At a tender age of 18, Nigerian-born British boxer Anthony Joshua, while at Watford in England was on remand, waiting for his sentence to a 10-year prison term for hydra-headed offences from fighting to being caught in possession of cannabis with the intent to supply found guilty on all offences. He was preparing for the worst.

If he had been jailed, he would have been there until he would almost be 28 years old in 2018. Joshua has expressed an interest in chess as well as reading as a way to reinforce his boxing and tactical abilities. He was a bricklayer before taking up boxing full-time. If not for providence, Joshua whose Yoruba names are Oluwafemi Olaseni, would have still been in jail right now and the destiny turn around last weekend when he won a world title would have fizzled away not attained. Because of the criminal acts, he was banned from all boxing internationally and domestically for his club.

He thought he was done with boxing. So he went back to Watford and started hanging around with his mates. It was at this point that Great Britain Boxing called him up and asked if he wanted to go to the European Championships, saying they were still looking into his case. In Joshua’s words on the change of fortune, he said: “My guardian angel decided I didn’t need to be punished with a jail sentence.

But I was on tag for over a year and that helped. I became so disciplined when I was on tag. I would be at home by eight o’clock and because I had boxing, I lived the disciplined life. I started reading because I learnt that so many champions educated themselves. Joe Louis, Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins.

Before it was ‘act now, think later’ – but the discipline and reading changed me. “Before, I was just with guys my age or younger and we’d drive past fancy houses and say: ‘Oh, when I make my money I’m going to buy that house.’

But it was a far-fetched dream. People who do crime do it for reward. But you end up in jail – that’s no reward. Through crime your ambitions are low. It’s strange but now I am being invited into these fancy houses. And I enter them polite and humble.

It’s amazing how boxing turned me around.” Joshua was born in Watford to a Nigerian mother and a father o f Nigerian and Irish descent. His cousin is fellow unbeaten professional boxer Ben lleyemi.

The pair made their professional debuts together in 2013. Joshua grew up for much of his early years in Nigeria and returned to the UK halfway through when he was seven years old to join Kings Langley Secondary School.

Growing up on the Meriden Estate in Garston, Hertfordshire, Joshua was called ‘Femi’ by his friends and former teachers, due to his middle name ‘Oluwafemi’. He was a complete sportsman as he excelled in football and athletics where he broke the Year Nine 100 metres record with a time of 11.6 seconds. Joshua began boxing in 2007, aged 18, when his cousin suggested he take it up. Joshua won the 2009 and 2010 Haringey Box Cup. Going on to win the senior ABA Championships in 2010, in only his 18th bout and later turned down £50,000 to turn professional. “Turning down that £50,000 was easy. I didn’t take up the sport for money, I want to win medals.” He also went on to win the same tournament the following year.

Anthony Joshua won the World Heavyweight title in just his 16th professional fight as he stopped Charles Martin inside two rounds last weekend. The pressure was on him to deliver as soon as he turned professional, following his gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and that expectation just kept on growing as he bulldozed his way through his first 14 opponents inside three rounds.

Joshua went into the 2012 London Olympics as a novice on the international scene, despite being a world silver medalist. He received a tough draw in the last 16 of the super heavyweight event, in Cuban Erislandy Savón, ranked number 4 in the world by AIBA and nephew of the three-time Olympic champion, Félix Savón. On 11 July 2013 it was confirmed that Joshua had turned professional under the Matchroom Sport promotional banner. Joshua made his professional debut on October 5, 2013 at the O2 Arena in London in the Main-Event beating Italian Emanuelue Leo by a TKO in the first round.

While newly crowned IBF champ Anthony Joshua says it’s “cool” to have won his first world title, the unbeaten heavyweight star – already a household name in the UK and closing in on international stardom – insists there is far, far more to come. In fact, the 26-year-old (young for a heavyweight, especially these days) says he wants to fight at the highest level for a further decade; until he turns 35. “I want to go until I’m 35 – I want to maintain this for a decade,” he said. “I think unifying the titles is possible by the end of 2017. I’m not getting carried away, but I’m slowly building towards it.

There’s going to be some tough nights ahead. Let’s see what happens when someone really pushes me.” Can Joshua become one of the greats he often mentions as his heroes and influences – Ali, Foreman, Holmes, Frazier and Tyson being frequent names on A.J’s lips? It’s still way too early to say, but it’s going to be fun and expensive finding out.

culled : The Telegraph.

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