What’s in a name?
British boxing is currently enjoying international recognition, thriving both at home and away. Big wins overseas in recent years for fighters such as; Kell Brook, Carl Frampton and Tyson Fury. Massive triumphs on home soil for Anthony Joshua, George Groves and Lee Selby. Throw in James DeGale, Ryan Burnett, Billy-Joe Saunders, Kal Yafai, Callum Smith and Chris Eubank Jr. It’s a hell of a melting pot!
As we bask in our own success, it’s important to look ahead at the future of the sport and some of its guardians here on British shores. In doing so, I stumbled across a similarity. The name ‘Josh’. The start, middle and end of the discussion… Josh. The honorable mentions? Josh. It’s everywhere!
Key to boxing maintaining and building upon its recent popularity is a strong, dominant figure who can fight for the next five years or so at the very pinnacle of the sport.
There isn’t a billboard in town that isn’t emblazoned with the big man’s face. Lynx, Under Armour, Lucozade, Westfield Shopping Centre. He is on walls, buildings and creeps by you on the side of buses! AJ is as big as it gets right now.
Recently turned 28 years old, it is entirely possible Joshua will remain at the peak of his powers for the next five years. He is extremely athletic, fit and has never been beaten up badly in a contest to date. Wladimir Klitschko caught him with some big shots, including the knockdown, but Joshua for the most part was unscathed. This clean, clinical, professional war-path will add years onto the career of the Londoner. Many more billboards to come!
The danger Joshua will have, battling only in super-fights, is winning consecutively. Beating Carlos Takam this weekend should cause him little stress but after those mandatories have been fulfilled, the big fights loom near. A dangerous fight with Deontay Wilder and a purist-meets-casual’s dream bout against Tyson Fury will truly test him. Come through those, he will have his body projected on the Houses of Parliament like Gail Porter! But lose one of them… questions of his reign at the top and overall longevity will be fielded.
Following a breakout stoppage win against Ohara Davies, Edinburgh’s Josh Taylor truly announced himself to the British public. The fight had plenty of needle, was shown on terrestrial television and didn’t disappoint in terms of excitement.
The first Scottish lightweight to compete on a GB Olympic squad since Dick McTaggart, Taylor has demonstrated immense talent. His savage body punching has caught the attention of audiences and with Cyclone Promotions losing their other jewels-in-the-crown, he looks set to launch an assault on World titles. This all kicks off again in Edinburgh when Josh faces Miguel Vasquez on November 11th. An exciting, tricky test on a path to potential championships.
Josh Taylor could be the best in his weight division already, as far as domestic competition. He has highlight reel knockouts, a win over a big stable fighter and the passion of a nation behind him. I spoke to him two weeks ago and he told me he hoped to become a two ‘maybe even three!’ weight World champion. The pedigree is unquestionable. I truly believe Taylor will dominate for a long time to come with big unification bouts seeming inevitable.
Time for me to hold my hands up… Of the Olympians turning over following Rio 2016, Josh Kelly was one I’d been indifferent about. Oh how I’ve changed my mind!
The first thing we do when high level amateurs turn professional is typically British. We bemoan their opposition. We complain about how they are lacking power. Let’s be very clear; Josh Kelly could be a superstar. He could single-handedly transform boxing in the North-East. I was there when he stopped Tom Whitfield in Newcastle and had the assistance of a steward when shutting my gaping jaw. He is fantastic.
His head movement and reflexes are absolutely tremendous. Only four fights deep, he fights with a respectful swagger. He never mocks his opponent, but has seemingly found comfort in showcasing his superiority. He plays matador to the bull, skipping in and out of range, pivoting and switching stance. His movement truly is exceptional. For a newcomer. Of course we have to wait for tougher tests in order to fully judge Kelly and his potential. But, at this point, he could easily carry the mantle in years to come. He has the style of an American PPV fighter and the good looks to match!
With Anthony Joshua now involved in some of the highest grossing fights in boxing, Josh Taylor tip-toeing on the edge of the elite and Josh Kelly turning heads at every outing with viral clips to boot… The sport seems to be in safe hands.
It may only be a name they have in common. Other than their obvious choice of profession and their nationality. But the trio represent the present/future/further future of British boxing. They could solidify their dominance and ensure a spine of British World champions for years to come.
Special mentions; Joshua Buatsi, Josh Warrington…
Written by Craig Scott