On Saturday, March 31, hundreds of thousands of boxing lovers and enthusiasts stayed up late to catch the world heavyweight boxing unification contest between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker. The fight took place at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales but it reverberated across the world as two of the sport’s unbeaten fighters clashed in a winner-takes-all with four belts on the table.
Joshua put his three titles – the International Boxing Federation (IBF), the World Boxing Association (WBA) (Super) and International Boxing Organisation (IBO) – on the line while New Zealander Parker staked his World Boxing Organisation (WBO) belt. It was the biggest heavyweight fight in terms of titles on offer for a long while since the division lost its lustre in the days after Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. With the coming on board of the Klitschko brothers and loss of the titles by the dominant US-UK fighters to Eastern Europe, interest in the division fell across the West and in many parts of the world.
The smaller weight category became more interesting and is attested to by the global fame and money that followed Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao among others. Mayweather’s earnings dwarfed all of the heavyweights as he maintained a streak of victories throughout his career and underlined his crossover appeal by making a big money final splash in fighting the MMA’s Conor McGregor last year.
All this time, the heavyweights struggled to make a global impact with David Haye and Tyson Fury failing to live up to expectations until the arrival of Joshua on the scene. Born of Nigerian parents in the United Kingdom, Joshua has become the most exciting heavyweight fighter since Mike Tyson and his good looks have been compared to Muhammad Ali. As he has won in the ring, so has his following grown outside of it. I calculated that he earned more than 220,000 new followers on Twitter in April 2017 after he defeated Wladimir Klitschko at the Wembley Stadium, London. On social media he is widely followed even though he still falls far behind Mayweather, he towers above the other heavyweights.
And he has added to that top brand sponsorships like Beats by Dre, Under Armour, JD Sports, Sky Sports, Apple, Range Rover, and Bulk Powders, to become a marketing sensation. While the other heavyweights struggle to earn seven figures, he is easily bagging eight digits and has his sights set on becoming the first billionaire boxer.