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Anthony Joshua discusses British and world title ambitions and the need for patience
Winning Olympic gold meant there was always going to be high expectations when Anthony Joshua turned professional and after six knock-outs inside two rounds since joining the paid ranks, the level of expectancy has grown further. Some boxing fans have criticised the level of opposition recently but patience and time appear to be key for the Watford boxer.
The heavyweight division is arguably crucial to the success of boxing when it comes to mainstream audiences and years of dominance from brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko have dampened interest somewhat.
So with Vitali retiring and Wladimir coming towards the end of his career, the heavyweight division is starting to open up again and London 2012 Super Heavyweight gold medalist Joshua has been widely tipped to go on and secure one of the world title belts.
His last opponent Matt Legg had only fought nine times, winning seven of those, during a 13-year career but it is easy to forget Joshua only took up the sport six years ago and still has a lot to learn.
To put it into context, the American Deontay Wilder, who is another prospect and has just become mandatory for the WBC belt, which is now held by Bermane Stiverne following Vitali Klitschko’s retirement, is 28, has been a professional for five and a half years and has had 31 fights, all of which have ended inside four rounds.
At just 24, Joshua certainly has time on his side.
He explained: “When I turned professional, the question I asked myself was that I have only been boxing three and a half years and if I turn pro after winning the Olympics then there will be a lot of expectation so that was why it took me a year to turn pro because I knew I needed more experience. But I also knew it was the right time to turn pro.
“So I had gauged the situation before turning pro. I knew the expectation would come any way and it is about guiding a fighter in the right way. So I am going through a process which suits me and it might be different to the one which the next medalist takes after the 2016 Olympics. But it suits me and this is what I have to do.
“I would love to compete at a higher level but it is about taking it one fight at a time and one level at a time. At the time of the Olympics, I felt if I had another year or two then I might have knocked out some of those opponents [in the amateurs] and in another year I can learn lots more with experience and time. I have to bide my time. We will definitely be upping the level but it will be bit by bit.
“Matt Skelton (Joshua's next opponent) might not be special, he isn't a Wladimir Klitschko, but for example (former British and Commonwealth champion) David Price fought him in his 13th fight and I am fighting him in my seventh fight. I want to up the levels but one step at a time and I will show what level I am at in time. I can only keep beating people at this level.”
Skelton is a step up for Joshua but at 47, it is a fight the former Kings Langley Secondary School pupil should win.
Skelton (28-8) is a former European champion and world title challenger but has lost both of his last two fights.
He was knocked out by Price in round two of their Commonwealth and British title fight in November 2012 and he suffered a unanimous decision loss to John McDermott in a clash for the British belt in March last year.
Joshua said: “I have never sparred with him and have only ever seen him on YouTube but he will be game and I will be game so it should be a good dust-up.”
Joshua, who grew up on the Meriden Estate and now lives in Golders Green, had six fights in his first eight months as a professional.
He hopes to be on the verge of challenging for the British title around this time next year.
Joshua said: “I wouldn’t say the next 12 months are make or break but it is a very important time, heading into your second year as a professional, because the time flies. I should get to double figures [in fights] and I would like to be competing or on the verge of fighting for a British title.
“It is up to my management but I really want to get hold of a British title. It is a prestigious belt and it would be a really good achievement. I obviously want to stay undefeated and keep adding things to my boxing skills.
“We were watching my first amateur fights yesterday (Monday) – like my first one and my third one – and I was so poor but you could see the improvements made over time and I know time will help bring the best out in me.”
Joshua added he “100 per cent” wants to win the British title outright, which is when the fighter keeps the belt once they have won three British title fights.
Like all boxers the overall goal is to become world champion and Joshua said: “There is no rush but I want to be fighting for a world title in three years. I want to announce myself on the British scene, then on the European scene and then the world scene.”
Joshua was speaking to the Watford Observer at his old secondary school Kings Langley after holding a Q&A with pupils and meeting his former teachers. Read more here.
He enjoys his newly-found status as a role model, saying: “It is interesting because no one is perfect and when you are inspiring people and they look up to it, it does bring pressure but I think if I can put any messages out there then let it be positive rather than negative because there are kids who look to me and want to do what I do.
“Being a role model is cool and I just try to put out positive messages rather than negative ones.”
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