I didn't get a chance to see last night's Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko heavyweight championship thriller at Wembley Stadium, but the event was dramatic even before a punch was thrown because of the attendance: 90,000 fans turned out, the largest British boxing crowd in nearly 80 years, according to the Telegraph.That kind of crowd is reminiscent of the 1920s and 1930s in the United States, when American fight fans packed outdoor arenas like Boyle's Thirty Acres, The Polo Grounds, Yankee Stadium, Soldier Field, and The Madison Square Garden Bowl to see big matches. In the twenties, Jack Dempsey fought before crowds of 90,000, 80,000, 120,000, and 105,000; in the thirties, Joe Louis once fought before a Yankee Stadium throng of 95,000; the promoter narrowed the aisles between seats and was trying to squeeze in room for more almost until the opening bell. There is something about attending a sports event in person that suggests a deeper level of commitment than staying at home and watching, even if you're shelling out good money for pay-per-view. Clearly, British boxing fans have that commitment--this is not the first monster crowd there in recent years--and it will only deepen now, since Joshua, who looks set to be boxing's new star, is now hoping to fight his countryman Tyson Fury in a U.K. "superfight" that will probably break attendance records and will surely be billed as the biggest British fight of all time.
Whether a boxing match in the United States could attract crowds of this magnitude again remains to be seen. A few bouts in recent years drew 50,000-plus, but the event that might really push things to the next level would be if the Joshua/Fury winner comes here to take on Deontay Wilder, who holds another piece of the heavyweight crown. A match like that could very well capture broad national, and global, interest: Britain v. America, for the championship of the whole wide world. Then again, a fight with that price tag would probably have to be held in Las Vegas, not in a big stadium. And Joshua would be the clear favorite.