Anthony Joshua poised to join elite with BBC SPOTY win
Joshua's position as odds-on favourite to win the prestigious award reflects boxing's enduring ability to capture the imagination of the British public.
The greatest year of Anthony Joshua’s career so far is likely to end with him receiving one of British sport’s most prestigious honours.
Joshua – who is in the boxing betting to fight Tyson Fury after defeating Carlos Takam – is the odds-on favourite to be named the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, a position he has occupied ever since he retired the great Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium in April.
That fight was the heavyweight division’s biggest and best for 15 years, with Joshua displaying courage, determination and talent – characteristics that are cherished by the British public, and usually in that order – to climb off the canvas and achieve an 11th-round stoppage.
If the 28-year-old does win SPOTY, which is voted for by the public and has been handed out annually since 1954, he would become just the fifth different boxer (and sixth overall) to do so.
Joshua’s chances of winning SPOTY are helped by the fact it is not an Olympic year – Olympians have won on 12 of the 16 occasions the award has been held in the same year as the Games – although his status as overwhelming favourite does reflect boxing’s enduring ability to capture the imagination of the British public.
If Joshua does triumph, it will take his sport alongside tennis, and only behind Formula One and athletics, as the most-awarded in SPOTY history.
That's an impressive total, given that the biggest fights are never on terrestrial television and almost always require a pay-per-view subscription.
Joshua’s epic victory over Klitschko also resonated in a way which those of his nearest contenders, Chris Froome and Lewis Hamilton, didn’t.
That probably has something to do with cycling and F1 events taking place almost exclusively overseas, whereas Joshua has made a concerted effort to be a face of British sport.
"AJ's popular appeal seems to have no bounds," says Betway’s Alan Alger. "And after a historic year in cementing his status at the best heavyweight in the world, it’s hard to look past the boxer for this year’s SPOTY.
"Lewis Hamilton may feel hard done by, having become the most successful Brit in F1 history with a fourth world title, but there’s little he can do when the AJ story is in full flow."
Boxing’s previous SPOTY winners
Boxing’s first SPOTY was Henry Cooper, who won the award in 1967 after winning all three of his fights that year, most notably against Jack Bodell at Molineux.
After claiming the British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight title belts, the Englishman became SPOTY’s first ever two-time winner in 1970.
Cooper remains one of only four people, alongside Andy Murray, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill, to receive the award more than once.
Barry McGuigan was boxing’s next SPOTY in 1985, after winning his first world title against Eusebio Pedrosa on points in front of 27,000 fans at Loftus Road.
Born in the Republic of Ireland, McGuigan was the first ever winner to be born outside the UK.
Next up was Lennox Lewis, who won the award in 1999, a month after he defeated Evander Holyfield on points in Paradise, Nevada, to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
Joe Calzaghe triumphed in 2007, becoming Wales’ first Welsh SPOTY since show jumper David Broome in 1960.
Calzaghe ended the year as the undisputed king of the super-middleweight division, thanks to victories over Peter Manfredo Jr and Mikkel Kessler at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.