Olympic heavyweight gold medalist Anthony Joshua is on the attack against Paul Butlin during their undercard bout at Motorpoint Arena on Oct. 26 in Sheffield, England.
Winning an Olympic gold medal is the ultimate dream for almost any young boxer who has the required drive and ambition. To represent your country, on the biggest stage of all, and conquer the finest amateur fighters on the planet is an incredible achievement, which can lead to saddlebags full of cash in the professional ranks.
Anthony Joshua, who competed at super heavyweight, captured one of three gold medals for the UK at London 2012 and has looked electric in his first two professional starts. Surprisingly, he has only been boxing for six years but his athleticism, punch variety and technical skills belie those numbers and many within the trade are very excited about what lies ahead.
Unlike his predecessor, Lennox Lewis, who captured super heavyweight gold in 1988, the British public have embraced Joshua immediately and the buzz surrounding this explosive young puncher is growing fast. The twenty four year old is amiable, handsome, television friendly and something new and refreshing for the heavyweight scene.
Lewis, who retired in 2003, eventually won over the British public, and his skeptics, during a Hall of Fame career, but Joshua refused to run head first into the pending hype machine. The Londoner took his time, after winning the Olympics, and finally selected Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Promotions to plot a course towards lucrative pay days and a world title shot.
Thus far the strategy has been to give Joshua cameo parts on big shows and keep the 6-foot-6 colossus on a very active and beneficial learning curve. Joshua has trained diligently, posted two convincing knockout victories, impressed the fans and is currently penciled in to have three more fights before the end of the year.
First up is a Nov. 14 appearance, which is a co-feature to the Sky Sports Prizefighter tournament in the UK and, nine days later, Joshua has a spot on the huge Froch vs. Groves show in Manchester. He will close out on Dec. 14, in London, and the goals is to secure three back to back stoppages in order to maintain his momentum.
RingTV.com spoke to the Olympic super heavyweight champion about his professional progress, his training regime and what lies ahead.
RingTV.com: I attended your fight against Paul Butlin and you produced a spectacular performance. What was the most flattering piece of praise you received after that fight?
Anthony Joshua: When I scored the knockdown in round two the punch opened up an immediate and very deep cut. So many people were complimenting me on the shot, saying that it’s rare for a punch to produce so much damage that quickly.
RTV: At the post fight press conference you said that if a fight ends quickly you go back to the dressing room and do a few rounds of pad work. Is that true and, if it is, where did that routine come from?
AJ: That was the first time I did pad work in the dressing room. I had expected the fight to go a few rounds, because Paul Butlin had been in with some tough opposition. Anyway, I was just warming up in round two and the fight was over, so when I went back to the dressing room I asked my trainer (Tony Sims) if he could take me on the pads, to get the rounds out. If the same thing happens again, that’s what I’ll be doing.
RTV: You trained three times a day with Team GB and obviously maintain that work ethic as a pro. Can you break down a day’s training for me?
AJ: I always run in the morning. That can be sprints or tempo running, which is when you do a high speed run for three minutes, then have a one minute rest. I’ll do about six of them. My boxing session is around 11.00am and that consists of pads, bags, shadow and ground work, or it could potentially be sparring. I then go back to the gym in the evening and do more shadow boxing, or I might go for a swim, or I might shadow box under water.
RTV: Who have you been working with in sparring?
AJ:I have been sparring with my cousin Ben Illeyemi (pro cruiserweight), Richard Towers and we’ve also put in some work with Albert Sosnowski (former world title challenger). I also do sparring in Sheffield (Home Base of Team GB).
RTV: Incredibly you were only a member of Team GB for eighteen months, prior to capturing Olympic gold. Would it be fair to say that you’re a natural athlete and what other sports did you enjoy growing up?
AJ: I’ve always been able to condition myself for any sport, but the training I’ve received in boxing is what has made me successful. Training at the Finchley Boxing Club in London, the support I received prior to the Olympics and now the work I’m doing as a pro with Tony. When I was younger I liked football and running, so mostly athletic sports.
RTV: You have three fights scheduled inside a 30 day period, so clearly your team is trying to build your pro resume as quickly as possible. All going well at this pace, what are the plans for 2014?
AJ: Honestly I couldn’t say. We’re taking things one step at a time at the moment and I don’t really know what the plans are. If I remain unbeaten 2014 is likely to be a tough year for me, and I’ll be kept very busy. We’re looking at one fight every month, or every month and a half, but that all depends on how I progress.
RTV: Your goal as an amateur was to win medals and you obviously want to win a world title as a professional. Do your ambitions to go beyond that?
AJ: I enjoy charity work and giving back for sure. What I would love to do is develop kids with great skills and get them on to the Olympic team. I want to try and do that through community work and get kids off the street. There are so many young kids out there with real ambition and that would give them a second chance. I also want to make my family, and my supporters, proud of me.
RTV: Who do you enjoy watching most at the very top level in boxing and why?
AJ: Carl Froch, because he is so entertaining. Carl has made his way to the top in this sport and what he’s doing at this stage of his career is just priceless. I watched him prepare for his last fight, and to see all the hard work pay off in the rematch with Mikkel Kessler was incredible.
RTV: In a word, Froch or Groves?
RTV: Luke Campbell, another Olympic gold medalist, and your stable mate, is also off to a great start as a professional. What are your thoughts on Luke and his latest performance against Lee Connelly?
AJ: Lee Connelly was game and came to win but Luke’s foot movement and the sharpness of his punching was just too much for him. All respect to Lee, because he was so brave that night.
RTV: And finally have you got a message for the domestic scene at heavyweight?
AJ: (Laughs) No I don’t want to say anything to them.
Photos / Scott Heavey-Getty Images
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing