Anthony Joshua punching a heavybag ()Anthony Joshua punching a heavybag () © Copyright

AJ: "How do I switch off? I don't"

Anthony Joshua speaks to FS to tell us how he plans to dominate the heavyweight division

In some ways you've already had the fight of your life when you won the superheavyweight gold at the London 2012 Olympics. Does this take any pressure off?

Yeah, 100 per cent, 100 per cent. I relate it back to the Olympics because back then I was thrown in the deep end and people were saying it was too early, but we came out victorious, we came out on top. The same questions are being asked now, but I've got that bit more experience. I know they say amateur boxing and professional boxing are two different sports, but the objective never changed. It never changes – it's all about winning. I feel confident in this and I'm glad for the experience I've had. The Olympics and the grand stages will definitely help. A massive effect? I'm not sure, but when we talk about those one per cents, they add up. I've got that little bit more to my arsenal now.

Much as been made of you as a fighter, but what's it like thinking about 'brand AJ' being built around you?

No, it's all about AJ the fighter. I've got good people behind me, building those things up. But AJ the brand, do I disconnect that? Yeah. I'm not trying to sell myself as such and I've got a serious job in the ring to do. I can sell myself till the cows come home, but if I get knocked out ten times in a row, then no one cares what I've got to sell! That's why I disconnect that and understand that the first job at hand is winning and then the people around me can capitalise on these opportunities, present it to as many people as possible and show off that hard work and talent. People enjoy that. Not anyone can be a fighter and that's why I disconnect AJ the fighter from AJ the brand.

Everyone has to be in sync, everyone has to understand the goal. There's opportunities to be AJ the brand but first we all have to build AJ the fighter. Everyone has to work together and that's why we've been successful so far.

Anthony Joshua wins heavyweight title against Charles Martin ()

 

On a personal level, how are you dealing with the celebrity attached to your success? Has it changed you?

I don't have it much around me. I'm still here with Dazza, still here with Andy, Ro… I'm here with the boys, you know what I mean? Those things don't change. It's the fight game and not a lot feels like it's changed. For me, AJ the fighter, my objective hasn't changed (winning) and that's why I haven't changed. I'm lucky I've always been big and people have given me the extra attention. There's always kind of been the questions for me that goes, 'do you do something' [because you're big]. The celebrity thing is new. People usually want to talk to me and I've always been able to communicate with me, but I don't look at these people as my fans or something. They're just people who have an interest in what I do and I like to chat with them, chill with them if I've got time. I don't really get caught up in the hype of being a boxing celebrity.

I can still walk down this street and get from A to B quite peacefully…

I bet it would take you twice as long?

Yeah because I'm big and I've got Anthony Joshua plastered on my chest! [laughs] You got to keep it real and you got to keep it balanced because there are real A-listers out there. If I can't deal with the little attention I've got now how can I deal with it if I achieve the impossible by totally unifying the division, something no heavyweight has done before. I'm creating some sort of history, so I've got to chill a bit because there are bigger things are to come.

People say you're a 'nice guy', but we get the feeling people may not see your real character. Do you ever expose that?

All I am to me is Anthony Joshua the fighter, you know what I mean? Without the fighter there's no foundation to the character. Maybe my team should look at building more around me actually [laughs]. Let's just focus on the fighter right now, not my personal life, because I don't think I'm at that stage yet. Let's talk about unifying the division – that's the ultimate goal, that's all that's happening with me at the moment and that's all we're working towards. That's all that's important. That's why I sacrifice having a personal life and bring boxing to the forefront.

How do you switch off then if you have no personal life?

Monday to Friday I'm around fighters all the time, Saturday I'm thinking about resting and Sunday I'm thinking I've got to go back to the gym tomorrow! You don't switch off. You don't think about anything else other than boxing.

Does this success feel surreal? Do you ever take a step back and go, 'woah, I never thought I'd get here'?

Nahhhh. Remember I've been doing it since a stage where I was needing something to give my life to. I made the decision and now if you look at the champions who've gone before me, I'm following suite. It's mapped out. How do I switch off? I don't know actually. Even when you're out and people will recognise you from boxing – it's always in front of you. Unless I go somewhere where it's quite and reserved, I can't switch off. Even if I'm in a sauna or steam room someone will talk boxing to me!

So not even a cheeky game of FIFA to take your mind off things?

OK, I used to play FIFA until it affected boxing [laughs]. I had to stop playing because it affected my sleep and recovery. Mate, I could stay up till five in the morning playing it, get up at seven and train. That's how mad it was, it wasn't healthy – even then it was always sports.

Anthony Joshua slips a punch from Charles Martin (Getty)

 

Would you say boxing is all enveloping then? How else does it affect your day to day life?

It's good though, it keeps your mind on the game. Even when I eat my mind is on boxing. Yesterday I was eating Shredded Wheat and I only had white sugar when I should've been eating honey. In my mind I was like "Why can't I just have sugar?!", but then I think about how it will affect my energy levels. I have to make judgements like that all the time. This time I was like, "it's seven weeks out, I can only do this now, not down the line." Your mind is always constantly working like that.

The only time I find things challenging is when I do the wrong thing. Not when my opponents do something to me – it's me.

From day one, did you know your career was going to be like this?

We’ve done the best with times we’ve been faced with. I thought I had potential, so we got the right people in place to maximise that potential and that’s all we’ve done really. That’s how we’re handling business now. I’m working with the right people to maximise the potential. As I said, we’ve got AJ the fighter, and I’m working with people to maximise the success that comes with that. I didn’t really think to myself, “I’m going to be champion of the world” or “I’m going to get with this guy or that guy”. We’ve got a solid team in place and we’re doing the best we can to maximise what we create outside of the ring.

There will be a point where you peak. Do you ever think about your legacy?

Nah it’s all about self development. You’re going to peak you’re going to get better no matter what you do. I bet when you did your first interview it was a little bit different to now? [Shocking. And not much has changed. Maybe a little better?] Ok, so I know I’m going to get a little bit better. Whether that takes me to championship level or not I know I’m going to be better than I am now. So when you talk about ‘my goal’, I can’t predict how good I’ll be, but I just want to be better person at the end of it all. Just be a better person. More rounded, be able to speak to different people, deal with pressure better, because I’m put in situations that are unpredictable, organising myself; it makes you a better person this type of stuff, that’s all it comes down to really, self development, not so much glory.

What’s the end goal? 

Self development mate. Good rest. Simple life.

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