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10-year journey: Anthony Joshua on how he went from Watford gym to the top of the world

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Andrew Dickens
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Anthony Joshua

Ten years ago, Anthony Joshua was an 18-year-old trying to get fit at a local gym by hitting things. Today, he’s an Olympic gold medallist and heavyweight champion of the world

I like loyalty over ability. You know when you’re young and can count your friends on one hand? It’s easy to find people who can do the job, but it’s hard to find people you can go out with, build with, eat with. That’s loyalty. You’re breaking bread. To sum it up, these are the people you expect at your funeral.

I think people think more of me now. They expect more. I’m living in reality. The other bits that come with ‘winning’, you can live it for a few days, a holiday, but you have to come back to reality. If you try to live in that world for the rest of your days, it doesn’t last long.

Not turning pro when I was younger is the biggest decision I’ve made. People were advising me to do certain things, but I followed my gut. You follow your gut and hope it works. The iron was hot so, do I do a deal or do I turn it down and maybe go out at the weekend on a motorbike and break my hand? People respected me. It’s more than a pay cheque; it’s public knowledge that I turned down some dollar to turn pro when I was young.

The Klitschko fight gave me a buzz. You can’t fight with fame, you can’t fight with an entourage and you can’t fight with money; that fight was about heart, pride, blood and sweat. In years to come, you need to find those defining moments. That’s how you create the legacy. Klitschko was a fight people will remember – a date in boxing history.

Joshua v Klitschko

Joshua slays Klitschko at Wembley in April

A points victory is winning on penalties. You can’t just beat the best, you have to knock them out. If you go in there, tip-tappy, and you beat the champion, it’s like you’re no better than them. If you go to points, I think you’re no better than the other champion, because you’ve matched.

Success has helped me create opportunities for people I work with, and who I call friends. We’ve managed to create opportunities together, which is amazing. We’ve created a little economy among ourselves.

In boxing, I’ve met so many wealthy people. I’ve never asked for a penny, though. What they’ve given me is millions of pounds of knowledge. You know when athletes pose with money to their ear? The new trend is people posing with books. That’s where the value is. What we learn among each other is priceless.

Commercial opportunities are great. The stigma of boxing is that everyone has a broken nose, is stupid and can’t spell their name. So the commercial value of something like the campaign I did for Westfield, these brands putting your face out, is priceless.

People use boxing as a way out of poverty. It’s always been that way. What’s my reason for going to the gym? There are a million. I wanted to get fit. Some people see Floyd Mayweather with £2m in a backpack and go, “Fuck… I could do with a bit of that,” so they get down the gym.

Anthony Joshua training

Everyone needs a bit of luck. Everyone’s comes at different times. My bit of luck was realising my time won’t last forever. If someone wastes my time for five minutes, it annoys me. I don’t like wasting time.

It’s important to live the life of an athlete all year round. It’s a mindset. You’ve got your out-of-training training and your in-training training. Now I do what I want without getting dictated to. Everyone feels the pressure ahead of a fight. It’s like an exam. Study, study, study… prepare, prepare, prepare. Now it’s like there’s no exam coming up so I’m in class having fun.

My biggest regret is not sleeping properly. There’s no worse feeling than waking up shattered and thinking, “I’ve got the longest day and I can’t wait to get back in bed.” Sleep’s one of the most important things a working man can have. I take it for granted. It unbalances things. A shell of a man walking round. I can only tell you about little, day-to-day regrets. Big regrets? I’ve cracked on. I’m not too emotional, so I’m like, “Ah fuck it, I made a mistake. Just keep moving.”

If I lived off the fact I was world champion, that’d be a regret. You’ve got to remember that’s only for a matter of time. Then it’s the little things that matter, not the championship. What lasts forever is lifestyle: discipline, morals, character. That will last when I’m not here. Who I am. What I stand for. They’re the things I’ll regret not getting right.

Joshua is the face of Westfield’s AW 17 fashion campaign. For more info, visit uk.westfield.com

(Photography: Tom Barnes/body images: Rex)

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Andrew Dickens

Andrew Dickens is Special Projects Editor at ShortList. A veteran of eight years on the magazine, he makes up for his lack of pace by having ‘an extra sentence’ in his head. Twitter: @andrewdickens Instagram: @andrewdickens

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