Hubbards Cupboard – 9.7.16
By Alan Hubbard
The BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, aka SPOTY, is still some six months away yet the London bookmakers William Hill have already installed the Olympic and International Boxing Federation (IBF) world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua as 4-1 favourite to pick up the gong.
Am I alone in finding that astonishing? Surely a tad premature?
Lovely guy, Big Josh, a folk-friendly fighter who has charm, personality and can certainly box a bit. In common with most boxing fans I like him a lot.
But how on earth can he be already in pole position with the Olympics still to come, Andy Murray in hot pursuit of his second Wimbledon title – and hey, what about Welsh footballer Gareth Bale and his inspirational performances for Real Madrid and for Wales in the European Championships?
As I say, I like Joshua. He is an immense talent but to be frank he acquired his world heavyweight championship against an easy-touch American and defended it against an opponent of equally dubious pedigree.
It seems a bit of a slap in the face for the likes of athletes Jessica Ennis-Hill, Greg Rutherford and other British Olympic gold medal prospects for Big Josh to be accorded top slot in the odds before they have had the opportunity to strut their stuff in Rio.
And what about Joshua’s fellow golden-gloved companion of 2012, Nicola Adams?
She recently secured the last remaining major title to elude her after beating Thailand’s Peamwilai Laopeam to be crowned women’s world flyweight champion in Kazakhstan.
The 33-year-old’s victory means she will head to Rio this summer as the reigning world, Commonwealth and European Games champion, having also won European and EU golds previously.
Adams will now set her sights on becoming the first British boxer since Harry Mallin in 1924 to successfully defend an Olympic gold medal.
Should she do so surely that would make her a shoo-in for SPOTY?
Adams says: “I think having finally won the world title is going to make me feel more relaxed because now I have won all the major titles and everything I achieve from now on will make more history.
“Now it is all about going to Rio and defending that Olympic title. I am going as part of a really strong GB boxing team and I am certainly expecting quite a few medals out there.”
Too true. And among those boxing medallist in GB’s 12-strong team could be another London super-heavyweight, Joshua’s successor Joe Joyce, who says: “I watched the last Olympics as a spectator and saw how brilliantly Team GB performed so now to be part of it is an amazing feeling.
“It is great that we have such a strong team of boxers going to the Games and we aim to build on the success that Great Britain achieved last time round.”
Most of the men going to Rio will be shedding their vests afterwards – including Joyce- which augurs well for securing the future of the pro game here for the next few years.
As for Joshua, he is currently taking a break over the summer before defending his belt for the second time later in the year. Should he end up winning the BBC award he will be the first boxer to do so since Joe Calzaghe in 2007 and the fifth fighter to take the trophy following two-time winner Henry Cooper, Barry McGuigan, Lennox Lewis and Calzaghe.
“Anthony Joshua is one of the most adored sports personalities in the country,” said Tony Kenny, head of sponsorship PR at William Hill. “If you couple that with his World Championship winning performance this year then it’s easy to see why he’s our favourite to win the BBC award.”
Plus the fact that William Hill actually sponsor him.
Oh, did we forget to mention that? No wonder he’s their 4-1 favourite.
William Hill have backed three of Joshua’s fight nights so far and signed a deal ahead of his first defence to back the next three shows topped by heavyweight champion.
Leicester City and England striker Jamie Vardy is second favourite at 5/1 with Real Madrid and Wales hero Bale at 9/1.
Murray won the award for the second time in 2015 and is 10/1 to make it a hat-trick as he bids for success at Wimbledon and at Rio 2016, and he’s joined at that price by Ennis-Hill, who bids to defend her Olympic heptathlon gold.
The 2016 BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony takes place at the Genting Arena in Birmingham on December 18.
Joshua may be the bookies’ main man – but personally I wouldn’t bet on it. Yet.
For my money, he needs to beat someone of the calibre of Tyson Fury, Wladmir Klitschko, Deontay Wilder, Luis Ortiz or even David Haye.
And I can’t see that happening this year. Can you?