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Anthony Joshua... A New Boxing Star Is Born

Posted: 14/10/2013 17:35

Last week's highlight was being at the O2 watching Anthony Joshua's first professional fight since turning pro after last year's gold medal success at the Olympics. Although the fight was over in the first round, it was long enough to show the world that a new era in British heavyweight boxing had been born.

I first met Anthony at the The Laboratory, the gym where we both train in North London. He was fresh from his Olympic success and was gearing up to take part in Superstars against other Olympians including Mo Farah. There was a swimming element in the events, so I talked him through some water exercises and training techniques.

Chatting to him, I found him to be very smart, attentive and modest which is surprising considering he had just won an Olympic gold medal. He is also the nicest, good-natured bloke you could meet, always laughing, joking and takes time to talk to everyone.

I remember watching Anthony last year and was amazed at his power, speed, composure and maturity that propelled him to an Olympic gold medal, seemingly out of nowhere. Looking at his sporting history he was obviously going to be an elite athlete but the fact that he didn't start boxing until he was 18 and he is still only 23 is remarkable by anyone's standards. Clearly, whoever persuaded him to take up the sport saw a very special talent and so far, he is living up to that promise.

Not only is he as tall as me, 6' 6", but also 2.5stone of pure muscle heavier! That makes him very strong and to top it all he has explosive speed (100m in 11.5 seconds). Clearly a very special athlete.

Seeing Anthony fighting in the ring last week was fascinating. This was not the laughing, joking, gentle giant of a guy I knew from the gym. This was a 17stone focused, fighting machine. As Anthony himself said. "In the ring ... it's war..."

His opponent, Leo Emanuelle from Italy, 10 years his senior and undefeated with a wealth of experience against what must have been considered Anthony's inexperience. But his power, strength and speed was just too good and of course he had what all great athletes need; the hunger to win. No amount of experience can compensate for that desire.

For those of you who do not follow boxing regularly and haven't heard of Anthony Joshua, I guarantee that in the very near future everyone in the UK will know who this man is. He follows in the footsteps of the great British boxers that we seem to produce every 20 years or so, David Haye, Lennox Lewis, Audley Harrison, Frank Bruno, reaching all the way back to Joe Bugner and Henry Cooper.

Who knows how big Anthony Joshua will be... Yes, he really is that good.

For all boxers, the decision to turn professional is a tough one. To retain his amateur status would mean Anthony would get another chance to defend his Olympic title in Rio in 2016. It would also mean he could sustain a fairly low profile and live his day-to-day life relatively easily, unencumbered by media and public attention.

Turning professional provides an opportunity to hit the big time, sign lucrative contracts and fight in the best arenas in the world against the best boxers in the world. The downside is that such fame brings its own restrictions, a level of scrutiny of your life, that is not always welcome and means that boxing is your job rather than a hobby, albeit an all consuming one.

But clearly Anthony has thought long and hard about the decision to go pro and with a great team and good mates around him to assist and support, he is in position to carve out his own place in the history books.

I knew Saturday night at the O2 was a special night and that I was witnessing the next great British Boxer taking his first step onto the world professional stage. The fact that I know Anthony personally added a degree of excitement to the night as inside I am still 15 years old, a massive sports fan and still get blown away by world class sporting performances.

It was an honour to be part of that night and I am looking forward to being ringside for his next fight later in the month in Sheffield.

 

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