Meet Anthony Joshua, the current holder of the world IBF champion. He
has always been a fighter from the onset. But he wasn’t most
times destined for greatness. Long before he became heavyweight champion
of the world, fighting led the young man down a darker path.
As a teenage tearaway, he was constantly caught scrapping in the street in his home town of Watford, Herts.
once ended up been jailed, and two times avoided long jail terms. But
his misspent youth is a far cry from his life now, because already
Anthony is one of Britain’s most successful sportsmen, on Saturday night
he made yet another boxing history.
He defended his IBF
heavyweight title against the legendary Wladimir Klitschko in front of
90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, in a fight guaranteed to earn both
boxers at least £15million each.
As Joshua himself admitted: “But for boxing, I would be behind bars.”
Joshua with his beloved mum, Yeta
A glance at his family photo album confirms he is a born fighter.
One of his mum Yeta’s favourite pictures shows him as a baby with his fists up, guarding his chin like a champion.
But Yeta said: “As a kid he was a very quiet boy and even today I see him as being very gentle.”
now 27, had his first run-in with the police at age 16. At that time,
he was a promising footballer and athlete who could run 100 metres in
less than 11 seconds.
But a clash during a school football match saw him charged with actual bodily harm.
He recalled: “This guy was trying to wind me up. I got him round the neck and threw him over my shoulder.
“I didn’t know my own strength and he didn’t land too well. It went to court. Luckily, they gave me a slap across the wrist.”
Joshua may have escaped jail that time, but he was still heading for trouble.
Joshua was ring ready even as a baby, putting up his fistsHe
moved out of him mum’s flat into a hostel and was hanging around with
groups who regularly engaged in street fights.In 2009, he found himself
on remand for two weeks in Reading prison.
The boxer said: “There are idiots inside and this is when you realise
what you are dealing with. It could have been 10 years. I would still
be there right now.”
It was the wake-up call he needed. Electronically tagged for 14
months and hit with a curfew, Joshua moved back in with his mum and
started a bricklaying course.
In 2007, aged 17, he finally found a legitimate outlet for his
fighting instincts, when his cousin took him to a local boxing club.
Joshua was a natural and was selected for the British boxing squad.
But, with the London 2012 Olympics on the horizon, he nearly threw it
all away again.
In 2011, the 6’5” fighter was caught speeding while wearing his Team
GB tracksuit.Police found cannabis in his kitbag and he was charged him
But, yet again, he avoided jail.
was handed a 12-month suspended sentence and 100 hours of community
service. Joshua said: “In a way I’m glad it happened, because it woke me
“It wasn’t so much the actual charge that had the effect. It
was all the grief from my friends, my family – especially my mum – and
from boxing. “
Joshua was initially banned by GB boxing, but was
recalled for the European Championships, where he reached the quarter
finals, despite being short on practice.
He was then selected for
the World Amateur Championships in Azerbaijan. His mum, who had never
been to one of his fights, stayed at home and watched on television.
Joshua’s mum still sees him as “gentle”Yeta
said: “It was very nerve-racking. I kept covering my eyes with a towel.
I was caught between wanting to watch and not wanting to see him get
hurt. I was trembling.”
A year later, Joshua won gold at London 2012. It was the first time his mum saw him fight in the flesh.
She said: “For Josh to become an Olympic champion is an incredible achievement.
“He has always been able to dedicate himself to whatever he wanted. I am very proud of what he has achieved.”
his Olympic triumph, he shunned the spotlight in favour of a more
humble life. He turned down £50,000 to turn professional straight away,
preferring to bide his time.
Joshua won gold at London 2012 (Photo: Getty)When
the money did start to roll in, he bought his mum’s council flat in
Golders Green, North London.He still lives there with his social worker
mum, despite buying a £500,000 penthouse in nearby Finchley for yoga
instructor Nicole Osbourne, the mother of his son, Joseph, who was born
in October 2015.
at training camp, he lives off packed lunches of chicken, beef, pasta
and boiled eggs in plastic boxes.Joshua’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, says:
“Avoiding prison was a big turning point for Anthony. He’s a bad guy
trying to be good.“Boxing has saved his life. It’s given him discipline,
a focus for that huge physique.”
Joshua’s son Joseph, one