Anthony Joshua's promoter believes boxing now has a role model for young people to look up to after the Watford man’s “frightening” debut.
Joshua, who grew up on the Meriden Estate, only took up the sport at the age of 18 but enjoyed a meteoric rise to Olympic super heavyweight gold at London 2012 last summer.
The 23-year-old had not fought competitively for more than a year prior to his debut at the weekend as he weighed up the different offers from promoters.
The heavyweight opted for Matchroom Sports and Eddie Hearn, who handed Joshua his debut at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday.
Joshua, who weighed in at 16st 6lb and is 6ft 6in tall, made light work of his opponent Emanuele Leo, who had won all of his previous eight fights, as he knocked out his opponent two minutes and 47 seconds into the first round.
Afterwards, Hearn told Sky Sports: “I am so excited about Anthony Joshua, not just because he is a great talent but we have a real chance of having role model and ambassador in the sport of boxing; someone for young people look up to. It should be an exciting journey.”
“That was devastating,” Hearn added when talking to iFilm. “It was frightening and I was frightened watching. He only made one mistake where he went in with his chin up and he got carried away. It is exciting times.
“I don’t think there will be many people who will give him many rounds.”
Joshua also had to decide on a new trainer when he turned professional after leaving the world-class GB Boxing set-up in Sheffield.
He opted for Tony Sims who told Sky Sports: “I was really pleased with him. In the changing room before the fight, considering all the hype and pressure surrounding him, he was as calm as I have seen a fighter.
“Once he was in there he was nice and relaxed, threw one-twos down the centre and the power is unbelievable for a young kid of 23 years old. He will be a real star of the future.”
Winning Olympic gold is almost a fast-track to fame and fortune but Joshua insists he will maintain the work ethic and desire which led to his amateur success.
Just hours after his professional debut, Joshua told iFilm: “I need to get back in the gym and put in that groundwork.
“Emanuele Leo was 8-0 on paper but when I was ABA champion in the amateurs and saying I want to beat this person and that person in Britain, someone said to me ‘you can’t take your ABA championship to a Russian champion or to Kazakhstan’s Olympic champion because they are not going to respect you’.
“At this stage now, I am so far away from what I want to be. So the main thing I need is to stay in the gym and keep grinding it out because to defeat those top level fighters, you need everything you have got and that is what I need to prepare for.”