Anthony Joshua has revealed how life in Nigeria helped him to toughen up and why a 5am call from his mother changed him forever.
The WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO heavyweight champion moved with his mum to her African homeland as a child while she set-up a business, and despite not wanting to leave London, AJ soon learned the value of discipline.
Anthony said: “My school was called The Bells for a good reason. At five in the morning the staff would walk around ringing these bells to wake us up. If you did not get up on time, you knew you were going to be in serious trouble. Everything was about structure. We would iron our clothes in the morning and wash them at night. We had to respect our elders. Always. Every morning we’d have to fetch our own water, but an older kid in the class might just take your water and there would be nothing you could do about it. So you’d have to get smart.”
Joshua did eventually get his wish and returned to the UK with his mother, but when he turned 15 he suddenly found himself hanging around with the wrong crowd as he began “hustling and bustling”. He said: “Unfortunately, it turned into a rat race to make money. You sold whatever you could: bikes, cars, chains. I didn’t see whatever else came with it, just the paper notes at the end of it. That was around the time 50 Cent released Get Rich or Die Try And that was the mentality, you know what I mean?
“We’re going to die anyway, and we’re broke anyway, so we might as well try to get rich. But then it flipped for me. One night I was sleeping in a hostel when my phone rang at five in the morning. It was my mum. She was asking why there were 10 police officers at her door. The boys in blue were looking for me. That’s when I realised, I’ve got to change the way I am. So I got a second chance. And that’s how I found boxing.”
Fortunately for Joshua a move away from Watford to another area of London led to a dramatic change in attitude that would ultimately lead to him first winning Olympic gold in 2012 before going on to become boxing’s heavyweight king.
His rise was pure storybook until last June when his world came crashing down following a shock career-first defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in New York City – a blow he insists he was prepared and led to him reclaiming his titles by outclassing the Mexican in their December rematch.
AJ added: “I didn’t realise that until sometime after the defeat. But one thing was clear to me straight away: I was going to rise again. Why? Because I had prepared for a failure like this.
“For two or three years before the fight I had stored up a ton of information that I would be ready to use in case a defeat like that should happen. Over the next months I used the information I had stored up to make tweaks to my training. I looked at how much time I had spent in Miami, how much time I had spent in New York.
I looked at my strengths and weaknesses, my whole regime. When it was finally time to flip the switch, I was ready. And then I won back my world title, like I always knew I would.”
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