The idea of a lineal championship dates all the way back to 1892 and the days of John L Sullivan. In the first world heavyweight title fight fought under Queensbury Rules back then, Sullivan lost to James J Corbett – who was subsequently defeated by Bob Fitzsimmons. Fitzsimmons then lost to James J Jeffries and so on, and so on and so on.
As a result, a lineal championship was created with the victor replacing the previous holder and it has been carried on to the modern day.
After beating Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, Tyson Fury is technically the current lineal heavyweight champion of the world. However, due to the Gypsy King’s exodus from boxing for over 900 days, Joshua and others have been prevented from taking the title off him until now. And it is for that reason that Joshua believes Fury’s boasts about being the lineal heavyweight champion of the world will be nothing to brag about when he retires.
“You can’t expect the whole division to go on hold. He had his issues and paused for three years,” said Joshua. “The whole division can’t wait and sit down, the ball keeps rolling. Charles Martin called me out, he wanted to fight me. So I stepped up and fought.
“Klitschko wanted to fight, I fought. Good luck to Fury, [Deontay] Wilder and myself. But when all’s said and done, I won’t be that geezer in the pub telling war stories about ‘I was the lineal champ’. I am not that type of geezer. I am focused on my own career and where I am going. I am content with the moves I am making.”
The idea of a lineal heavyweight champion of the world has been disputed by those in boxing in the past. Indeed during Joshua’s sit-down with the media in Sheffield yesterday, when Fury’s status as the lineal champion was being discussed, promoter Eddie Hearn quipped: “The man who beat the man but then failed a drugs test and then went out for two years and done f*** all.”
The dispute boils down to retirements, such as when Lennox Lewis hung up his gloves in 2004. The Brit retired as the lineal heavyweight champion of the world, just like Rocky Marciano did in 1956. In theory, the line should end there.
However, in practical terms that wouldn’t work so in 2009 Klitschko was given the title as he was considered the most dominant man in the division. The same goes for Floyd Patterson in 1956. Joshua, had Fury not returned, would surely have staked his claim to have it now.
Such scenarios muddy the waters of the whole concept, but when it comes to the present day Joshua is under no illusions he is the number one heavyweight in the world.
“I am [number one in the division]. Name me a fighter that has a better record than me after 22 fights?” said Joshua, who currently holds the WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight belts. “I ain’t got to show anything. History will tell you. History is all that matters. I will prove myself. Ever since the amateurs, non-stop I have been on top of my game.
“Look how quick I have done it as well. If I am not getting respect for it now then I can’t do it for anyone else except for myself. I proved myself time and again. No one could knock the route we’ve taken. I have proved myself at the top level. I was watching Klitschko the other day and he had time to learn. I’ve been in at the deep end time and again.
“If people aren’t satisfied with it now, they never will be. Look at [Floyd] Mayweather, they are never happy with him and he is one of the greatest of all time.”
Away from the ring, it has been an eventful week for Joshua after he confirmed his Range Rover was stolen last week in London. The car, reportedly worth around £150,000, was stolen in the early hours of Thursday morning while Joshua was training in Sheffield.
“It was a custom car, probably that’s why people are attracted – it’s a bit more exotic, luxurious than the standard,” said Joshua. “It’s an epidemic right now in London, people getting robbed of material things and cars. But it just teaches you to be understated.
“I was watching something on YouTube last night about how they do it. It’s crazy. It’s a big industry. They went from stealing phones, with people on mopeds, to stealing clothes, watches.”