Anthony Joshua Screaming (Hamish Brown)Anthony Joshua Screaming (Hamish Brown) © Copyright

Exclusive // AJ talks Charles Martin

“I never take my eyes off my opponent. I keep my eyes on him, I keep my eyes on him, I keep my eyes on him. Then once I see a chink in his armour, boom. One of his eyes may move, and then I know I have him. I know I already broke his spirit.”

Not Anthony Joshua’s words, but those of one of the greatest post-war heavyweight champions Mike Tyson. On the surface, there may seem little in common between gentlemanly Joshua and controversial Iron Mike, but as we watch Joshua square up to the IBF world heavyweight champion Charles Martin at London’s Dorchester Hotel in front of the British sporting press, it seems that perhaps Joshua and Tyson are not so different.

The early ’90s version of Iron Mike exuded a supreme confidence that’s rarely been seen in the heavyweight world since, and it’s a trait that’s seen as a hallmark of the most special of talents. AJ has the potential to be that good – the question is whether he can realise it.

Anthony Joshua shouting angry (Hamish Brown)

 

This is the first of many press conferences for Joshua and Martin, and the scripted clashes will culminate in “war” when the pair face off at London’s O2 Arena on 9 April.

Such meetings are quickly becoming routine for Joshua, but what does he see as he looks into his opponent’s eyes? Is there that flicker of fear or is his nerve true? Like Tyson, does Joshua already have his man beat?

“He told me I was a bitch,” Joshua says afterwards with a grin. We’re in a taxi with the big man, who’s dressed head-to-toe in customised Under Armour gear, travelling through the congested streets of central London towards the studio for our photoshoot. “That’s a good thing,” he adds. “We want him to get fired up and be emotional. He might make mistakes.” 

AJ is unbeaten in 15 fights with 15 knockouts, and is coming off the back of the best win in his pro career, a brutal knockout victory over south London nemesis, Dillian Whyte.

Anthony Joshua punching a heavy bag (Hamish Brown)

 

AJ has only one thing on his mind: winning. This may sound obvious for a man about to challenge for the sport’s most vaunted prize, but there’s more to it than that with Joshua; the desire to be successful is all-consuming, and this vision is literally the only thing that drives the 26-year-old. Eat, sleep, fight, repeat. 

Much has been made about AJ being a nice guy. And he is. But this analysis is maybe superficial at best. AJ has no need to be loud, arrogant or brash; his singular vision of success makes his will to win resolute, bringing a type of calm to his character that could be mistaken as niceness.

This demeanour is in fact his deadliest weapon, and one he utilises to great effect every single time he steps into the ring.

As the hype machine behind the fight gathers pace, we wanted to really scratch beneath the surface and find out more about the man himself, what drives him and why, one Saturday night in south London, Charles Martin will realise he’s made a big mistake putting himself in the sights of Anthony Joshua.

AJ face and eyes close up (Hamish Brown)

 

Charles Martin is your biggest test to date. What does this opportunity mean to you?

It’s lighting up the division again. Obviously Tyson Fury did well to take the belts off Wladimir Klitschko, but I think we’re about to light it up a little bit more. April ninth, it’s an opportunity, but that’s all it is at the minute as I’m not heavyweight champion of the world.

I feel I’ve just got to take these next few weeks as seriously as possible and keep doing what I’m doing – do what I’ve done in my last 15 fights and win a 16th fight, knockout or no knockout, and I’ll become heavyweight champion of the world. It’s as simple as that.

How does that sound? Heavyweight champion of the world…

Ha. With me I’m always looking for an excuse not to say those words – as good as they are – as I haven’t unified the division. If I do win, I’m IBF heavyweight champion of the world, not the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Until I’ve done that, I won’t be satisfied.

Some people are saying it’s too soon. What do you make of that?

They are the same people who said I should be fighting for the championship last year, and now I’m there, they’re saying it’s too soon. I just realised it’s all hearsay. I’ve just got to keep doing my  thing, and do what’s right for me – if you keep listening to people’s opinions all the time, you won’t do anything and you’ll just remain stuck between those opinions. I believe you should follow what you think is right for you, and I believe thisis the right time for me, the right fight.

Anthony Joshua fists (Hamish Brown)

 

Martin seems like quite a respectful dude. Though things got a little heated at the end of The Gloves Are Off

When you’re sitting across from your opponent with Jonny [Nelson] there stirring the pot and Adam Smith throwing in the spices and sugars, you’re going to get some sort of reaction. You’re edged into a corner. They edged him in, edged him in, edged him in, and we won it. That’s what we want, and I understand that side of things now. We want him to be pumped up, we want him to be fiery, and we want him to talk nonsense.

What do you know about him?

He’s very calm, quite respectful. He can switch as well [get riled up], so I know he’s got an on and off switch. He can definitely fight because he’s heavyweight champion of the world. And he’s obviously game, because he’s coming over to the UK to get it on.

There’s a lot of power in this fight. Does that add a bit more spice?

100 per cent. Knowing you’re capable of changing the course of a fight with one punch – that’s a great feeling to have. You do have some heavyweights that just aren’t punchers. They’re big guys but they just don’t pack a punch that can rattle your brains. It’ll be quite interesting, because looking at Charles Martin, he does have that ability to knock people out with one punch.

It puts you on your A-game, you’ve got to go in there and outclass your opponent. You’ve got to stick, slip, bam bam. Oh he’s thrown a back hand there, you defend it, you come back, it puts you under pressure and you have to deal with it. That’s what I have to do with Charles Martin. Yeah he’s got power, but how do I deal with it? I shouldn’t be scared of it. It’s not a problem, we just find a solution.

For the full interview, pick up this month's copy of FS magazine at selected newsagents and supermarkets, order FS magazine online or download the FS magazine Amazon app or FS Magazine for iOS. You can also read about Anthoy Joshua's extraordinary sacrifces here.

Anthony Joshua Smiling (Hamish Brown)

 

Images shot exclusively for FS magazine by Hamish Brown

Latest

  • Bar-bae-dos Zoe Birdsall finds out that you don’t just go to Barbados for quality rum and beautiful beaches
  • Summer shirt steez Still looking for something to make that Summer ensemble? We love this Parana Shirt from Animal
  • Cruising Alaska is a revelation We send Matt Lizzimore on a Cruise of Alaska to get a taste of dog sledding, helicopters, mountains and some incredible scenery.
  • Don't miss Pennfest 2017 Primal Scream, The Charlatans, The Coral, James, Maximo Park and hot showers. Pennfest 2017 deserves your attention
  • Go fat in Finland If you fancy pushing yourself to extremes in the most extreme landscapes get yourself to Finland and rent a fat bike.