Superstar boxer Anthony Joshua unlikely to be floored
Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has puncher's chance of place
Sports Personality of the Year
BBC1, 6.45pm Sunday
Throughout his professional boxing career, Anthony Joshua has become well accustomed to hearing “And the new...” at the end of a fight.
And after a 2017 that has seen his star enter the stratosphere, the Watford-born heavyweight is just 1-10 to be crowned Sports Personality of the Year at the BBC’s annual celebration of British sport.
Over 90,000 fans crammed into Wembley to see Joshua defeat former heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko in a pulsating bout in April and with that kind of immense public popularity on his side, it would be a shock of astronomical proportions if he wasn’t announced as the winner at Liverpool’s Echo Arena.
The odds-on favourite has obliged in all bar one of the seven years since the award was decided by public vote – Rory McIlroy in 2014.
Boxing’s popularity as a sport is also in Joshua’s favour. A boxer has won the award five times while one has been in the first three on another five occasions putting the sport behind only Athletics (49), Football (20) and Formula One (14) in terms of placings.
As it’s hard to find any holes in Joshua’s profile, focusing on other markets is the only option.
Jonathan Rea (without Anthony Joshua) 13-2
Four-time Formula One world champion and 2014 winner Lewis Hamilton is odds-on to be named runner-up but even he has admitted that while he enjoys a great following from within his sport, his popularity with the wider British public is mixed.
In November it was revealed in the Paradise Papers that Hamilton ‘avoided’ paying tax on his £16.5m private jet, while in 2015 Telegraph journalist Callum Davis entitled an article ‘Lewis Hamilton: The champion it is impossible to like’.
That ambivalence perhaps bore out in his previous appearance on the shortlist in 2015 when despite winning his third world title, he came fifth with a meagre 4.8 per cent of the public vote.
Since adopting a public voting system, the key factor to the betting without the favourite and top-three finish markets has undoubtedly been minority sports.
The rugby league world united behind Kevin Sinfield in 2015, helping the former Leeds skipper to second place with over a quarter of the vote. While last year, Nick Skelton’s Rio heroics saw the equestrian take third.
There are a few contenders who fit the bill this year but the most compelling case is provided by World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea.
The motorcycle community is rallying behind the Northern Irishman in much the same way rugby league did with Sinfield two years ago, resulting in Rea’s odds collapsing in recent weeks. He was 16-1 in the market without Joshua three weeks ago, but heads to the Echo Arena a 13-2 chance.
His sporting achievements are equally encouraging.
A winner of the World Superbike Championship in each of the last three seasons, Rea won 16 of this season’s 26 races and missed out on the podium just twice as he broke Colin Edwards’ 15-year record for most points in a season.
Para-athlete Jonnie Peacock is another to consider in the top-three market after his successful spell on Strictly Come Dancing showcased his talents to a wider audience.
Jonathan Rea without Anthony Joshua
1pt 13-2 BoyleSports
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