Anthony Joshua is the biggest star in boxing. Every time you see him, whether it's in the ring or with the media, he oozes charisma. His enthusiasm rubs off on fans.
Not all athletes have those qualities, but there's more to Joshua than just that. So what exactly makes Joshua more unique than anybody else?
"He has that 'It' factor," Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi told Sporting News. "He has a presence about him. Everybody is always trying to find the 'It' factor in athletes and people on TV. But, I don’t think you can really describe it. I don’t think there’s something in particular that creates it. It’s just something somebody has and Joshua has it. …
"He reminds me of Derek Jeter. He always has the right answer in dealing with the media. No matter what you ask him, he makes it flow and smooth. He’s well-spoken. But inside the ring, he’s a fighter that just wins championships."
Boxing has had its fair share of stars, but in terms of transcendent superstars, you can count them on one finger: that one is Muhammad Ali. He helped change the sport by selling out arenas around the world but also became one of the loudest voices during a societal, social and cultural shift in the '60s and '70s.
Joshua hasn't reached that stage of his career just yet, but it could be in the cards.
"He is still building here in the U.S," Espinoza said. "Because U.S. fans, we’re a little parochial. We like to see and touch and experience our athletes in person. David Beckham wasn't a huge megastar until he came here and played in MLS. He certainly had a fan base before that but that’s what took him to the next level is actually interacting here in the U.S.
"In Anthony, whose still relatively young in his career, hasn't done that yet. I think that’s the missing piece. To come over to the U.S., do a fight in New York City, do a fight in Vegas and see what the reaction is."
The one knock against Joshua is that he has yet to fight in the United States: all 20 of his pro fights took place in the U.K. Some boxing pundits say that foreign fighters can't become worldwide superstars until they fight in the U.S. The theory was tested true for fellow Englishman and former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.
In the past, Joshua and his team hadn't considered fighting in the U.S. considering how strong the market is in the United Kingdom. That tune recently changed and the unified heavyweight champion realized he may need to come to America to show the fans how special he really is.
"The U.S. market is somewhere that we have to probably place more and closer attention too," Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn told to SN. "He is the world heavyweight champion not the British heavyweight champion. It’s important for us build his profile around the world. He needs to become a bigger star in America."
While Joshua's star is still on the rise and he's proving to be a one-of-a-kind talent, there's one comparison that some fans might make.
"It’s almost sacrilegious to say this, but the obvious comparison you start to make is Muhammad Ali," Executive vice-president of Showtime Sports Stephen Espinoza told SN. "I’m not making the comparison yet — you really can’t at this stage of his career.
"But when you start to think about the kind of athletes that were able to draw that kind of following with that kind of charisma and magnetic personality, it’s a very short list. And in boxing, with that kind of worldwide appeal, it probably goes back to Ali to do that. I think he’s got the potential in terms of personality and charisma to be something very special."
Steven Muehlhausen is an MMA and boxing writer and contributor for Sporting News. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and can find him on Twitter @SMuehlhausenMMA.