Welcome to my second post in the weekly segment ‘On The Rise’ where I profile up and coming young British boxers. In today’s post, I look at heavyweight Anthony Joshua who, as we all know, is fighting for the IBF world heavyweight title this Saturday.
Now I know just yesterday I wrote a post previewing the title fight this weekend but how could i not include AJ in this segment? Better to get it done early just incase he happens to lose the fight this weekend, which would really put a halt on the young man’s rise up the heavyweight division. Not to put a dampener on things.
As with last week, im going to start from the beginning of AJ’s boxing story. In 2009 at the young age of 19 Joshua began his boxing journey, most notably facing off against current domestic rival Dillian Whyte. As we all heard in the build up to AJ’s and Whyte’s recent fight, Whyte won via UD over 3 rounds at super heavyweight. Following this early amateur career defeat, Joshua really pushed on winning the 2010 ABA National Championship’s at super heavyweight. The man from Watford nicknamed ‘AJ’ was now starting to gather some attention as he retained his ABA title the following year in 2011. Also in 2011, Joshua had just turned 21 as he began his fight to reach professional boxing. At the World Amateur Boxing Championships he really marked his arrival into the boxing world as he beat Italian reigning world and Olympic champion Roberto Cammarelle on points 15-13. On his way through the 2011 WABC tournament, he secured his place in the GB team for the 2012 Olympics, fighting at 91+ kg.
So now in 2012, Anthony Joshua began his journey through the Olympics which would give him the platform he needed to become a professional boxer, alongside showcasing his talent and winning gold for team GB. AJ was given a tough draw in the last 16, coming up against Cuban Erislandy Savon, then ranked #4 in the world by the AIBA. Joshua went on to win the bout 17:16 with many people believing this was a controversial decision and maybe the result should have been the other way round. Despite this, Joshua pushed on through the tournament reaching the final against an old foe in Roberto Cammarelle. Joshua won the fight via count-back and was crowned the new Olympic champion as well as winning gold for team GB. He was later appointed MBE in the 2013 new year honours for services to boxing.
When July 11th 2013 came around, it was announced Joshua had turned professional under Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport. AJ made his professional debut on October 5th 2013 at his current home the O2 Arena on Scott Quigg’s title defence undercard, beating Italian Emanuelue Leo via TKO in the first round. Joshua continued to knockout whoever was put in front of him, despite it being people he would be expected to beat, he certainly showcased his explosive talent as he began to gather fans quickly. AJ really gathered massive public attention when he knocked out Matt Legg on the undercard of Froch v Groves 2 at Wembley Stadium in front of a record boxing crowd. He dispatched Legg quickly inside the 1st, leaving him to recover from his injuries for the following 3 months. Matt Legg recently spoke to Sky Sports about Anthony Joshua’s knock out power.
“I got a broken eye socket, when I tried to get up I couldn’t even see. I had three months of nerve damage in the side of my face. For two months I had no feeling, it was numb.”
“He hits you through your gloves, even when you’ve got your hands up protecting your head, the power of his punches goes through your gloves, there’s nowhere to hide.” – Matt Legg
As Joshua began to make the O2 Arena his boxing home, he continued to knockout whoever he was up against and sold out tickets despite not yet fighting for any prestigious boxing title. In his 9th professional fight, AJ stepped into the ring against Denis Bakhtov on October 11th 2014 for the WBC International heavyweight title, with the Brit winning via TKO in the second round. On May 30th 2015 Joshua fought American Kevin Johnson in what was supposed to be his toughest test to date, against a man who had never been stopped and had gone the distance with the likes of Tyson Fury and Vitali Klitschko. AJ inflicted the first stoppage defeat of Johnson’s career after the referee stopped the fight early in the second.
Throughout Joshua’s rise through heavyweight boxing, old rival Dillian Whyte who beat him all those year’s ago constantly accused AJ of being a fraud, calling him out on many different occasions. A fight was finally made between the two big heavyweights in December 2015 in what was Joshua’s toughest fight to date. AJ went in all gun’s blazing expecting to win early on, business as usual, however Whyte had a different idea catching AJ on several occasions and taking the fight to the 7th round before the Watford born man won via TKO. Many believed had Whyte not sustained a shoulder injury that he would have defeated Joshua, but despite this Eddie Hearn managed to get AJ his big opportunity. With just 15 fights under his belt and at the tender age of 26 Anthony Joshua will fight for the IBF world heavyweight title this Saturday against undefeated American Charles Martin.
Joshua’s rise has been phenomenal, quickly becoming a favourite amongst Britain’s boxing fans and even from people across the world. Where he goes after this fight is a mystery, but an exciting mystery as long as he can win. A unification bout against bitter rival Tyson Fury has been talked about recently due to their Twitter ‘beef’ with promoter Eddie Hearn suggesting the fight could take place at Wembley later this year if all goes well.
Whatever happens this weekend and in the future, AJ will continue to be a fan favourite and sell out arena’s due to his light-hearted friendly personality and his ability to unleash devastating knockout punches.
I hope you have enjoyed this week’s ‘On The Rise’, leave a comment and let me know who I should profile next week! I will leave you with a video of his career highlights and knockouts so far.