’ll be expected to give Joshua some professional rounds and is clearly not the cannon fodder that Audley Harrison faced after turning pro.
Standing 6'6" and weighing 18 stone yet built with a powerful, athletic physique, Joshua is an imposing specimen that possesses all the physical attributes needed to become a successful heavyweight. His conditioning is also testament to his work ethic and his handling of the media and spotlight that have followed his London 2012 triumph would suggest he also has the mental requirements to excel in the sport and capitalise on his gold medal, the pick of his short, yet impressive amateur career.
Should he get past Leo, Joshua has two more dates pencilled in before the year is out and promoter Eddie Hearn is targeting ten fights under his charge’s belt before the end of 2014. If they all come with increasing credentials after his first opponent, he could well be in the mix for a domestic title challenge around that time. Perhaps it won’t be much longer before Joshua is targeting a big money bout with Klitschko himself.
Ok we’re excited, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.