Klitschko vs Joshua: Can Anthony be a star in the U.S?Written by Lee Cleveland
A native of Ukraine who made Germany his adopted home in the late 1990s, former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko is very popular in Europe and iconic in Germany.
However, despite his success as champion and fluency in English, respect and admiration from Americans has eluded him. In fact, it wasn't until his relationship drama with famed American actress Hayden Panettiere that Klitschko started getting a lot of mainstream buzz on sites such as TMZ and People.com.
(Image courtesy of SKY Sports)
Most Americans have probably heard of him and know he's a boxer but folks in the States simply have little or no interest.
Would a win in April over rising sensation Anthony Joshua propel Wladimir Klitschko onto the front page of mainstream American news?
... Probably not. Aside from hardcore fans, no one in the U.S. knows who Joshua is.
However, Stephen Espinoza, the head of Showtime Sports, thinks Joshua can be a hit Stateside.
"He's still a bit of an undiscovered quantity here in the US to the general population," Espinoza told Sky Sports.
"Boxing fans are certainly well aware of him. I think a mega fight like Joshua-Klitschko will go a long, long way toward building a fan base here in the US."
Does Espinoza have a reason to be optimistic? After all, Joshua's style is more crowd-pleasing than the often-tentative Klitschko's. Moreover, unlike Wlad, Joshua doesn't have a brother to compete and share the spotlight with.
Wladimir Klitschko vs Anthony Joshua
Date: Saturday, April 29, 2017
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Broadcast: SKY Sports (UK); Showtime in U.S.
Titles: WBA (Vacant), IBF
Champion: Joshua (IBF)
Former British boxer Lennox Lewis, whose style in the ring resembled Wlad's, is mainstream in the States and was moderately popular when he was fighting but he didn't enjoy nearly the same fame in the States as other American heavyweights in his era, such as Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and George Foreman.
"Success in the US market really is no different than most of the other markets," said Espinoza. "It starts with elite performance inside the ring."
A few popular foreign athletes who became mainstream stars in America
- Philippines: Manny Pacquiao, Boxing
- Panama: Roberto Duran, Boxing
- Australia: Greg Norman, Golf
- England: David Beckham, Soccer
- Brazil: Pele, Soccer
- Canada: Wayne Gretzky, NHL
- China: Yao Ming, NBA
- Cuba: Tony Perez, MLB
- Czechoslovakia: Martina Navratilova, Tennis
- Dominican Republic: Albert Pujols, MLB
- France: Tony Parker, NBA
- Germany: Steffi Graf, Tennis
- Germany: Dirk Nowitzki, NBA
- Russia: Ana Kournikova, Tennis
- Spain: Rafael Nadal, Tennis
Lee is Managing Editor of FightSaga.com, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.
A gym rat in the 1990s, Lee was trained by 1976 Olympic Silver Medalist Charles Mooney and several retired seasoned pros. He was also a sparring partner for former WBA Super Middleweight Champion Steve Little who upset Michael Nunn for the WBA Super Middleweight Title in '94.
Lee created FightSaga.com to honor and preserve boxing's rich heritage, chronicle the achievements of top fighters, celebrate the legacy of big fights and provide a fun, educational experience for fight fans.