British boxing has never had it so good. Right now, we have two heavyweights at the very top of their game and the world can’t wait to see them face off in the ring. Tyson Fury wowed in Las Vegas on Saturday night as he put on a masterful display to slay Deontay Wilder, while Anthony Joshua is back to his best after avenging his shock defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr. last year.
The widely-recognised pool of the world’s three greatest heavyweights became two at the weekend as the big-hitting Wilder was handed a lesson by the Gypsy King, and Fury v Joshua is now the fight everyone wants to see.
This could prove tricky, with mandatory challengers lined up, but the powers that be will be keen to give the people what they want. But even if Oleksandr Usyk, Dillian Whyte and Kubrat Pulev could all yet stand in the way of a Fury-Joshua match-up, there is no doubting British boxing is at its peak right now.
For many, Fury’s stunning display of authority in the ring was one of the best nights in the nation’s boxing history. And it helps that he is impossible to ignore too, as he showed by singing American Pie after his win, passing around the mic like it was a sing-song down the local.
Joshua is another affable character who people can relate to, catching the eye of even the fairweather boxing fan and taking the sport mainstream. Never before have so many obsessives and occasional viewers alike woken up at early hours to watch these fights. They are blockbuster Brits flying the flag, enjoying the success their talent brings.
Already Wembley, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Old Trafford, home of Fury’s beloved Manchester United, have been suggested as potential venues should the pair go toe-to-toe in what would be a truly British spectacle. But a money-spinner in Saudi Arabia or the United States has also been mooted, while Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, saying any venue in the world would be considered.
"You've got two teams and all the options are put into the middle," Hearn told Sky Sports News. "You have to think Tyson Fury has boxed his last four fights in America. There's a reason for that, there's more money in America than there is in the UK.
"Anthony Joshua has boxed his last two fights out of the country. One in Madison Square Garden, one in Saudi Arabia. Now he wants to come home. It would be an absolute honour and a dream to promote Tyson Fury against Anthony Joshua in the UK. Everything in the common-sense world tells you that's where it should be.
"We also know in a common-sense world that all these offers are going to come around from all over the world to stage this fight. I can't lie to you and tell you they'll be ignored, because they won't be. But I do believe if you ask AJ and Fury, hand on heart, where do you want this fight? They would say the UK and the same with me.”
Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan were among the forerunners in this current boom of British boxing, bringing legions of new followers to the sport. And beyond Fury and Joshua, the likes of London hopeful Daniel Dubois and Olympics machine Joe Joyce, who will face off in April, are also being backed for big things.
So, has this British domination occurred through chance or is there more to it? Team GB’s Paul Walmsley, Anthony Joshua’s Olympics coach, thinks so.
“First of all, I don’t think that it’s any coincidence that British boxing has found another level of success since lottery funding was introduced to amateur boxing,” he told The Sportsman. “For this, Audley Harrison and Amir Khan deserve a lot of credit. Their medals secured the funding that allowed the boxers that came after them the chance to dedicate themselves 100 per cent to boxing.
“The amateur set-up in this country became, to all intents and purposes, professional from then on. So it’s not surprising that, with the exception of probably only Kell Brook and Josh Warrington, all of British boxing’s world champions of recent years have passed through our bases at Crystal Palace and Sheffield - Joshua and Fury included.
“I think the promoters also deserve a lot of credit in how British boxing is punching above its weight in terms of the size of the country. If you look at Eddie Hearn, he has pulled the sport into almost the mainstream. The man on the street is interested in boxing again.
“Of course, you need the fighters to be able to stage these massive events, and that’s where I think the come-up of the amateur game has married perfectly with the growing commercial strength of the professionals. It’s a perfect storm, really.”
Danny Flexen, content director of the Seconds Out Live Youtube channel, agrees.
“I think it may all stem back to the enhanced investment in the amateur code, including lottery funding and the increased success and exposure garnered by the beneficiaries. Even for those who do not pass through the GB amateur programme, it helped place boxing toward the forefront of UK sport and made a lucrative career in that field seem viable.”
The successes of British boxing in general, and Fury and Joshua in particular, make this an exciting time for fans. And if the two greatest icons of the modern era were to get in the ring together, as seems destined to be the case sooner or later, it could be one of the greatest events in the country’s sporting history.