Picture Credit: Lawrence Lustig

By Matt Bevan (@MBevs68)

Anthony Joshua made the first defence of his IBF heavyweight world title last Saturday at the O2 Arena, or as it is now called “The Lions Den”, stopping Dominic Breazeale in emphatic fashion to once again excite the masses and raise the expectation level another level.

It was a good performance by Joshua against Breazeale, who by all reckoning did better than most anticipiated he would do. I, like many, thought he wouldn’t see the end of the third, however he clung on till the seventh, frustrating Joshua much to the glee of the bookmakers.

Whether you like it or not, Anthony Joshua is a star. He has captured the imagination of the British public, many of whom will now only watch his fights and has secured sponsorship deals most could only dream of, as well as a TV deal with Showtime in the USA, where his debut on the other side of the pond will be a very big, literally, event.

One Dillian Whyte shot aside, we’ve never really seen him trouble, whilst his catchphrase, “Stay Humble” is now seen regularly on social media by his fans who have proclaimed him the next Muhammad Ali. Behave, there will never be another Ali and anyone who claims to be is insulting “The Greatest’s” legacy.

This fight did bring out the side I’ve been wanting to see from Joshua for a while. The nasty side. He refused to rise to the prodding that Whyte tried instigating last December, whilst he laughed of Charles Martin’s ridiculous declarations for what they were. Jokes.

However, Breazeale seemed to get under his skin and I for once quite enjoyed watching the Joshua build-up. It started with a head-to-head at Matchroom’s headquarters, where Joshua switched into a mode we haven’t seen yet since he turned over to the pro ranks.

Breazeale continually focused in on Joshua’s performances at the Olympics at London 2012, reminding us that he perhaps lost two of his four contests to Erislandy Savon, the classy Cuban, and Roberto Camarelle, who he ultimately beat in the final to win the gold medal. I can’t help but agree with the American.

As all American fighters he was a great talker and got many believing he would actually pull off the upset. Anyone who knows a bit about boxing knew he didn’t really stand a chance, as his performances against Fred Kassi and Amir Mansour will show.

The one thing I didn’t expect from him was how tough he was. He took some big shots and still hung in there. At times Joshua appeared to be running out of ideas, exasperated that Breazeale was still there, but it was the manner with which he finally got the job done that impressed me.

Breazeale managed to bloody his nose the round before and the red mist descended. He coldly and menacingly stalked Breazeale down, dropping his exhausted foe, before finally stopping him in his tracks shortly after he rose from the knockdown.

It was almost like when he tasted the blood coming from his nose in the corner, he switched from the patient fighter who went in search of an opening to a predator who had finished toying with his food and was now hungry to enough to devour it.

I’ve never been his biggest fan and I’m still not fully on board the hype train surrounding him. I haven’t even seen any of his last three fights live, due to my hatred of paying for PPV and other family arrangements, but I have to say that I was genuinely impressed with his latest win.

Like many I want to see him in a real fight, which I don’t think he can shy away from for long. Promoter Eddie Hearn, as well as Sky Sports won’t want to hang around with him and will use their cash cow to secure some huge revenue for both.

Hearn claims he has had offers from all over the world to fight and I can believe it. He is one of boxing’s most marketable stars right now and is everything that Deontay Wilder should be in America. Imagine the figures Joshua would get if he fought on the BBC or ITV.

Joseph Parker from New Zealand could well be next, after his win over the durable Carlos Takam. According to the IBF they must fight by the end of next January and I think Joshua might as well get the mandatory out of the way before moving on to a bigger challenge. Not that the fight with Parker is a walk over.

Boxing in the UK is huge at the moment and a lot of that is down to Joshua. There are better overall fighters in the UK, but no one can resist the lure of a heavyweight from these shores doing well, in particular the casual fans who only watch the odd fight.

Joshua isn’t even the best heavyweight in the country, that honour is held by Tyson Fury who was forced to vacate the belt Joshua now holds, whilst you could also argue, on past performances, that David Haye would beat him.

But neither Fury or Haye have built up a fanbase that AJ has and can sell out venues like Joshua can. He is the biggest star we’ve had in the UK since Ricky Hatton called it a day. I don’t think he’ll come close to emulating Hatton’s Vegas Days, but you never know.

Let’s see how far the big man can go.

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