Anthony Joshua: The makings of a champion

Anthony Joshua: The makings of a champion

10 April 2016 / 10:22

Whatever happens during the remainder of Anthony Joshua’s career in the ring, Saturday night’s victory ensures the Watford-born boxer’s name will always be etched in the history books.

In seeing off IBF champion Charles Martin at London's O2 Arena last night, Joshua became just the third man to win a professional heavyweight world title while still a reigning Olympic champion.

The two boxers before him? A certain Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, who won light-heavyweight gold in 1960 before overcoming Sonny Liston in 1964 and Leon Spinks, winner of light-heavyweight gold in 1976 before dethroning Ali in 1978.

That Joshua was able to wrap a world title belt around his waist after just 16 pro fights is even more remarkable.

Spinks may have done it after eight bouts but it took Ali 20, Lennox Lewis 22 and Mike Tyson 28 to do so.

At 6ft 6in and with an 82-inch reach, the Brit certainly cuts an imposing figure but it is his lightning-fast hands – possibly the fastest of any true heavyweight since Ali – that sets him apart.

As the man himself will undoubtedly tell you, his journey is far from complete and beating Martin is just the latest step.

But for one night at least, he could revel in being able to call himself the heavyweight champion of the world for the first time.

"I'm only quarter of the way there," said Joshua. "There's still a lot of work to be done.

"I've got people like David Haye and Tyson Fury calling me out so I need to keep improving. Every fight gets better and better. I want to give value for money and I appreciate the ongoing support of the fans."

It’s a meteoric a rise for 26-year-old Joshua who only took up the sport in 2007 when he walked into Finchley Amateur Boxing Club alongside his cousin who had taken him to do a fitness class and lift weights.

It was a day that represented the start of a new journey for Joshua, who just five years later was punching his way to an Olympic super heavyweight gold medal.

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The final bout saw him overcome Olympic champion Roberto Cammarelle of Italy after a stirring final round which sent the partisan home crowd at the ExCel Exhibition Centre into raptures.

A year later Joshua turned professional and a TKO of another Italian, Emanuele Leo, at 2:47 of the first round of his first pro fight announced him as a super-prospect.

Thirteen further knockouts within three rounds followed as men such as Matt Skelton, Michael Sprott, Jason Gavern and Kevin Johnson proved no match for the Londoner.

A grudge match against Dillian Whyte – a man who had beaten Joshua when the pair fought as amateurs in 2009 – was his toughest test to date when they squared off last December and the Olympic champion was clearly rocked for the first time.

But he battled through and a seventh round TKO put him in line for last night’s shot at Martin, who had earned the IBF title by beating Vyacheslav Glazkov back in January.

And Martin’s reign was swiftly ended by Joshua, as he needed just two rounds to dispatch the American – after knocking him down twice in quick succession with unerringly quick and accurate right hands.

“Every fight gets better and better,” claimed a grinning Joshua. “It’s not just about power. It’s about speed and precision.

“Martin was big and brave enough to bring his title to the UK. Respect to him.”

After the glitz and glamour of the post-bout celebrations die down, Joshua will eventually make his way back to North London where he still lives with his mother.

The English capital is no doubt a happy hunting ground with his Olympic and world title success coming just a few miles apart. But what is for certain, Joshua’s name is one now known all around the globe.

Sportsbeat 2016

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