Anthony Joshua: From Watford to Wembley

IBF, WBA, IBO, and WBO Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has enjoyed a stratospheric rise to super stardom within the sport of boxing, but his tale isn’t one that just happened overnight. The 28-year-old hails from humble beginnings.

Here is the story of how a young lad from Watford has grown to become a boxing legend, scheduled to fight in front of 90,000 people at Wembley when he faces number one contender Alexander Povetkin on 22nd September this year.

Anthony Joshua: Watford to Wembley

Watford’s Hometown Hero

Joshua was born in Watford, Hertfordshire on 15th October, 1989. His parents, Robert and Yeta, are both of Nigerian heritage, and he has traces of Irish ancestry on his father’s side of the family. The family spent some time living in Nigeria during Joshua’s early years, and Joshua attended a boarding school there. After his parents got divorced he returned to English schooling at the age of 12, attending Kings Langley Secondary School and growing up in Garston, Hertfordshire.

Keep It In The Family: Joshua is not the only professional boxer in his family. His cousin, Ben Lleyemi, also fights professionally.

Vital Statistics: His full name is Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua. He is 6 feet 6 inches tall and has a reach of 208 centimetres.

The Amateur Route

“AJ”, as he is now more commonly known, was a talented kid in school. He was an accomplished athlete, having broken the Year 9 100 metre record with a time of just 11.6 seconds, and was also accomplished at playing football.

Despite all these talents, Joshua chose to focus on boxing. It was not until he was 18 years old that he took it seriously and joined his local amateur boxing club, Finchley ABC, in Barnet, London. Joshua went on to win the Senior ABA Championship in 2010 and 2011. He took the bold decision to turn down a £50,000 offer to transition to professional boxing in favour of chasing his dream of becoming an Olympic champion.

Well-Rounded Individual: Joshua expressed an interest in chess and reading growing up. This is something he has continued to enjoy as he has grown older, believing that participating in both has helped fine tune the mental attributes of his boxing performances.

Haringey Box Cup Winner: Joshua won the Haringey Box Cup in 2009 and 2010. Other prestigious winners have included Chris Eubank Jr, Nicola Adams, and Katie Taylor.  In 2010 he became British amateur champion at the GB Amateur Boxing Championships. Despite a defeat at the European Amateur Boxing Championships in 2011,  Joshua was named 2011 Amateur Boxer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Club of Great Britain.

Troubling Times: Joshua was put on remand at Reading prison in 2009 for what he said was “fighting and other crazy stuff”. He was forced to wear an electronic tag on his ankle upon release. In 2011, Joshua once again clashed with the law when he was pulled over in his Mercedes-Benz by police for speeding. He was charged with possession with intent to supply a class B drug after 8 oz of herbal cannabis was found in his sports bag.

The following two years would help define the foundation of Joshua’s glittering boxing career. His defeat to Nistor was soon forgotten when he won a silver medal at the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships. His performances at the tournament won him a place on Team GB for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

It was at the 2012 Olympic Games that Joshua took his career to the next level. He reached the final of the competition, where he defeated former world champion and reigning Olympic champion Roberto Cammarelle from Italy to win the gold medal.


The Professional Step

In the 2013 New Year Honours List, Joshua was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his achievements at the Olympic Games in London the previous summer. This would act as a new dawn for his boxing career, as he took the ambitious step into the professional sector later that same year.

Anthony Joshua pictured with his MBE
Image Credit:

Joshua’s coaching team were keen to ease him into the professional game, encouraging him to bulk up, as we saw in our piece on Joshua’s diet. They were unwilling to take any more time than they had to when it came to boosting his profile. Just 6 months after going professional, Joshua had notched up KO wins against five opponents, including fellow British boxers Paul Butlin and Dorian Darch.

His first major test came on 12th July, 2014, when he fought former European heavyweight title holder Matt Skelton at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. Joshua’s victory was a convincing KO just 2 minutes and 33 seconds into the 2nd Round of the bout.

A timeline of Anthony Joshua's career

Winning World Titles

Just 9 fights into his professional boxing career and Joshua was competing for his first world heavyweight title. He was scheduled to fight Russian Denis Bakhtov at the O2 Arena in London for the vacant WBC International heavyweight championship on 11th October, 2014. Victory came for Joshua just 1 minute into the 2nd Round, with a KO in yet another emphatic display.

Anthony Joshua competing in his first world heavyweight title fight
Image Credit:

On 9th April, 2016, Joshua became the IBF heavyweight champion when he beat American fighter Charles Martin at the O2 Arena. This was followed by victories over two more US-based boxers, Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina, taking Joshua’s professional record to 18 wins without a loss.

A pivotal moment in Joshua’s career was the epic fight against Ukrainian boxer Wladimir Klitschko on 29th April, 2017 at Wembley Stadium. “AJ” secured a TKO win against the legendary fighter to win the vacant WBA and IBO heavyweight titles. Klitschko was also his most famous scalp to date. It was a win that brought Joshua to the attention of the world.

Social Media Superiority: Joshua has one of the most prolific social media followings in the world with 2.1 million followers on Twitter, 6.8 million followers on Instagram, and 2.5 million likes on Facebook.Joshua added two more titles to his name when he won the vacant Commonwealth heavyweight championship against fellow British fighter Gary Cornish on 12th September, 2015 at the O2 Arena, and then the vacant British heavyweight title against long-time rival Dillian Whyte on 12th December, 2015 at the same venue.

Tattoos: Joshua has a tattoo located on his right upper arm that is the outline of Africa and Nigeria.

Attendance Record: The fight between Joshua and Klitschko at Wembley Stadium recorded the largest attendance for a British boxing fight since Len Harvey fought Jock McAvoy at the White City Stadium in London on 10th July, 1939.

Next up was Frenchman Carlos Takam. Takam had stepped in as a late replacement for the Bulgarian fighter Kubrat Pulev. Pulev had suffered a shoulder injury during his training camp and was unfit to compete. The fight took place on 28th October, 2017 at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. Takam gave Joshua his toughest fight to date, surviving until 1 minute and 34 seconds into the 10th Round before a KO by Joshua.

In his most recent fight, Joshua returned to the Principality Stadium on 31st March, 2018 for his most high-profile bout to date against New Zealand boxer and WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker. The fight went the whole distance of the 12 rounds, with Joshua being handed a unanimous points decision win.

That win provoked challenges from former unified WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, reigning WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, and WBA/ WBO number one contender Alexander Povetkin.

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed that a two-fight deal had been signed with Wembley Stadium in London for 22nd September, 2018 and 13th April, 2019. The first of those two fights will be against Russian Povetkin, and it is expected that the second will be against American Wilder. It is hoped the two fights will each attract attendances in excess of 90,000 with revenues earned through television rights reaching record figures.

Pictures of the fighters Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua
Image Credit:

Gold Honour: After his gold medal success at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Joshua had a post box painted gold in honour of his win. It can be found on Watford High Street in his hometown.

Career Earnings: It is estimated that Joshua has earned up to £50 million from his 20 professional fights so far, with £13 million earned from the bout with Parker alone.

Wilder Offer: Wilder’s camp are alleged to have offered Joshua £50 million to prioritise a title unification fight with the vocal American boxer. The offer was rejected in favour of a fight with Povetkin.