It appears boxing has been revived around the world and 27-year-old Anthony Joshua of England is being given a lot of credit for the sports’ upturn in popularity. The 6-foot-6-inch former Olympic Super-Heavyweight Champion holds the IBO, IBF and WBA (Super) Heavyweight World Titles and is looking to add Deontay Wilder’s WBC version to his collection. Joshua has steamrolled over all 19 of his opponents so far with 19 Kos and just three of his opponents lasting more than six rounds.
Joshua is boxing’s pinup idol at the moment and his recent bout with former champ Vladimir Klitschko drew a post-World War II English boxing crowd of 90,000 to London’s famous Wembley Stadium. What makes Joshua so exciting to fans is his power combined with his questionable chin. If you’ve just recently started following boxing and/or Joshua’s career, here are 10 things you may not have known about the heavyweight champ.
10. Better Late Than Never
Most of the world’s top pro boxers got their feet wet at an early age with a young Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali being a prime example. However, Joshua didn’t lace up the gloves in earnest until he was well into his teens as an 18-year-old. His cousin got him interested in the sport back in 2007 at the Finchley Amateur Boxing Club and he hasn’t looked back since. He’s obviously a fast learner as just five years later Joshua beat 32-year-old Italian Roberto Cammarelle for the super-heavyweight gold medal at the Olympic Games in London. Cammarelle was the reigning Olympic champion and some critics believe Joshua received the benefit of a hometown decision. Joshua claims boxing gave him the discipline he lacked at the time and he was motivated not to be embarrassed by more experienced boxers in the ring.
9. He’s British Born With Nigerian Heritage
Even though Joshua was born just outside of London on October 15th, 1989 in Watford, England, his heritage is Nigerian of Yoruba descent. Joshua’s mother hails from the African nation and his father is British with Nigerian and Irish roots. The heavyweight champ spent a part of his youth living in Nigeria and his middle name is Oluwafemi. In fact, as well as being known as AJ to many of his friends, his other nickname is Femi, which is based on his middle name. Joshua us proud of his Nigerian background and has a tattoo of Africa etched into his right shoulder. Joshua’s English-born cousin Ben lleyemi is also a professional boxer in the cruiserweight division. Lleyemi’s record was 2-0-1 as of May, 2017 and he and Joshua both made their pro debuts on the same card in October of 2013.
8. Bricklaying Was His Bag
Laying bricks for a living is something many people would prefer to shy away from, but not Joshua. He used to work on local construction sites before becoming a fulltime boxer. Joshua wasn’t afraid of the hard work involved and there’s no doubt it helped him develop his muscular build. He was satisfied with the job since it kept him active and he got to work outside. And let’s not forget that it paid pretty well. Joshua was interested in becoming a builder by trade and one day owning his own construction company, but that all changed when he moved to north London with his mother and took up the sweet science. Along with the bricklaying, Joshua also hung around with friends who used to compile their own CDs and acted as disc jockeys at various parties.
7. One of Just Two British Olympic and Pro World Champions
There have been just two British boxers in history to win both an Olympic gold medal and a professional world title and Joshua is one of them. The first was James DeGale of London as he won the middleweight division at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and then captured the vacant IBF Super Middleweight Championship in May of 2015 when he beat American Andre Dirrell by unanimous decision. Joshua was crowned king of the super heavyweights at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and won his first professional belt by stopping IBF champion Charles Martin in the second round. He has defended the IBF title three times and added the IBO and WBA (Super) Heavyweight Championships in April of 2017 when he stopped former champ Vladimir Klitschko in the 11th round.
6. Won World Title While Still Reigning Olympic Champ
Joshua will go down in boxing history as being just the third man to win a professional world heavyweight championship while still reigning as an Olympic champion. Muhammad Ali was the first and he was followed by ‘Neon’ Leon Spinks. Ali/Cassius Clay won the light-heavyweight division at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and captured a world heavyweight title by beating Sony Liston in February of 1964. Spinks was also crowned the light-heavyweight Olympic champion as he won his medal in Montreal in 1976. Spinks then decisioned Ali in just his eighth pro fight to win a title in February of 1978. Joshua won his Olympic gold as a super-heavyweight in 2012 and earned his first pro belt in April of 2016 by stopping Charles Martin.
