Since winning the gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics Anthony Joshua has gone on to post an 18 – 0 win record, with every single one of those victories being knockouts. Indeed, only two of those bouts went beyond the third round. Despite this unprecedented success, the Olympic gold medalist has remained remarkably humble and, as such, serves as a glowing example to any aspiring towards greatness.
Standing at a remarkable 6ft 6in and utilizing a traditional orthodox stance, Joshua has everything a boxer needs to succeed. This is no different when it comes to his team. A common proverb used by the current IBF heavyweight champion is, ‘you are only as good as the company you keep’. If this is the case then Joshua’s company must be very, very good. In what seems like no time at all Joshua has risen through the ranks of the boxing world, and now stands right on the precipice of going from an excellent heavyweight boxer, to an all-time great. A highly anticipated confrontation with the legendary Wladimir Klitschko promises to be the catalyst that will bridge this gap for Joshua.
Still, despite possessing all the necessary ingredients required to win fights, it is nonetheless a considerable feat that he has already reached this point in his career. All the more impressive then, that Joshua has managed to keep himself grounded. Rather than become swept up in the glory and the fame, he has stayed true to his roots. He still lives with his mother, and has the same group of friends around him as he did before he turned professional. In any sport, staying humble is admirable. Boxing is no exception and may in fact be the most difficult to ‘keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’.
Few sports draw so heavily on them most primal urges of human nature. The desire to fight in the face of adversity, the will to survive against the odds. In the ring, one ‘mental blink’ can mean the difference between victory and defeat. It is a necessity in boxing to intimidate your opponent not just physically, but also psychologically. In the build-up to a fight boxers do not give anything away for fear they might betray some weakness to their adversary. All boxers tend to over-egg this beautifully, whether it be in interviews or weigh-ins. The mental game in this sport is played through bravado and aggression. Joshua is an exception to this long-established rule. Some would view his humility in this regard as a weakness. To do so would be a grave mistake. In fact, it is a testament to his remarkable mental strength that Joshua is able to remain calm and humble while his opponents are busy puffing their chests. Another common phrase you will hear the 27-year-old use is, ‘We’ll see what happens in the ring’. His approach to the mental game has yet to be proved wrong, and deserves admiration.
Joshua’s humble and reserved nature has also served him well in other areas of his trade. He has pledged on numerous occasions to display the various belts he has won over the past three years in museums, to serve as motivation for future generations. In truth, the IBF heavyweight champion’s story provides ample inspiration in and of itself. Joshua grew up in Watford and, like many, fell in with the wrong crowd. Before he had put on his first pair of boxing gloves the then 18-year-old was facing a long-term prison sentence. As it turned out, he ended up being banned from his home town for a year, and so came to London. It was in the capital that Joshua first discovered his affinity for pugilism and, with the help of his team, it was not long before he was on the path to success. One does not have to be in a situation as dire as Joshua’s was, much the same as one does not have to become a sporting legend, in order to be able to relate to this man’s story. It is possible to break from your surroundings should you wish to and become more than what is expected of you.
Unfortunately it has become something of a rarity to discover such a shining example of humanity within the sporting world, particularly with regards to boxing. Anthony Joshua has broken the mould not just by way of his mentality, but also in terms of where he came from and, at one point, the road he was seemingly going down. No doubt he will go on to enrich his already glistening trove of trophies and triumphs. However, his greatest achievement has been and always will be the remarkably positive inspiration he has provided to the millions that watch him fight.