CARDIFF — These pre-fight public weigh-ins are curious things. The folk in the front row of the Motorpoint Arena had queued for two hours to catch a glimpse of Anthony Joshua standing on a set of scales.
With Joshua there was never going to be a flashpoint, or barbs being thrown in his opponent’s direction like we saw in the run up to Floyd Mayweather’s bout with Conor McGregor; instead the audience was a group of Joshua supporters who had come along to catch a glimpse of their hero, hoping to get a wave, or a picture with some of the boxing champions of future and past walking around in front of the stage.
Imagine transplanting public weigh-ins to other sports. Getting the Wales rugby team’s pack to each stand on a scales to see how they fare against their opponents, or each horse being weighed with jockey before the Grand National. They would draw a crowd, but with boxing it’s a compulsory event, but still as much part of the tapestry and pomp and circumstance as the walk on.
Katie Taylor’s opponent Anahi Sanchez has two hours to lose one pound after coming in over the weight for their title fight. Taylor is staying introspective, but is reluctant to give a prediction for tomorrow’s fight other than saying she’s hopeful of being victorious.
What makes these weigh-ins a little curious to the outsider is the basic nature of it; the undercard parading up on stage, turning to face one another, shake hands and then traipse off, as everyone waits for the main draw to walk round the side of the backdrop advertising Saturday night’s fight.
It started with Saidou Sall, then progressed through the undercard with Kal Yafai getting plenty of support. His team, standing below the stage bellowed ‘And still…!’ pre-empting those victory-affirming words on Saturday evening as they hope he retains his WBA super-flyweight title.
Then came Dillian Whyte. Those with higher profile are interviewed after hitting the requisite weight, giving a little bit of insight to the packed crowd. “You’re never ready”, Whyte said, before bellowing ‘PAIN!’ when asked what his prediction was for his fight against Robert Helenius.
The Motorpoint Arena is absolutely packed with Anthony Joshua fans. We are currently heading through the undercard for Saturday’s World Heavyweight Championship.
Next up was Katie Taylor. Irish tricolour flags were in the crowd; the roar of approval for anything and everything she did drew a smile. Even when her opponent Anahi Sanchez — who paused longer than others before stepping on to the scales, waiting for them to settle on zero — was one pound over the fighting weight, Taylor’s focus was unwavering, answering each question with all the experience a career including an Olympic gold medal gives you.
Sanchez had two hours to lose that pound, and then at 16.51 came the press release saying Sanchez had failed to make the weight, meaning only Taylor can win the WBA World Lightweight title on Saturday evening. Sanchez had ploughed straight into the last customary, required hurdle.
So why is Anthony Joshua so popular? We spoke to some fans at the weigh in. First up dad Daniel and five-year old son Iestyn who queued up for two hours to get front-row seats for their hero.
Opportunities to see sporting superstars in the flesh are few and far between; that’s what brought some 3,500 souls to see Joshua for 10 or so minutes. He said he was surprised by the welcome, but such has been his appeal this week, he would have known it would be a packed crowd.
The subject of Joshua’s weight has been a hot topic this week, with many predicting him to come in 8lbs under the total he posted ahead of his last fight against Wladimir Klitschko. Instead, he tipped the scales at 18st 2lbs, his heaviest professional weight. Carlos Takam was at 16st 11lbs, his lightest weight since 2006. With that comes analysis, talking points.
So what brought all those supporters to Friday’s weigh-in? Well it is an experience, a feeling that you are part of the whole process. In the build up to a fight you go through the stages: the public workout, the press conference and then the weigh-in, almost acting like a dress rehearsal, but with Joshua there is no anger, violence or flashpoint. Just a man smiling at his supporters, picking out folk to wave to and meaning those who came along leave with pictures, even though in most cases from afar, of their hero.