What a fantastic week for Anthony Joshua. He won the biggest fight of his career against a bona fide legend in Wladimir Klitschko, he was rocked for the first time and came back to win. He has become one of Britain’s most famous athletes, and now one of its most marketable. He seems to have become a decent young man who respects his sport and the people within it, this no doubt is helped by the fact he has a very shrewd operator in Eddie Hearn in his corner. However, I am not someone given to hyperbole and I have read some respected journalists compare him to Tiger Woods……Tiger Woods!!! To me this is sporting blasphemy. I grew up with Tiger on my screen and I can honestly say there hasn’t been anyone before or since, bar Federer at his absolutely glorious best, that can excite and wow in the way he did from 1997-2008.
My point is that Tiger Woods was, and still is to some extent, a transcendent talent. A man who was bigger than his sport. He changed the way golf was played, and brought it into the 21st century with his emphasis on gym work and being a pure athlete. Every player that is making a living out of golf on any of the Tours owes their continued prosperity to Tiger. He brought more sponsorship money, higher prize money and most importantly huge audiences which took golf from a game for middle-class white men, to a game with huge wide reaching appeal. Tiger Woods broke down the race barrier in golf and changed the game as I’ve said for the better. Anthony Joshua hasn’t done and will not do any of those things. He is a fine athlete and a good heavyweight champion, how good we won’t know until he fights Wilder, Fury & Parker. Boxing has long made money and boxers of yesteryear have made similar money to what he is earning and will earn now. He is not saving the sport or creating a new audience. Boxing does not need Anthony Joshua in the way golf needed Tiger Woods, nor has AJ done anything that hasn’t been seen before. He is not transcendent he is simply very marketable.
He is nice, well-spoken, young and black. A sports company’s wet dream, he will undoubtedly make whichever company he advertises for a lot of money and will make a lot of money for himself in the process enough to retire a very content man. But he is not a superstar, and unless he significantly improves his skills he never will be. So please until that moment can we please refrain from the hyperbole and look at the cold facts. Stop insulting one of the greatest sportsmen of all time by comparing him to AJ and please stop unnecessary pressure on AJ. If he’s going to be a superstar then let it come naturally, don’t anoint him just because we are desperate for a British superstar, let him grow into that tag if and when he’s ready.