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Anthony Joshua: The Lone Survivor’s Revenge Hunt Pt.2

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Anthony Joshua: The Lone Survivor’s Revenge Hunt Pt.2
Photo Credit: Mark Robinson

The Lone Survivor's Revenge Part I can be read by clicking HERE.

The quality of the domestic cards has also been poor this year on DAZN, but again, this has mainly been emblematic of UK boxing this year as a whole. And perhaps the most cardinal sin committed– PPV. The whole premise of DAZN was to provide boxing under one fee without needing PPV. PPV is dead was the key selling point by the upper execs at DAZN. Yet the rumors started with a flame after a rather innocuous survey was sent to subscribers enquiring if we'd pay an additional fee for premium events, with Whyte v Andy Ruiz as the cited example. That flame has now manifested into the reality of a house fire as DAZN PPV launches in the UK with Youtubers KSI vs. Swarmz followed by Canelo vs. Golovkin III. Earlier this year, DAZN VP Joe Markowski emphatically answered “no” when asked whether Canelo vs. Golovkin III would be on PPV. Rewind back to even earlier, and in a 2017 interview with IFL TV, Eddie Hearn commented:

Photo Credit: Michelle Farsi for Matchroom/MSG

“Golovkin against Canelo does not do as many buys as people think it does as a standalone at 4 in the morning. The view of the person watching this may be a little distorted because they can't see, I've seen the numbers from Ward vs. Kovalev, and you didn't have to pay for, you know what I mean? So, if that's the audience for that on Sky, if that was on a subscription channel, i.e., a boxing subscription channel, fucking hell. So how many buys does Canelo – Golovkin do? In my opinion, between 100-150,000 buys at 4:30 in the morning.”

So with these statements of brazen contradiction, how can they justify putting this particular fight as a PPV offering at 5 in the morning and, by extension, hope to build confidence, reliability, and trust with the British public during DAZN's relative infancy? It's easy to say, “well, don't pay for it if you don't want to watch it,” but then that begs the question – domestically, what exactly are subscribers paying for right now? Is British boxing in an era as strong as it was between 2010 and 2018, to be able to justify charging £7.99 monthly for DAZN, a minimum of £20 for PPV, or even a subscription fee for Sky and BT?

Was it also mentioned that DAZN signed AJ to a long-term fight deal – yet his rematch with Usyk is on Sky? Yes, you read that correctly. AJ's most difficult puzzle will be on Sky PPV, yet he has, after this, enacted a long-term deal with DAZN. How does that make any sense? If Joshua loses, are they really expecting Joshua vs. Whyte III, Joshua vs. Chisora, or Joshua vs. Dubois, for example, to entice new viewers to purchase these on DAZN PPV?

Game changed? Not quite yet. Times changed? Certainly. Yet with the changing of names and television output, Joshua's presence remains. He is emblematic of both the then and now. It was Sky Sports then; now it's DAZN. Undefeated golden boy with the world in his hands then. The grizzled soul is facing a turning point in his career now. What also remains is, as previously mentioned, an overreliance on Joshua as a PPV star as there is nobody in place to step in when the time comes. To many of the powerbrokers in this country, Joshua must win to keep the machine chugging along a bit longer, and it's simply because the Joshua business is different from any other business.

The threat of another defeat is absolutely not out of the realm of possibility, and that is simply because Oleksandr Usyk is that damn good. He's done it before, and there exists enough evidence to suggest he's capable of hitting a double. This is Usyk we're talking about. Easily a top 3 P4P fighter in the world today if you're including heavyweights on your list. Olympic gold medallist. Still undefeated. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion. Wins over Hunter in America. Huck in Germany. Glowacki in Poland. Breidis in Latvia. Gassiev in Russia. Bellew in England. Joshua in England. This is a guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer and a modern all-time great. And if he needed any more motivation, no doubt he'll channel the inner resolve of his countrymen as his homeland Ukraine is currently the subject of an invasion by Russia. Never underestimate the indomitable spirit of a man backed by his entire country as their beacon of hope and happiness in precarious times.

As monumental as the challenge that awaits him, Joshua might find some inspiration in an unlikely source who survived almost similar circumstances. If he is Matchroom Boxing's king, then Bray's Katie Taylor is their queen. Signed by Hearn as his first female fighter following her Olympic success, she has been the centerpiece of women's boxing in the United Kingdom for nearly half a decade. Her superiority has shown no limits, yet as she approaches her end, the impending rise of a new era threatens her throne.

Taylor, too, found herself in both a legacy-defining and crossroads bout this past April and in a historical fight of the year candidate, turned back the challenge from Amanda Serrano and extended her career by another fight. For Matchroom, what Joshua vs. Klitschko was for the men, Taylor vs. Serrano was for the women. A staggering gate at MSG of $1.4 million. 1.5 million streams by DAZN globally. Record paydays for both women. Even the BBC snapped up highlights rights from DAZN to show after on their platforms which is almost unheard of. A truly era-defining battle for women's boxing.

Katie Taylor proved to the world that she isn't quite done yet, and now the onus is on Joshua to prove the same. A revenge victory against perhaps his most challenging foe yet will reinstate Joshua back on the throne and back on course for a potentially historical all British undisputed clash with opposite number Tyson Fury*. A third career loss in his past five starts will likely terminate any title aspirations for the time being, but the consequences may be far-reaching than we'd like to admit. Joshua distancing himself from the world-level scene seems unthinkable. Yet, a defeat may bookend the end of a truly indelible era not just for Joshua but for that time period of British boxing in which he grew and became a star.

Ten years ago, Joshua's hand was lifted as he was crowned Olympic gold medallist. It was the start of something special. Ten years later, it is more than just belts, more than belts, more than just revenge, more than the unimaginable pressure his shoulders must be mounting, and more than just correcting the questionable decisions by execs and the neglect of available British boxing – it is about how the golden survivor of the 2010 to 2018 years, and that time frame as a whole, will be defined and ultimately, remembered.

Can Joshua once again become the unified heavyweight champion? Photo Credit: Mark Robinson.

While attractive matchups remain even in defeat, it's inevitable Joshua's stardom, and popularity will diminish. With no immediate PPV box office ready to step in and lead, Joshua's falling would be a hammer blow to boxing and its popularity in the UK. The British boxing scene would undoubtedly be poorer without Joshua. Perhaps, only then will we collectively assess and realize how empty the void is as the next superstar, ready to step in and take the crown, is nowhere to be found yet.

Before that inquest follows, another chapter awaits. Whether the ink pens a happy or sad ending, tune in.

* Author's note – this article was completed formally on Sunday, August 14, pending proofreading. While Tyson Fury did announce his retirement this past weekend just before this was submitted, the author remains wholly unconvinced for this to be genuine. Vacating the Ring Magazine doesn't indicate anything as the strap is now on the line for Saturday's clash between Usyk and Joshua. When Fury vacates the WBC title, then it can be accepted his retirement is genuine. Until then, he's still a reigning titlist in the sport and an active competitor and treated as such.