IBF heavyweight champion ready for the biggest fight of his life at Wembley Stadium as he recalls tough road to the top
ANTHONY JOSHUA credits his first trainer as the man who saved his life and stopped him becoming a criminal.
The IBF heavyweight world champion is set for the biggest payday of his life on Saturday when he faces Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium.
Yet it was a different story nine years ago when the 18-year-old tearaway from a high-rise London estate quit boxing and headed down a road which could have taken him to jail.
Only the intervention of Finchley ABC coach Sean Murphy turned Joshua’s life around and got him back into the gym.
Murphy, 52, a former British featherweight champion, said: “I told him, ‘Whatever you are doing, it is not legal and you have to stop it now’.
“He said, ‘If you want to get serious and you want to box, you have to sort yourself now’.”
Joshua, 27, is so grateful he bought Murphy a brand new BMW recently.
The boxer said: “I was f***** before boxing. That was my reckless days when I was smoking. Boxing really helped me get on the straight and narrow.
“It was at my first boxing club where I learned discipline. How to forget your ego and listen to instructions if you want to achieve things.
“Sean would say, ‘Shut up, get on the bags, stop talking’. He told me to stay focused.
“These guys will always have their door open for me, no matter what. I’ll never forget who has been there when no one was.”
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That historic pep talk is revealed in a fly-on-the-wall BBC documentary to be shown on Tuesday.
It chronicles the past two years when the London 2012 Olympic gold medallist won the world heavyweight title by beating American Charles Martin in April 2016.
Joshua also reveals how he quit his regular job as a bricklayer to chase his dream.
He said: “When I was younger I was partying, I was getting in trouble, I had the court cases.
“This was the time I thought, ‘What will I do with myself?’. I’d found boxing while on bail and I had the opportunity to go to Vegas to fight. So I told my site manager I would go to Vegas and be back in two weeks.
“He said, ‘Nah, if you’re not here someone else can take your job. You choose what you want to do’. So, I ended up going to Vegas.”
Joshua is unbeaten in his 18 professional fights and has built up an impressive following of celebrity names desperate to be at ringside for his fights.
The likes of Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho and grime rapper Stormzy are both fans of AJ.
Even Hollywood royalty in the form of The Rock — actor Dwayne Johnson — who last summer gave Joshua a career-defining talk.
Joshua became a father for the first time in October 2015, to son Joseph, who is nicknamed JJ, while The Rock celebrated the birth of his second child two months later.
The Rock said: “AJ, you will find with Joseph you’re already inspired and motivated to get better and leave a legacy.
“But because of him, it’s a whole new level. Because then you are not fighting for yourself, you are fighting for him.”
Anthony Joshua: Road to Klitschko is on BBC 1 on Tuesday at 10.45pm.