There has not been a heavyweight since Joe Louis more than 70 years ago so unmoved by success as Anthony Joshua, the calm new prince moving serenely into a jungle of fevered speculation.
And it is clear that no amount of provocation by the considerably louder Tyson Fury will bounce the quiet man from Watford into a world title unification fight before he is ready.
Far more likely than Joshua responding to a shout-out by the WBA and WBO champion to put his IBF belt on the line this year is the prospect of lower-profile defences against a couple of hand-picked IBF challengers at the O2 Arena, where two crunching right hands left the American Charles Martin helpless at his feet after a minute and 32 seconds of round two in front of 20,000 stunned but delighted fans on Saturday night.
“We’ll have to look at the top 15,” Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, said. “[Carlos] Takam’s fighting [Joshua] Parker. [Kubrat] Pulev’s fighting [Dereck] Chisora, so that’s four; [Alexander] Ustinov’s still in there, he’s fighting [Luis] Ortiz. AJ needs a week, 10 days, to rest. Then, if he’s ready and the trainer’s ready, I don’t see a reason not to get back to prepare for early July.”
Martin, a heavy hitter unbeaten in 24 fights, showed no ambition to beat the count, although he went through the ritual motions of bemused and unconvincing protest.
It has become a familiar scenario in all of Joshua’s contests and there is every prospect of it continuing. He has arrived at last, a world champion at 26, only nine years, one Olympic gold medal and 16 professional bouts after first putting on gloves to escape a life of potential crime on the streets of his hometown.
This surely was an occasion for the winner to savour after predictions by so many experts that this was a premature test of his undoubted skills.
However, while others danced, sang and staggered into the night, Joshua moved from the scene of his triumph to the quiet of his dressing room as if he had just gone to the shops to collect a pre‑ordered delivery of his favourite Nigerian pounded yam.
Would nothing stir him to ecstasy? “I dunno, man,” he said with a smile. “Probably going to heaven.” And the easy laughter flowed. The champ would not be going to church with his mother on Sunday morning, he admitted, because he now had mountainous media obligations, and they will only grow more onerous. As Joshua saw it: “You can’t let it get to your head when you win, and you can’t let it get to your heart when you fail. You’ve got to take it as it comes.”
Joshua joins Fury as Britain’s second world heavyweight champion – with a former title-holder, David Haye, lurking in the wings to return to the highest level at 35 – in a division as fractured as ever and as predictably ripe for exploitation. The anticipated Fury storm on Twitter began within moments of Joshua’s victory at his favourite venue. He was “slow and ponderous”, said the Mancunian, in stark contradiction of the evidence.
“He needs to represent himself like a champion,” Joshua said. “He talks like a kid. He should be happy I won – it brings some limelight back to the heavyweight division. Why hate on someone who’s just trying to get somewhere in life? Once he gets [Wladimir] Klitschko out of the way, me and him can get back to talking.”
Hearn, meanwhile, enlivened the post-fight celebrations by declaring he has booked Wembley Stadium on 9 July for his fighter’s first defence – against someone who is not King Kong – but must realise such a proposal is a commercial nonsense. It would not only clash with Fury’s announced rematch with Klitschko in Manchester that night, it would bulge to bursting point a weekend sports schedule featuring the Euro 2016 final (which may yet include England), the Wimbledon final, which may involve Andy Murray, and the British Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton prominent on the grid.
“Boxing is not a popularity contest,” Joshua added. “It is about talent. But just be yourself. That’s what I’ve been from day one and the people seem to take to it, so I don’t see myself changing into any role. It’s great to be champ and it’s great to be who I am as well.” But he never forgets the essence of his day job: “I’m here to knock people out and give people value for money. People come to see blood. When I fight, people want to see blood. I have no problem drawing blood from people. I have a good time. I enjoy it.”
So does Hearn. So do the TV executives, in the UK and in the United States. “Wembley Stadium, that was our plan but, again, it might not make sense. That’s why Sky turned down the Fury-Klitschko fight.
“Barney Francis [Sky Sports managing director] wouldn’t make a decision until after this fight and they see AJ as the future. Barney is keen, judging by his reaction. Showtime and HBO texted me within 2.3 seconds and said: ‘Let’s talk.’ It’s about time we cracked the American market.
“This was his first time on Showtime. We thank them for their support. They’ll get first crack because they were the ones who put their hands in their pockets.
“All the money’s in the UK – but we’d like some more, so we’ll go and get some from our friends in America as well, for joining the party and for looking at AJ long-term. It’s up to AJ if he wants to fight in America.
“There’s appeal to that, but it’s got to make financial sense as well. I think the plan would be to turn AJ into a pay-per-view fighter in America as well. To do that we have to build him on a [free-to-air] network, and that might involve him fighting in America.”
On the clamour for fights with Fury and Haye, Joshua turned to history. “You rewind: Foreman, Ali, Frazier fought; Tyson, Holyfield, Lennox fought; me, Fury, Haye ... it’s the era that we’re in. We couldn’t go through this whole era without fighting. We’ll get it on when the time’s right and everyone comes together and sits down properly. It’s bound to happen.”
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