Two high-profile lists. Two International Boxing Organization champions.
The best fighter in the world – according to the pound-for-pound rankings compiled by Ring Magazine – is IBO middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin.
The most marketable fighter (and athlete) in the world – according to the editors at SportsPro magazine – is IBO heavyweight title-holder, Anthony Joshua.
The lofty pinnacles are reached based on two things: performance and possibility. A dozen years into his pro career, Golovkin, now 36, is all about performance.
The Kazakhstan native was an IBO champion long before he hit the radar of Ring and other mainstream boxing media outlets, erasing Lajuan Simon in a single round to win the belt in December 2011.
He made his premium cable debut nine months later and evolved into a bona fide pay-per-view commodity, sharing the marquee and the ring for a September 2017 duel with Canelo Alvarez that sold more than 17,000 tickets, drew 1.3 million buys and generated a live gate that surpassed $27 million.
He defended for the 17th time with a two-round blitz of Vanes Martirosyan in May – leaving the challenger, who’d not been stopped in 40 fights, to say Golovkin was the hardest puncher he’d faced.
The latest line on a Hall of Fame resume comes next month in Las Vegas.
Golovkin’s rematch with Alvarez is among the most anticipated fights of the year, and the champion’s veteran trainer, Abel Sanchez, said a clear victory is the goal after the initial bout was scored a draw.
A win/draw will give Golovkin 18 defenses, equaling Wladimir Klitschko’s IBO record in any weight class.
“We won the first one and we feel if we do the same in the second one we’re going to win it, too,” Sanchez said. “But obviously we want to win it in more of a decisive manner and make sure that the judging is correct and make sure that we don’t leave it in the judges’ hands, but if we do the judging is correct.”
Meanwhile, speaking of anticipated fights, there’s Anthony Joshua. Perhaps no matchup in the entire sport is more eagerly awaited than the potential big-man duel between Joshua and WBC title claimant Deontay Wilder – largely thanks to Joshua’s quick ascension.
The 28-year-old was an Olympic gold medalist in 2012 and a participant in Ring’s fight of the year five years later, climbing off the floor to vanquish Klitschko before 90,000 fans at London’s Wembley Stadium in April 2017.
Photo: Lawrence Lustig / Matchroom Boxing
His gutty performance in the instant classic was lauded by many, including Bleacher Report.
“He’d risen to prominence with punching power but appeared exhausted and out of ideas when Klitschko had the nerve to get off the floor and start responding with shots of his own. Then, just as it looked like Joshua would follow the trail Mike Tyson ingloriously blazed against Buster Douglas, he found a reservoir of toughness reserved only for the special.”
A month later he was atop the SportsPro list, which included athletes from all sports and ranked them based on marketing potential over the next three years while including such factors as age, crossover appeal and willingness to be marketed.
Incidentally, three-time NBA champion Steph Curry was ranked second and UFC firebrand Conor McGregor was fourth. Joshua was the only boxer on the list, which included 20 Americans and five athletes each from the UK and Canada. Overall, 19 countries were represented across 22 sports.
Joshua also took a giant step toward the U.S. mainstream with his post-Klitschko appearance on “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” which airs on CBS.
On the show, which was filmed as part of the host’s three-day stay in London, Joshua appeared alongside actor Russell Brand and allowed Corden to wear the IBO strap that he earned with the Klitschko win. The title had been Klitschko’s from 2006 until his 2015 loss to Tyson Fury, but it was declared vacant when Fury was unable to defend due to injury and myriad personal problems.
The three men did a comedy bit in which Joshua allowed Brand and Corden to suggest songs for his upcoming pre-fight ring walks. Joshua stood next to the show’s house band and strode across the stage initially as the band played Brand’s suggestion – the theme song from “The Lion King – and repeated the routine for Corden’s chosen tune, Montell Jordan’s 1995 hit, “This is How We Do It.”
He’s defended twice since the coronation – defeating Carlos Takam and Joseph Parker in one-sided bouts before mammoth crowds at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales – and is set for a Wembley return to face former Klitschko victim and No. 2 IBO contender Alexander Povetkin on September 22.
Povetkin is 8-0 with six KOs since he fought Klitschko in 2013.
“For the past few years, we’ve all watched Anthony Joshua and asked whether he was too good to be true,” said SportsPro’s editor, Eoin Connolly.
“He was charismatic, photogenic, humble, devastatingly powerful, yet still untested at the highest level of a sport that has laid waste to many a young reputation. His contest with Wladimir Klitschko was a trial of his quality and his character and it was one he handled better than he or any of his team could have imagined.
“This is the genuine article, a credible world heavyweight boxing champion who can charm a mainstream audience in a way not seen for a generation. He’s proved this in the UK, and now has a chance to do it around the world in the years ahead. Fans are flocking to him, brands are flocking to him, and that only looks set to continue.”