Boxing: Will man mountain Anthony Joshua be Britain's first billionaire?

Anthony Joshua. Photo / Getty Images.
Anthony Joshua. Photo / Getty Images.

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 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.'

IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua during a public training session at the Wembley Arena in London, Wednesday April 26, 2017. Photo / AP.
IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua during a public training session at the Wembley Arena in London, Wednesday April 26, 2017. Photo / AP.

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.'

Human colossus

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.

British boxer Anthony Joshua, left, and Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko tap fists as they finish posing head-to-head for the media. Photo / AP.
British boxer Anthony Joshua, left, and Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko tap fists as they finish posing head-to-head for the media. Photo / AP.

The hard work

During the 14 weeks leading up to a fight, Anthony decamps to Sheffield, where he lives in a rented terrace house and spends days with head coach Rob McCracken at the English Sports Institute, home of the British Olympic team.

He trains twice a day, for roughly two hours a time. Morning sessions are spent doing heavy lifting with his strength and conditioning coach Jamie Reynolds, while afternoons are spent in the ring.

In between, he sleeps as much as possible, and aims always to be in bed by 9pm. On occasional 'rest days' he goes on long runs.

A strong believer in sports science, Anthony often trains in an altitude mask, to replicate low oxygen conditions, and does several of his drills in sandpits, which he hopes will help him to develop the balance and stability of Brazilian footballers.

To recover, he has occasional ice baths and uses Rob Madden, a Harley Street physiotherapist, to carry out deep muscle massages along with 'intramuscular acupuncture' with 2in needles.

Each night, he spends an hour in special trousers made by a firm called NormaTec which use compressed air to massage his limbs. This arduous process helps make Joshua a perfect physical specimen.

'If you went into a laboratory and designed the perfect athlete to be heavyweight champion of the world you wouldn't be far off what he is,' says Reynolds.

The spoils

For the last of his 18 fights, the purse was a reported £4 million. This one is expected to generate the biggest pay-per-view revenue of any British bout in history - as well as Joshua's astonishing £15 million payday.

The real money is, however, going to be made outside the ring. His good looks and easy charm have helped him attract blue-chip sponsors who usually give boxing a wide berth, including Lucozade, Lynx deodorant and Jaguar cars.

He is already a director of seven companies, including a property firm, a custom car business and a marketing venture which recently trademarked his name for everything from sports kit and hair gel, to hair removal products.

Scott Welch, a former British champion, says that if he fulfils his promise by dominating the heavyweight division for several years, Joshua could become 'the first billionaire fighter'.

5,000 calories

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.

Mastering chess

When he isn't preparing for fights, Joshua's favourite hobby is motocross. He owns a Kawasaki bike and goes riding with friends.

He's also a voracious reader, especially of business books, and has taken up chess in homage to the former British superstar boxer Lennox Lewis, a brilliant amateur player who has appeared on the cover of British Chess Magazine.

'I read a book called Think And Grow Rich,' Joshua said recently, 'and started thinking how Lennox applied his mind to boxing.

'I started talking with him regularly and he mentioned chess. I got a lady friend to teach me and now I'm ready to give him a game.'

His little champ

For female fans, there is good news and bad news. On one hand, the wealthy Adonis, who has been linked to everyone from singer Rita Ora to model Cara Delevingne, is officially single. On the other, he has what one might call 'baggage'.

For the past decade, Anthony has been in an on/off relationship with former schoolfriend Nicole Osbourne, who works as a dance teacher and appears in pole-dancing videos on YouTube.

In October 2015, she gave birth to their son, Joseph. Six months later, Anthony revealed the existence of his 'lil champ' via a post on Twitter, revealing he likes to kit the baby out in designer clothes from Bond Street boutique Moncler.

Today, although the couple are not together, he regularly visits Nicole and Joseph at a £500,000 flat he bought them in Finchley, North London, not far from his home.

Toughest test

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.

- Daily Mail

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