By Keith Idec
By Saturday night, Anthony Joshua will have drawn nearly 170,000 fans to his last two fights combined.
That’s a staggering figure, particularly when you consider that before Joshua knocked out Wladimir Klitschko his fights took place at arenas in London and Manchester that hold roughly 20,000 fans for boxing.
Roughly 90,000 fans attended Joshua’s epic comeback victory over Klitschko at London’s Wembley Stadium on April 29. More than 75,000 are expected to pack Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Saturday night, when England’s Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) will make a mandatory defense of his IBF heavyweight title against Cameroon’s Carlos Takam (35-3-1, 27 KOs).
Eddie Hearn, whose company promotes Joshua, believes these two crowds mean Great Britain’s biggest boxing star can’t go back to fighting at arenas when he boxes in the United Kingdom.
“That shows the scale of AJ’s appeal,” Hearn told London’s Daily Mirror. “The O2 has been brilliant for us, our home. But AJ is too big now for a 20,000-seat arena.”
The 28-year-year-old Joshua fought five straight times at London’s O2 Arena from May 2015-June 2016, before beating American Eric Molina at Manchester Arena on December 10. Joshua’s next fight came against Ukraine’s Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs), who dropped Joshua in the sixth round before getting stopped in the 11th round of an instant classic.
“I know there are loads of kids out there who want to see me,” Joshua said. “We love the O2 in London, but if we go to an arena like that not so many of the youngsters will have the chance to be there.
“You limit it at a time when there are so many people hoping to watch a world heavyweight title fight. The big stadium gives them that chance. It’s good for boxing. The demand is there.”
The Joshua-Takam match will be televised via pay-per-view by Sky Sports Box Office in the United Kingdom (£19.95). Showtime will air Joshua-Takam live in the United States (5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.