A powerful knockout artist, Anthony Joshua helped revitalize the heavyweight division. Although he started his boxing career somewhat late, he quickly ascended up the amateur ranks and ended up winning an Olympic gold medal at super heavyweight, and then later the IBF heavyweight title, making him only the second British boxer to win gold at the Olympics and also a world title.
Born in Watford, England to Nigerian parents, Joshua spent his early years back and forth between the United Kingdom and Nigeria. By the middle of his Year Seven, he was in the United Kingdom full time at Kings Langley Secondary School. He was always a natural athlete, as he did well in football and also ended up breaking the 100-meter record for Year Nine students when he ran it in just 11.6 second.
While he did a couple sessions of boxing training with his father at 15, he wasn’t interested in the sport at the time, preferring weightlifting and spending time with his friends. In 2007 when he was 18, he really committed to the sport and started training full time. This meant he was getting to it later than most, although athletic heavyweights can get away with that.
He had immediate success when he started competing as an amateur, as he ended up winning both the 2009 and 2010 Haringey Box Cup, followed by the Senior ABA Championships in 2010. Despite his success in the ring, Anthony Joshua had his share of problems outside of it. He had been getting in trouble with the law since he was 16, at one point throwing another player over his shoulders during a game of football. That resulted in an official warning. He also got in his fair share of street fights, one of which led to him being on remand in Reading. His success in boxing didn’t lead him down the right path immediately, as even after he started collecting those amateur tournament trophies, he still got arrested in 2010 for having marijuana in his car.
Despite these issues, the heavyweight didn’t let himself get off track, as he continued to focus on his goals of winning tournaments. Despite an offer of 50,000 pounds to fight professionally in 2010, he turned it down because he wanted to remain an amateur. He instead took a place on the GB Boxing team, and he ended up winning the 2010 GB Amateur Boxing Championships. He took a step up in competition the next year when he fought in the 2011 European Amateur Boxing Championships, but a southpaw, Mihai Nistor, ended up stopping him.
The 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships served as a coming out party for the boxer. Despite having only 4 years of experience at the time, he beat the tournament’s reigning champion Roberto Cammarelle and followed it up with a victory in the semifinals. He faced off with Magomedrasul Majidov in the finals but lost by just a point, ending up with the silver medal. His tournament performance was good enough to earn him a place in the 2012 Olympics.
His draw at the Olympics was far from easy, and he had a tough opening round against Cuban Erislandy Savón. He ended up taking a close and highly controversial victory, 17-16, although most of the people in the crowd didn’t agree with it. His next bout was a more decisive 15-11 victory over Zhang Zhilei, who he knocked down in the second round. The semifinals saw the 6’6” boxer at a rare height disadvantage against Ivan Dychko, but he still managed to prevail with another close victory, this one coming 13-11. In the finals, he once again fought Roberto Cammarelle, and this match was far closer.
He lost the first two rounds by 1 and 2 points, respectively, but then stormed back in the third round to tie it up at 18-18. On the countback, he was crowned the winner. Like his first fight, this result also attracted some controversy, although fans were impressed with the way he fought back in the final round.
Having conquered the highest level of amateur boxing, Anthony Joshua turned pro in 2013. In his very first contest on October 5, 2013, he showed off his devastating power with a first-round knockout win against Emanuele Leo. He continued to pick up knockouts and TKOs on his way to a WBC heavyweight title fight against Denis Bakhtov at the 02 Arena in London. In front of his home crowd, he dominated Bakhtov and scored a second-round TKO, winning his first title just over a year into his professional career.
After another four finishes, he picked up another belt when he defeated Gary Cornish by first-round TKO and won the vacant Commonwealth heavyweight title. His next fight was for the vacant British heavyweight title, along with his own WBC and Commonwealth heavyweight titles. It was also against an opponent he had a history with in Dillian Whyte. The two had fought previously as amateurs in 2009, and Whyte had picked up the win. Whyte tagged Joshua with a hard shot in the second round, but the champion showed that he could take a punch by hanging in there and fighting back, eventually knocking Whyte out in round seven. It was the longest either fighter had fought at that point in their careers.
With that win, he had earned his first shot at a world heavyweight title, in this case the IBF belt held by Charles Martin. The fight took place at his usual stomping grounds, the 02 Arena, and he didn’t disappoint. He picked up a second-round knockout to the delight of his many fans in attendance. He would go on to defend his IBF heavyweight title multiple times.
As a boxer, Joshua is the total package. Despite starting late, he has sharp technical skills, and he boasts superb athleticism. And, of course, the fans love a knockout puncher, and he has shown that he possesses that kind of brutal, fight-changing power.