Requiem for a Heavyweight

For over 100 years, boxing’s heavyweight championship was lauded as the richest prize in sports. During “The Golden Age of Sports” in the 1920s, Jack Dempsey was the most famous man in America outside of the president, as he became the first millionaire athlete in history and performed in front of a staggering 145,000 spectators in his rematch against Gene Tunney in Jersey City. Successors to Dempsey’s throne, among them Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano, were exalted as gods among men, their victories chronicled on the front page of newspapers and immortalized in the history books. When Muhammad Ali did his thing in the 1960s and 1970s, he became the most celebrated person on the planet, carving out a legacy as one of the greatest prizefighters ever and an enduring hero of the civil rights and anti-war movements; and when Mike Tyson smashed his way to unify the heavyweight titles in the 1980s and 1990s, he singlehandedly revived the pay-per-view industry. Today Anthony Joshua — the man who holds the WBA (Super), IBF, IBO and WBO heavyweight championships — regularly attracts crowds of 80,000 people in the United Kingdom, and is said to have courted contract offers of up to $500 million to compete in the United States.

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