Britain’s heavyweight IBF world champion Anthony Joshua is classy enough to go on and become undisputed champion, former king of the ring Lennox Lewis told the Press Association on Tuesday.
Lewis should know as he is the last pugilist to have simultaneously held the WBC, WBA and IBF belts before he retired from the ring in 2004 — the Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, subsequently dominated but neither were ever undisputed champion.
Joshua, though, like Lewis entered the professional ranks with the significant cachet of Olympic champion and unlike some, such as Audley Harrison, seamlessly transferred his talent onto that stage and has 17 knockouts in as many bouts.
“It is very possible for him (to become undisputed champion),” said Lewis of Joshua, who in his first title defence last month knocked out Dominic Breazeale.
“He is in the position to do it, he has not been rushed, and he has had 17 fights with 17 knock-outs,” added the England-born Lewis, who won his Olympic title for Canada before reverting back to being British for his professional career.
Lewis, who defeated Evander Holyfield to become undisputed champion in 1999, said Joshua looked the part.
“Joshua has come along at the right time, he plays the part and looks the part,” said Lewis, who last month had the honour of being a pallbearer at the greatest undisputed heavyweight champion of the world Muhammad Ali’s funeral.
“I am happy to see that he is winning, and he is in a position where he can change and create history.
“He has created history because he is a world champion. Audley Harrison was an Olympic champion but he did not become a world champion.
“He (Joshua) overcame that, he has got it off of his back, and the next thing he wants to get is all of the belts.”
Joshua, who has a November deadline to defend his crown against New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, would have to arrange title bouts with WBC holder American Deontay Wilder and controversial fellow Briton Tyson Fury, who has the WBA title although he faces a rematch with the man he took it off last November Wladimir Klitschko.
Lewis admits Joshua has yet to be tested and therein could lie the answer to whether he can go on and achieve what the former champion believes is possible.
“Obviously, there are going to be guys who come along that Joshua can’t knock out,” said Lewis.
“And there are still a lot of unanswered questions, such as does he have the stamina, and can he take it on the chin?
“But we are waiting and we are watching his progression. It is good to have a buzz about him because he is the Olympic champion.
“That is a gold ticket into the pros, and now everyone wants to be on the wave that is flowing, and that wave is Anthony Joshua. We are going to have to wait and see where that wave ends up.”
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