5. He Fought The Law And The Law Won
He may have a golden boy image today, but Joshua will be the first to admit he’s no angel. Back in March of 2011 he was arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to supply it. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service over a 12-month period. He received another nail in the heart when he was temporarily kicked off the British boxing team for his indiscretion with the Olympics being just over a year away. Joshua said he didn’t want to make any excuses, but money was hard to come by at the time since he wasn’t receiving any funding and he was looking for a way to ease his financial situation without any concern for the consequences. He admits he shamed himself and his family by his actions and is sorry for what he did. He also spent two weeks in jail for street fighting in 2009, was given a curfew and had to wear an ankle tag for 14 months upon his release.
4. He’s An All-Round Athlete
Not only is Joshua a unified heavyweight boxing champion, but he’s also quite gifted in other sports and activities. He played soccer as a youngster and at one time though about a professional career in the sport. However, he says he didn’t have the support or discipline at the time to carry through on it. Joshua won the BBC Superstars competition in 2012 and ran the 100 meters in just over 11 seconds. He set several athletic records at his school as a youngster and reportedly earned a college music diploma. Joshua likes to sharpen his mind by playing chess and reading and just recently enjoyed his first fishing trip. It appears chess hasn’t helped him as of yet in his boxing career as he’s never been involved in a tactical bout as with all 19 of his fights ending in knockout victories. Joshua said his love for chess was inspired by former heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis.
3. Was Honored By The Queen
Although he was only in his early twenties, Joshua was awarded with an MBE in 2013, which is Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. MBE’s are handed out by the Queen every New Year and Joshua received his honor for his services to Britain in boxing. He received the award before becoming a professional champion due to his excellent career as an amateur. Let’s not forget Joshua enjoyed a fine career before winning Olympic gold as he also won a silver medal at the World Amateur Boxing Championships in 2011 in Azerbaijan. In addition, he won the British amateur title at super-heavyweight as well as London’s Haringey International Tournament. Since turning pro, Joshua has also won the WBC International, Commonwealth, and British Heavyweight Championships.
2. He’s Not Invincible
Yes, Joshua is a perfect 19-0 as a pro with 19 Kos to his name, but he’s not invincible. He managed to stop Dillian Whyte of Jamaica in the seventh round of their bout in December of 2015, but it was a grudge match and rematch as Whyte had beaten Joshua as an amateur. The 29-year-old Whyte, who also dabbles in mixed martial arts and kickboxing, beat Joshua via a three-round unanimous decision in 2009. Whyte was 20 years old at the time and the bout was his amateur debut. There was a lot of hype surrounding their rematch in the pro ranks and the contest was for the vacant British Heavyweight Championship as well as Joshua’s Commonwealth and WBC International belts. The fight took place at the sold-out O2 Arena in London with both men landing power shots in a slugfest until Joshua’s knockout. Joshua was 40-3 as an amateur and was stopped once on his feet by Mihai Nistor of Romania.
1. Could Become Boxing’s First Billionaire
Joshua’s marijuana-related arrest in 2011 was a result of some financial difficulties, but he had actually turned down an offer of 50,000 pounds just a year earlier. Joshua was offered the money after winning the British Amateur Heavyweight title if he would turn pro then and there, but he turned it down. The youngster said he was focused on winning a gold medal at the Olympics and wasn’t interested in the money or turning pro at the time. In hindsight he made the right choice as he’s already a multi-millionaire after just 19 pro fights. He was reportedly paid 15 million pounds alone for his fight against Wladimir Klitschko in April of 2017. There are many boxing experts who believe Joshua could become the first boxer to earn a billion dollars in the ring.