Sunday 20 August 2017

Man of the people who conquered the world

Anthony Joshua catches Wladimir Klitschko with a devastating uppercut during Saturday’s fight at Wembley. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Anthony Joshua catches Wladimir Klitschko with a devastating uppercut during Saturday’s fight at Wembley. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Hayley Dixon

A one-time bricklayer who still lives with his mother in a former council flat is tipped to become one of the richest sportsmen after winning the world heavyweight title.

Anthony Joshua, who did not enter a boxing ring until he was 18, is set to overtake David Beckham, Andy Murray, Lewis Hamilton and Rory McIlroy as he is tipped to earn hundreds of millions from fights and sponsorship.

Anthony Joshua (White Shorts) puts Wladimir Klitschko (Gray Shorts) down in the 5th round. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Anthony Joshua (White Shorts) puts Wladimir Klitschko (Gray Shorts) down in the 5th round. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

But despite his success in front of a post-war record audience of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night, Joshua, who has insisted that "being a boxer, you have to be a man of the people", lives with his mother Yeta Odusanya, a social worker, in Golders Green, north London.

She was not there to watch his success as Joshua has banned her from his fights.

"She's proud of how I carry myself, probably more than what I do in the ring," Joshua said yesterday.

He added that his 18-month-old son, JJ, was taken aback by his black eye. "I could see he was looking at my eye and he went 'wow'," he said.

Katie Taylor, left, exchanges punches with Nina Meinke. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Katie Taylor, left, exchanges punches with Nina Meinke. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

His 11th-round stoppage of Wladimir Klitschko means that Joshua has retained his IBF world heavyweight title and won the vacant WBA and IBO belts.

He challenged Tyson Fury before even leaving the ring to what could be the first time that two British fighters have squared up for two world championship belts.

Eddie Hearn, Joshua's promoter, believes his fighter's profile is now "stratospheric" saying: "He is unquestionably world boxing's biggest star."

Spencer Oliver, the former European super-featherweight champion, was at his family's gym when Ben Ileyemi first brought Joshua in. He said that Ileyemi, also a professional boxer, "had brought him in to get him off the streets". But as soon as he put on the gloves it was clear that he was going to be a star.

Born in Watford, the family moved back to Nigeria, where he grew up, before returning to Britain as a teenager.

He found himself in trouble with the police and had been warned for fighting by the time Ilyemi took him to the gym in Finchley in 2007.

Joshua has admitted: "But for boxing, I would be behind bars."

Remand

While working as a bricklayer in 2009 and boxing as an amateur, Joshua was arrested for street fighting and spent time on remand in Reading jail before being released with an electronic tag.

Then, in 2011, while wearing his Team GB boxing tracksuit, he was pulled over and arrested for possession of cannabis. He escaped jail but the offence led to a temporary ban.

"The arrest changed me a lot," he later said. "It forced me to grow up and to respect my responsibilities.

"I'm not happy that I did what I did and there's no way that kind of thing will ever happen again, but in a way I'm glad it did because it woke me up."

Despite his scrapes, his natural talents mean his rise has been fast.

He had his first amateur fight in 2007 before winning heavyweight gold at the London Olympics in 2012. Now, less than four years after turning professional, he is a unified world heavyweight champion.

Already estimated to be worth £13m before this weekend, he will take home £15m from Saturday night's fight.

Joshua, who boasts a perfect 19-0 record, says he will cherish the win over Klitschko but insists it still doesn't top winning Olympic gold.

"The memories, the experiences last forever. . . the experience I've gained is more important than the belts," he said.

"Sugar Ray Leonard… all the skill, ability he had, said there are times when you have to show character and go to the trenches. Without that you'll never go on and do great things in the sport.

"I never want to be in those type of fights, but if I have to be I don't want to crumble."

Asked if it topped winning Olympic gold, he said: "No. I'm a champion outside the ring, first and foremost. The fighting is fun. I don't box just for the belt, for the money, and I just enjoy it, the discipline."

There are no limits to where Joshua can ultimately go, but for now he's content to go back to where it all started.

"I'm going to pop round to my family's house. I want to catch up with family and go back to normal living," he said. "(I learnt) that I can knock out anyone.

"To get knocked down, hurt someone, get hurt, take someone out in the championship rounds where I've never been before, it's testament to what training's about." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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