Anthony Joshua’s thrilling 11th-round win over Wladimir Klitschko has boosted the profile of boxing in the UK and two British world champions hope to benefit from it this month.
IBF-WBA world heavyweight champion Joshua’s breathtaking bout with Klitschko was watched by a 90,000 crowd — the biggest for a boxing event in Britain since the Second World War — at Wembley Stadium and a record UK pay-per-view television audience.
Joshua made a reported £15 million [$19.4m] from the fight and can expect to triple his money if Ukrainian Klitschko agrees to meet him in a rematch later this year.
The next world title fight staged at an outdoor venue in the UK sees Kell Brook make a fourth defence of his IBF world welterweight title against unbeaten American Errol Spence at Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United, on May 27.
Brook, 31, remembers first meeting Joshua, 27, as an anonymous amateur before his Olympic gold success in 2012 but now says AJ is an inspiration for all British boxers.
“It’s inspiring what AJ has done and I was remembering the other day how I first saw him at Bethnal Green before the Olympics and he was a nobody back then — people were walking past him,” Brook told ESPN.
“I told him Eddie Hearn was the best promoter to be with and to carry on doing what he was doing and Eddie would give him the platform to make a name for himself.
“He was an amateur back then but I could see a twinkle in his eyes and he looked great.
“AJ is the Messiah of boxing and I would love to see him fight Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.”
Brook, who has not fought since stepping up two divisions to be stopped by leading middleweight Gennady Golovkin in September, hopes more people will be interested in boxing after Joshua’s heroics.
“What an amazing heavyweight fight, I’ve not seen anything like that from heavyweights” Brook said.
“They were bouncing on their feet like welterweights, they both hit the deck and got back up. AJ showed tons of heart and you saw the best of Klitschko too. They are both a credit to the sport.
“It was a breath of fresh air for the sport and has got everyone interested in boxing again.”
Joshua was down once and Klitschko three times before the thrilling 11th-round finish in what has been hailed one of the best heavyweight world title fights ever.
And Kal Yafai, who used to be a part of the Great Britain amateur boxing team with Joshua, says the heavyweight is not the only British fighter who will benefit from it.
Yafa makes a first defence of his WBA world super-flyweight title against Japan’s Suguru Muranaka at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham on Saturday and is good friends with Joshua.
“What Anthony did is making it better for people like myself or up and coming boxers and even people who have just taken up the sport,” Yafai told ESPN.
“His win is making boxing massive at the moment. The amount of people that tuned in last weekend or heard about it on the news. Everyone knows about boxing at the moment and kids want to take it up.
“I used to see Anthony all the time when we were amateurs and I still see him now and again. I had a missed call from him at 6.15 a.m. last Sunday — he was probably still up buzzing with adrenaline.
“I always knew he could be good but as an amateur he was still a raw novice before 2012. The way he has come on in is unbelievable. He’s like a sponge, he soaks everything up, and he asks anyone questions.”