Will an Anthony Joshua win mean a revival for heavyweight boxing?

OPINION: In July 2003 the mystique and hype around heavyweight boxing started to fade.

Lennox Lewis had just beaten Vitali Klitschko by TKO to ensure he still safely had the WBC, IBF, IBO and WBA world heavyweight belts stashed away.

However, that was it for the Englishman - one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all-time.

Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko are set to square-off in a world heavyweight belt in London [on Sunday morning].
Henry Browne

Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko are set to square-off in a world heavyweight belt in London [on Sunday morning].

Six months later he announced his retirement.

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Lewis had fought his last fight, and with it the theatre that is heavyweight boxing slipped into hibernation.

Mike Tyson was still fighting, but was well past his best. His presence in the sport had become more saddening than thrilling.

Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman, David Tua - the candles were also quickly burning out on their careers as a golden era of heavyweight boxing slipped into the distance.

The power base of heavyweight boxing slowly transferred to Eastern Europe and in particular two brothers from Ukraine - Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko.

As successful as the brothers have been, and as harsh as it might sound, the hype of heavyweight boxing has taken a hit under their watch.

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During their prime they were No 1 and No 2 but were never going to fight each other.

But that was only one aspect which has hurt heavyweight boxing.

It's the style in which they went about their business which has seen sporting fans drift away from the sport.

As successful as they have been, that success in the ring has been built on a defensive style.

It wins belts but it doesn't win over the fans - Wladimir himself has admitted it has been boring. But his job is to win fights and he has certainly done that.

Interest in heavyweight boxing slipped to an all-time low. On occasions, there was not enough appeal in the big American market for television companies to put on the Klitschko fights in a pay-per-view package.

Fight fans switched their interest in big numbers to the lighter divisions and also the ever growing UFC.

On Sunday morning [NZ time] heavyweight boxing has the chance to get the shot in the arm it needs.

The chance to lift the sport out of its hibernation.

At 41 - and after 19 months out of the ring following a loss to Tyson Fury - Wladimir Klitschko will make a return to boxing to take on Anthony Joshua infront of an estimated 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium.

Klitschko won the Olympic gold medal in Atlanta in 1996. Joshua won Olympic gold in London in 2012.

It is the battle between the new and the old and, in reality, heavyweight boxing needs a convincing Joshua and a new pin-up boy to take the sport into a new era.

A Klitschko win will set heavyweight boxing back another cog.

There needs to be a new star and an exciting star at that.

So many have already handed that baton to Joshua - albeit a little prematurely.

In reality, he hasn't been handed a decent test. 

He's had just 18 professional fights and has been past the sixth round just twice, yet still he is being compared some of the greats.

How will his big physical frame stand up when he he is asked to go into the championship rounds, round 11 and 12?

How will he respond if he lands one flush on Klitschko'​s jaw and it has little impact? 

Heavyweight boxing's big hope has the potential to come crashing down if he can not topple Klitschko this weekend.

A Klitschko win will do plenty to enhance his own reputation in the twilight of his career, but will do little to provide a spike of interest in the future.

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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