Anthony Joshua 'could emulate Muhammad Ali' and become sporting icon

Promoters believe Anthony Joshua could go on to be as popular as his hero Muhammad Ali, as they hatch plans to make him one of sport's biggest stars.

The British boxer's sensational win over Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley has already propelled him to national hero status in the eyes of many fans.

:: Joshua beats Klitschko in Wembley thriller

But his management team believe he can become a global phenomenon having now secured the IBF, IBO and WBA heavyweight titles.

Promoter Eddie Hearn is banking on Joshua recapturing the sport's halcyon days of the 1970s, when the sport regularly made the headlines thanks to Ali's 'Rumble In The Jungle' with George Foreman and the 'Thrilla in Manilla' against Joe Frazier.

Hearn said: "In terms of worldwide stardom, I said 'you win this fight and you become the biggest star in British sport and the biggest star in world boxing'.

"The way he won confirmed it to me."

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"The plan, rather than just keep going in the UK, is to explore and break new markets and boundaries like the Middle East, China," added Hearn.

"I could see him fighting in the Bird's Nest Stadium (Beijing) - and Africa. I want to go worldwide with him. Ali was one of AJ's inspirations. He knows everything he did."

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Hearn also revealed the British pay-per-view had beaten the record 1.15 million for Manny Pacquaio and Floyd Mayweather in 2015.

But 27-year-old Joshua had to dig deep for his epic victory.

He and Klitschko traded knock-downs in the fifth and sixth round, with Joshua appearing exhausted and just a few punches from defeat.

But the Watford-born boxer regained his composure to stop his opponent in a blistering 11th round.

Speaking exclusively to Sky the day after the fight, Joshua showed some swelling around his left eye but said he was "good to go".

The champion said he was shocked when his fifth-round knockdown didn't finish his opponent.

"When i dropped Klitschko that roar (from the crowd) lifted my arms up as well. I thought, 'this is it, he's not coming back'.

"I blew a gasket then - but I was smart, I knew how to control the fight, to get my breath back ... Moving into the last six I thought 'alright, let me get my energy back'."

Speaking about his own brush with the canvas - the first of his pro career - he said the Ukrainian had thrown a "lovely right hand and it connected in the right spot".

"I was just tired, I fell to my feet, I got up," he said.

On the big question of who's next, Joshua told Sky he has "no problem" if Klitschko wants to trigger the rematch clause in the contract.

However, he admitted that a match-up with fellow Briton Tyson Fury is the fight that most people want to see and that it seems to be "heading in that direction".

Also in the picture is the WBC champion, US fighter Deontay Wilder, and the prospect of a high-profile showdown in New York or Las Vegas.

"It's good actually," said Joshua. "You've got the championship belts of the world and then you've got the entertainers of the world that haven't got belts at the minute, so it's whatever we want to do."

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For Klitschko - who perhaps with an extra few punches might have finished Joshua - it could spell retirement, especially after his previous defeat more than a year ago by Britain's Tyson Fury.

But the Ukrainian's performance was equally as memorable as Joshua's.

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Fourteen years older than his opponent, he showed why he is one of boxing's most respected and enduring fighters but will go away with the refrain of "what if" ringing in his ears.

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