Where Does Legalized Sports Betting Fit Into Anthony Joshua’s U.S. Debut?

Jun 01, 2019 4:05 PM EDT
Credit:

Credit: Matchroom Boxing Twitter. Pictured: WBO/WBA/IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

  • Anthony Joshua has already fought in the biggest arenas in the world and will fight in one of the most iconic arenas on Saturday night.
  • Despite that, his brand hasn't fully blossomed in the United States ... at least not yet.

In the United Kingdom and across most of Europe, Anthony Joshua is a bonafide superstar. Undefeated at 22-0 with 21 knockouts, he has everything you want in an athlete: well spoken, good looking and wins in outstanding fashion when it matters most.

Joshua, who is making his long-awaited debut in the United States, is a massive favorite to defeat challenger Andy Ruiz — as high as 40-1 in some places. He’s also no stranger to the gambling world.

William Hill Sportsbook has been partnered with Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn dating back to 2015, sponsoring fights that have reached 90,000 attendees in some cases.

William Hill’s Head of Media and Sponsorship Liam McKee told SBCNews in March that “being aligned with AJ, Matchroom and DAZN for his fight with Jarrell Miller [now Ruiz] can only help us in terms of awareness amongst the U.S. public and strengthen our market share.”

The feelings appear to be mutual on Hearn’s side as well.

“The investment in Anthony Joshua from William Hill and this show helped massively. With the U.S. regulations opening up now for gambling and in terms of advertising and the markets as well, this is an important time.”

Hearn anticipates that nearly 8,000 fans from the U.K. will be in New York City to watch Joshua defend his belts against Ruiz at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

If any of those fans wanted to legally bet on their guy the way they would across the pond, though, they would need need to cross another “pond” to do it — the Hudson River.

As of June 1, the projections for when sports betting in New York City could mirror something similar to New Jersey range from 2019 to 2021. With a fighter of Joshua’s stature and star power fighting at the “Mecca of Boxing,” it feels like a missed opportunity that fans in attendance won’t have a seamless betting experience when watching.

Sports betting in the U.K. has been legal since 1961 and is so ingrained in the fabric of the fight game that fellow heavyweight Tyson Fury had no problem sitting front row at a boxing match and winning a 12-1 wager on a fellow heavyweight two weeks ago.

Hearn himself has shown he’s willing to bet on his own fighters literally and figuratively when given the chance:

As Joshua’s star continues to grow, it’s only logical to think that legal betting in major U.S markets like New York, Los Angeles or Washington D.C. (just became legal in March) would be beneficial to the popularity of an already well known boxing superstar.

With Joshua and Hearn theoretically just one phone call away from the biggest fights in boxing (Joshua-Fury or Joshua-Wilder) the timing of him coming to America feels, at the very least, serendipitous.

“People have their views on gambling, but sometimes it is part of the sporting event,” Hearn said. “It is in Britain. It doesn’t matter if it’s a horse race or a game of football, you have your 10 pounds or your 20 pounds on the game or an accumulator it is part of the fun, as long as it’s done sensibly and responsibly, so we’ll see where it takes us in the U.S.”

As for that bet with David Higgins, Hearn didn’t let that opportunity pass either. “We sorted it out eventually” the Brit said wryly. “I always make sure my bets are paid.”

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