Anthony Joshua is contemplating a winter bout and while he’ll end up with little say over the identity his opponent should Wladimir Klitschko demand a rematch, the heavyweight sensation and his team are looking at a wide range of potential venues.
Whether it’s Klitschko or IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev, stadium schedules, a loyal British following, climates, promotional practicalities and untapped markets combine to present a lengthy list of other factors to consider. The locations leading the discussions present variety as a result.
So having wowed Wembley, Joshua is nearing the rolling of the dice in a lucrative campaign for world domination. Where will he land next? We’ve assessed some of the options…
The pros: Being at the forefront of the development of boxing in China would be a colossal coup for Joshua. The sport was banned there through the 1950s and 1960s but is well and truly on the rise these days. The first time China sent a boxing team to the Olympics was as recently as 1992. Twelve years later, Zou Shiming claimed their first Olympic medal in the sport and followed it up with gold in the 2005 World Amateur Championships on home soil. In November 2012, Chao Zhong Xiong further compounded Chinese interest in the sport by snatching their first world professional title — the WBC minimumweight crown.
The cons: China’s strength as a location can also be perceived as its weakness. While there is hysteria surrounding the careers of its own fighters such as Shiming, comparable enthusiasm for Joshua is not guaranteed. There is no doubt the sport has grown exponentially since the ban on it was lifted but it is some way off being a boxing hotbed of any kind. There are other more obvious stumbling blocks such as the language barrier hampering promotion.
The local hero: Zou Shiming. After a glittering amateur career, Shiming turned professional at the relatively late age of 32. He fought his first seven paid bouts in Macau — including a world title points defeat to Amnat Ruenroeng — and then stopped Natan Santana Coutinho in front of an adoring Shanghai crowd. His most recent fight saw him crowned WBO world flyweight champion with a points victory over Prasitsak Phaprom.
The pros: It seems to be the ‘nearly’ venue of the last few years. Tyson Fury mentioned the possibility of his doomed rematch with Wladimir Klitschko taking place on a boat in Dubai in front of a handful of viewers and Amir Khan is also keen to capitalise on the untapped market. Manny Pacquiao spent much of the last six months insisting his next bout would take place there. Put bluntly, Dubai is an attractive proposition to boxers because of the huge amount of money on offer and Joshua could well be the man to open the floodgates.
The cons: The fact that — despite reams of talk — no high-profile boxing bout has taken place in Dubai is a concern. Fury vs. Klitschko II didn’t happen [and the notion of it taking place on a boat had been dismissed regardless] and Pacquiao has shelved plans to box there in favour of defending his belt in the backyard of his mandatory opponent, Jeff Horn. Much like China, there are significant hurdles of language and culture to be navigated, even if the language of punching each other in the face is fundamentally international.
The local hero: Vacant. The United Arab Emirates have been competing at the Olympics since 1984 and have managed just two medals since — in shooting and judo. The career of their first pro boxer, Eisa Al Dah was short-lived (he last fought in 2012 to take his record to 8-2-KO4). With so many expatriates populating Dubai, at this stage the rise of boxing as a sport is likely to be spearheaded by a foreigner. As so many residents are of British origin, Joshua would fit the bill perfectly.
The pros: Some already see him as the face of the sport globally but if Joshua is going to rule in the U.S as well as the UK, he’ll need a coronation of some description. With its history of hosting the sport’s marquee events, Vegas would be the obvious place to announce himself. Glitz, glamour, celebrities and the prestige of showcasing himself in the world’s premier boxing city lend it unique allure and it’s pretty inevitable Joshua will fight there at some stage.
The cons: There are very few but it’s simply not the be-all and end-all these days. U.S Boxing is going through a period of transition. Of course, they still boast some top-level world champions such as Terence Crawford, Andre Ward and Mikey Garcia but much of the power has shifted to Joshua’s side of the Atlantic. Interestingly, Wladimir Klitschko ruled the heavyweight division for 11 years without fighting in Vegas since 2004.
The local hero: Floyd Mayweather Jr. Mr Vegas. Mr ‘Money’… Mayweather epitomises the flashy lifestyle associated with the place. He may be from Michigan rather than Nevada, but the undefeated legend has made the city his home — the last 14 bouts of his extraordinary career took place there. He beat the likes of Ricky Hatton, Canelo Alvarez and Pacquiao and has been the flag-bearer for Vegas boxing.
The pros: Its closeness to home is the obvious advantage. Joshua could rely on his British fan base turning up in their droves. It wouldn’t be the most imaginative but the old ‘if it ain’t broke…’ mantra is easily applied. Joshua won the Olympic gold in the colours of Great Britain and fought in both Scotland and Wales in the early stages of his professional career. His victory over Dorian Darch took place at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena. This time, he’ll need a stadium.
The cons: The Principality Stadium [formerly the Millennium Stadium] has been pencilled in should Joshua stay on his island. The British winter doesn’t normally lend itself to outdoor events but the roof can be closed. There are no real cons — Joe Calzaghe beat Mikkel Kessler there in 2007 and we’ve seen from countless rugby games that the place can certainly produce an atmosphere. The only question remaining is if it’s time to explore exposure on less familiar turf.
The local hero: Lee Selby. The IBF world featherweight champion hasn’t earned the fights his skill merits as yet but he’s now scheduled to face mandatory challenger Scott Quigg. If Joshua is looking for some support acts, ‘The Welsh Mayweather’ is a good starting point as he’s from just down the road in Barry. The two shared a bill the night Joshua stopped Darch in Cardiff — Selby halted Rendall Munroe for the British and Commonwealth crowns.