Anthony Joshua: his incredible story so far
Britain's Anthony Joshua has announced that he will defend his world heavyweight titles against Russian Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 22 September.
Meanwhile, the boxing world is on the edge of its seat to see if Deontay Wilder - current WBO champion - signs on to fight Joshua in the second on April 19, 2019. If the fight goes ahead and AJ wins, he’ll become the undisputed champion.
While we wait to find out more about his future, we thought we might break down Anthony Joshua's spectacular rise to becoming the heavyweight champion...
From humble beginnings
Joshua was born in Watford to mum Yeta and and dad Robert, both from Nigeria. The pair split when Joshua was four or five years old, leaving him and his siblings to be raised by Yeta on the Meriden Estate where, by his own admission, Joshua was “a bit naughty”.
When he was 11, Joshua and his family moved to Nigeria where he was enrolled in a boarding school. The future star had to wake up at 5.30am every morning to fetch water and was routinely beaten at school.
After a few terms, Joshua returned to Watford. He told Sky Sports documentary ‘Anthony Joshua - Heavyweight Hopes’ of his fondness for his hometown.
“My heart belongs in Watford and I spend a lot of my time there," he said. "I think if you grow up there, you’ll know what I mean.”
After returning to the UK, Joshua threw himself into school sports, breaking the year nine 100m record with a time of 11.6 seconds. But despite a promising future in sport, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the soon-to-be boxing legend.
“I got caught up in some of the wrong things,” said Joshua. “It doesn’t take long for things to happen. It wasn’t a long time but a lot went on.
“Now I look back on it, if I’d have taken advice from my parents that had been there and lived life, things might have been a lot easier.”
Stepping into the ring
Joshua was keen to turn his back on the shadier elements of his youth and focus on his athletic pursuits.
His path along the straight and narrow saw him buy his first set of weights from Argos, get a job as a bricklayer and join Finchley Amateur Boxing Club.
Joshua had to borrow £25 from his cousin Ben Ileyemi for his first pair of boxing boots (they would later make their professional boxing debut together).
Finchley trainer Sean Murphy recalled how eager Joshua - then 18 - was to train and insisted he move on to sparring with pads as soon as possible. Eventually, Murphy gave in - a decision he’d instantly regret...
Fellow trainer John Oliver told Sportsmail, “Joshua hit the pad perfectly in the middle with one of his first shots. Bang!
“Then Sean starts yelling and the big lad is following him, saying 'sorry, sorry'. We were all laughing but then Sean has to go off to hospital so that's a bit more serious.
“My god, when we hear back from him, it turns out he hasn't broken his hand - he's shattered it! Every single metacarpal was smashed, maybe broken in 10 places.”
Joshua would later make up for his heavy handedness, buying Murphy a flash new BMW and treating the club to a bus so young up-and-comers could get to boxing tournaments around the country.
The promising fighter quickly started turning heads in the boxing world, winning the Haringey Box Cup twice as well as the senior ABA Championships. Things were going great for Joshua and he even said no to a whopping £50,000 to turn pro.
He said at the time, “Turning down that £50,000 was easy. I didn't take up the sport for money, I want to win medals."
However, his past soon returned to haunt him. Joshua was put on remand in Reading Prison for “fighting and other crazy stuff”, which resulted in him being forced to wear an electronic tag around his ankle.
Despite the hiccup, Joshua was determined to make a go of his boxing career and earned himself a place on the GB boxing team, going on to compete in the Olympics where he won gold after a tense bout with Roberto Cammerelle.
Joshua had his final run in with the law when he was stopped for speeding and found in possession of 8oz of cannabis. He was wearing his Team GB tracksuit at the time.
But after some sage advice from friends and mentors, Joshua made a decision to leave his criminal past behind him for good.
A few years later, he would be appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to boxing. Staring up at the 6’ft 6in boxer, Prince Charles wondered aloud why he didn’t go into basketball...
In July 2013, Joshua finally began his professional boxing career with Matchroom Sport.
His debut the same year saw him take out Italian Emanuelue Leo by TKO in the first round - the first of 21 consecutive wins.
Joshua took his first title - the WBC International heavyweight title - in October 2014 when he defeated Denis Bakhtov in just two rounds.
In September 2015, Joshua walked away with the Commonwealth heavyweight title in a quick clash against Gary Cornish and snagged the British heavyweight title after beating Dillian Whyte three months later. Shortly after in April 2016, Charles Martin lost his IBF heavyweight title to Joshua.
Joshua vs Klitschko
It seemed there was no stopping Joshua growing his collection of championship belts, but fans wondered if champion Wladimir Klitschko could throw a spanner in the works.
While Joshua ultimately emerged victorious, it wasn’t quite the cake walk some of his previous professional fights had been.
The pair battled it out for the first four rounds before Joshua went all-in to knock Klitschko to the canvas. Despite the Ukrainian firing back with a barrage of punches, the fight was stopped in round 11 when Joshua had his opponent bang to rights against the ropes.
Joshua vs Takam
Joshua was next scheduled to fight Kubrat Pulev, but after the Bulgarian suffered a shoulder injury was replaced by Carlos Takam.
As Joshua was about to walk out of the tunnel, Cardiff’s Principality Stadium suffered a power cut, meaning the regular music and effects that usually get the crowd buzzing as the boxer enters the ring were off the table. But it didn’t phase Joshua…
Promoter Eddie Hearn tells the story of Joshua's coolness under pressure...
The unshakable Watford lad retained his titles in front of almost 80,000 fans after the fight was stopped in round 10 - despite Joshua being on the receiving end of an accidental headbutt in the second round.
Joshua vs Parker
Joshua’s most recent victory was against New Zealand’s Joseph Parker in March 2018.
Another gruelling battle, the fight was decided on points (unanimous decision) after a 12-round slog, earning Joshua the WBO title to go along with his WBA, IBF and IBO belts.
As soon as his latest victory was in the bag, Joshua wasted no time in calling out Deontay Wilder in the hopes of snatching his WBO belt.
“I’m not about the hype,” Joshua said. “I’m about business. Let’s get the business done. I’ve got the time. Wilder! Let’s go, baby! Let’s go!”
What’s next for the champ?
While he’s clearly got his sights set on Wilder, Joshua's next fight will be against WBA mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin on September 22.
But Joshua’s ambitions seem to have no limits, with a keen interest in finance (he’s tipped to become boxing’s first billionaire) and even talks of entering the political arena.
He told Stuff, “Giving people a bit of inspiration, helping people... there is always the ambition to move forward, that is always what I preach.
"I always think my role is to inspire people. I know for a fact there will be a kid somewhere who looks at me and thinks 'I can do that' and will find their way to a gym and end up doing more than I have done."
Stay tuned to LineUp for more features on the biggest stars in sport.