When Anthony Joshua runs, the world runs with him. When Anthony Joshua laughs, the world laughs with him. And when Anthony Joshua wins, the world definitely wins with him. All that is because everyone loves AJ, because he’s one of life’s nice guys. You know, one of those nice guys with a killer instinct who can destroy a man with a single punch and is now the heavyweight champion of the world.
When Joshua started his training camp for his November world title defence, he kicked things off with a run on London’s Hampstead Heath – part of Lucozade’s Made to Move active lifestyle campaign – and 300 locals joined him in a scene that could have easily been Rocky running through the streets of Philadelphia.
FS was on hand to run alongside Joshua, and we were also lucky enough to join him for a chat after to discuss hip-hop, famous mates and taking care of business.
When we last spoke, we were in a taxi after a press conference announcing your world heavyweight title fight – how has your life changed since?
Before the Charles Martin fight, there was the British title fight, so you can definitely see the leap it takes, and where it can push your career to – now you put yourself on a pedestal. I’ve got one of the belts now.
So it’s more attention, obviously, and I feel like the people around who want to work with us are the corporate, blue chip brands as well – so with the belt brings a kind of responsibility. It’s pretty cool.
There’s chilling time, too, but we just manage it. Everything is managed right.
Do you have loads of new showbiz and sports friends now?
Boxing’s a gladiatorial sport, so you can never lose sight of that and get caught up in the showbiz... but at the same time, I’ve met some cool people and exchanged numbers. Everyone has their school friends, their work colleague friends, and then you have people that you’ve met like celebrities, but it’s an industry type of relationship; I’m not ringing them every weekend like “where’s the party at?”
Who have you exchanged numbers with then?
The Rock. [Lewis] Hamilton’s pretty cool. I’ve exchanged numbers with him. And a few other people. But they’re two that come straight off the top of my head who are two really influential people.
Where do you keep that belt you won and do you ever wear it for a laugh?
[Laughs] In my storage. I don’t want to keep it locked away anywhere because I need access to it because it’s relevant and people might want to see it. But I never put it on for a laugh or anything like that!
Did you get away in the summer?
Yeah, I went to Koh Samui. We were in Bangkok for two days then Koh Samui. It has everything, the service is phenomenal and it’s one of the cheapest places. Everywhere else in the world is so expensive to get that type of service, food and activity. I’m a last minute traveller. My time is 16 days away – I like to fit in sleep, activities and rest. I like to get away properly, not a 7-day one.
Are you still gaming, and have you got your hands on FIFA 17 yet?
I’m not gaming, nah. They invited us along to the FIFA 17 launch. Right now, a lot of my friends and myself are going through a transition where everyone is trying to focus and get on with certain things. Back then was a lot of fun, but everyone learned about the negatives of those late nights and we’re all trying to focus now.
You mean everyone’s growing up?
Yeah, I think that’s ultimately what it comes down to.
We just went for a run – do people yell encouragement at you when you hit the streets, just like when Rocky goes out on runs?
It’s always beep beep on the horn. They’ll yell “go on son” – nothing negative, thankfully. I’m a local boy, I grew up here since I was 18. I haven’t moved. I still kick back with the same people. People know where to come looking for me if they want to find me. You know when some people meet celebrities, athletes or YouTubers and they can be like crying and stuff, people feel like they know me. It’s more like a respect and “what’s happening mate?” It’s like that respect so it’s pretty cool.
It’s important to you to have that relationship with people, right?
Yeah, I’m no different, just be normal. No problem. You saw what it was like today. People were normal. They weren’t going crazy. They come out, and it’s like a community thing.
What are you listening to at the moment when you run or work out?
You’re fighting in Manchester next. Have you been up there much and what do you think of that friendly northern vibe?
Yeah, northerners are completely different. I do like Manchester. It’s like London in that it’s a city and everyone’s just trying to get on with what they’re getting on with, but the northerners are just a different crowd altogether, man. I do like going up there. I haven’t experienced the nightlife yet, so that’ll be interesting, but I’ve got to go and get the win first.
You don’t know your opponent yet, but does it matter, or is it a case of just training the same way whoever it is?
Funnily enough, I thought it would matter, but it’s come to the stage where it is what it is. I’ve got to win. I’ve got to do my job, so let that person come forward and try to take me on. No problem – whoever it is, I don’t mind.
What’s the worst thing you have to do in training?
It’s not training, it’s waking up tired. Imagine you go into work and you’ve got a deadline and you’ve got to go through ten emails, read something, comment on it but your mind’s not functioning because sleep deprivation is the worst – it’s going into the gym knowing what’s to come but my mind’s not working right. That’s the worst thing.
So what do you do?
Get an espresso! I swear. It helps to focus again. Mate, it’s not like you can call in and say I’m not showing up today. You have to learn to adapt and work when you’re tired.
So what’s your standard coffee order?
Double espresso. I’ve had four at times. It's a physical job so you need that hit to kind of spike and push your body through the limits. It's hard.
What do you say to your critics who say things like “you haven’t fought anyone” and “you’re just a bodybuilder”?
I think you have to have learning fights. That’s the same with anyone in boxing. “He’s not fought anyone” – but all it takes is that one fight to change people’s opinions. Man United don’t play Man City every week. Real Madrid don’t play Barcelona every week. So you have to go through the motions and get through the league to get to these people. It’s the same in boxing.
It’s not just like I call up Tyson Fury and say “do you wanna fight next week?” and he’s like “yeah”... people have their own plans and they soon come together and fight. Try as a spectator to put yourself in my fighting position. And in the promoter’s, the manager’s and the broadcaster’s positions – you have to combine all four’s obligations and structure a way of making these fights work. People think that boxing is so open that they can just call someone and organise a fight. You have to be a bit more realistic about what it takes to get a fight organised.
With the bodybuilding stuff, I just try not to show too much of my boxing. Not everyone can be a professional boxer. I try to show people my lifestyle, my gym work because everyone goes to the gym. So I kind of show them my gym stuff and that’s probably why they think I’m a bodybuilder because I never really put boxing out there. It’s not like I don’t box. I box every day, but I do other stuff every day as well, so I just show them
a different side that they can relate to rather than boxing because not everyone can go to a boxing gym.
We’ve been reading about your admiration for Conor McGregor. What do like about him?
Yeah, The Notorious. I love that name. He’s good for the fighting sport because you need people like him. You need people as Scarfaces that you can point your finger at and say “that’s the bad guy”. So he’s that guy that brings that rawness to the fight game and I’ve got to take my hat off to him.
Anthony Joshua fights Eric Molina on Saturday 10th December at the Manchester Arena, tickets £89.
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