Good looking, highly intelligent, sensitive and softly spoken, Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua is a very different type of professional boxer.
The 27-year-old former Olympic champion, who burst onto the scene at London 2012, doesn’t overturn tables in press conferences, or indulge in ‘trash talk’ to denigrate opponents.
Neither does he surround himself with a dodgy entourage, throw banknotes around strip clubs, or live in an obnoxious mansion.
The squeaky-clean heavyweight, who still lives with his mother, is nonetheless at the top of his game and will tomorrow take centre stage in perhaps the biggest fight the UK has ever seen, against legendary Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko, earning a purse of roughly £15 million.
A sell-out crowd at Wembley has spent around £8 million on tickets. Another 1.5 million Britons are expected to pay £20 to watch on pay-per-view, while £20 million more is expected to be generated from international TV revenue.
With even more millions already flowing in from blue-chip endorsement deals he has struck — a measure of Anthony Joshua’s potential ability to transcend boxing — some believe this young man can become not only Britain’s most famous sportsman, but also the world’s first billionaire athlete.
So who exactly is this man mountain? And how did he make it from the mean streets of Watford and nigeria to the summit of professional sport?
Mum’s the word
Home is a tiny former council flat in Golders Green, North London, which Anthony co-owns with his mother, Yeta Odusanya.
It was one of his first big purchases after turning professional: he bought it in November 2013, paying £174,000 in cash. The duo share their cosy property with a dog, Roxy, and a huge television, which he uses to play video games during down-time.
Anthony is fiercely protective of Yeta, a petite 51-year-old social worker, who came to the UK from Nigeria in the Eighties.
He recently gave her a new Range Rover so she didn’t ‘get ripped off’ by a disreputable car dealer, and prevents her from attending his bouts, or even watching them on TV.
‘I don’t really let my mum come to my fights,’ he explained recently. ‘I’ve banned her. It’s not a place where you want to see your kid. I would rather she not be there.’
Drugs and crime
He grew up on the gritty Meriden Estate in Watford, one of four children of Yeta and her half-Nigerian, half-Irish ex-husband, Robert.
A difficult youth, he fell in with a bad crowd, and was sent to boarding school in West Africa in an effort to curb his enthusiasm for drink, drugs and petty crime.
It didn’t work, however. He left after just one term and returned to the local Kings Langley secondary, before quitting full-time education at 16.
A fine athlete, he could run 100m in under 11 seconds despite being a smoker and was a talented footballer who had trials for Charlton Athletic. But that career path ended when he attacked an opposition striker and was charged with actual bodily harm, for which he received a warning.
Anthony was later banned from Watford town centre, and spent a period on remand at Reading Prison, for ‘fighting and other crazy stuff
Saved by boxing
At 18, Anthony was a jobbing bricklayer devoting weekends to what he describes as ‘drink, clothes, clubbing, girls’.
Then his cousin Ben, a promising amateur boxer, persuaded him to step into the ring at Finchley Boxing Club. ‘From the first punch, I was hooked,’ he says.
That was in 2008. Four years later, he was winning gold at the Olympics and earning an OBE in the process.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, though. Early amateur bouts saw him wearing offender’s ankle tags, a hangover from previous convictions.
Then, in 2011, police stopped him for speeding in North London, and found a bag containing 8oz of cannabis on the passenger seat.
Anthony looked destined for jail, a development that would have killed his Olympic prospects.
But the judge gave him a second chance. He escaped with a 12-month community order and 100 hours of unpaid work, and decided to clean up his act. Out went drink, drugs, and dodgy friends. In came clean-living, for which he is now famed.
‘The arrest changed a lot. It forced me to grow up and accept my responsibilities,’ he has since admitted. ‘I would have been in drug gangs and prison but for boxing.’
At 18, Anthony was a jobbing bricklayer devoting weekends to what he describes as ‘drink, clothes, clubbing, girls’. Pictured: Eating in his living room
Anthony takes on Dominic Breazele in a fight at The O2 Arena in London in June last year
Anthony stands 6ft 6in, weighs 17st, and has a reach that stretches 82in, or almost 7ft. Even in the heavyweight division this makes it tricky, and highly dangerous, for opponents to land a shot on him.
His chest has a circumference of 47in while for his clenched fist, the figure is 14in. Being punched by him is like being whacked by an 11lb sledgehammer travelling at 30mph.
These extraordinary physical attributes have seen him clock up 18 wins, all by knockout, since turning professional at the end of 2012.
Only two fights have gone more than three rounds. They both ended in the 7th. He boasts the WBC Heavyweight, Commonwealth Heavy-weight and IBF Heavyweight titles. Tomorrow’s showdown will see him attempt to add the vacant WBA and IBO titles to that haul.
Anthony stands 6ft 6in, weighs 17st, and has a reach that stretches 82in, or almost 7ft. Pictured: Enjoying the spoils of his success
Each Monday, Anthony’s nutritionist Mark Ellison drives his BMW estate car to an organic butchers in Sheffield, where he buys ten large chicken breasts, two entire lamb fillets, two beef fillets and several dozen eggs.
Then he proceeds to a nearby greengrocer to ‘fill up the boot’ with vegetables. Joshua begins the day with porridge and fruit, before a ‘second breakfast’ after his morning training session involving five poached eggs on toast.
Lunch is chicken and mountainous quantities of either broccoli or spinach, along with sweet potato or pasta. Dinner involves meat or fish and rice, plus more vegetables. Between meals, he drinks ‘recovery shakes’ containing liquid protein and a couple of bananas.
Altogether he aims to take on between 4,000 and 5,000 calories per day. A typical man needs just 2,500 to 3,000.
Wladimir Klitschko, 41, is an old chum of Anthony, who sparred at his training camp in 2014, and outside the ring the duo have a friendly relationship.
The Ukrainian has held all three world titles in a decade at the top of the sport, dominating the heavyweight division and losing just four out of his 68 fights.
By far the toughest opponent Joshua has faced, Klitschko will be hoping to drag the British champ, who has never boxed beyond seven rounds in a professional bout, into an extended slugging match.
Some analysts fear Joshua may react badly to being punched (no previous opponents have laid much of a glove on him).
But bookmakers make him the clear favourite, offering odds a shade tighter than 1/2-on. Credit The Mail