Anthony Joshua: In boxing it’s so hard, even if I beat someone like Deontay Wilder they’ll say he’s s**t
In little more than four years Anthony Joshua has won an Olympic gold medal, turned professional, won 17 out of 17 fights by knock-out and been crowned heavyweight champion of the world.
Yet he believes there are still boxing followers who doubt his ability, and may never give him credit even if he mounts a second successive defence of his IBF title later this year and goes on to beat WBC belt holder Deontay Wilder in the future.
In beating American Charles Martin at the O2 Arena in April, Joshua secured his first world title in fewer fights than it took icons of the sport such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Joe Frazier.
Yet such has been the 26-year-old’s dominance in the ring — only twice has he been taken past seven rounds, while his last four fights have seen him end his opponents’ unbeaten records — that some feel he has been matched with sub-par fighters.
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“It’s like, what can I do?” Joshua told City A.M. “With boxing, people say ‘AJ’s gonna beat him, he’s gonna knock him out’ and then when you do it they say ‘Ah, he’s a bum anyway’.
“In boxing it’s so hard because our comparisons are the likes of Tyson, Ali, [Evander] Holyfield. These great, great, beyond iconic, beyond legendary athletes that they compare myself to and ask: ‘Is he going to be that great?’
“To get that respect in boxing you have to be something that’s out of this world. If I beat someone like Wilder, they’ll say he’s shit. They’ll say ‘Oh he wasn’t that good, he’s just been fighting bums all this time’.
“But I don’t look for credits from anyone. If I was, it would definitely hurt.”
One of the more notable critics of Joshua’s record thus far is fellow world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury who has described his rival’s recent American opponents as “big old lumps who can’t make it in basketball”.
But rather than getting under his skin, the 6ft 6in Watford-born giant says it makes him want to face Fury — rather than Fury’s next opponent Wladimir Klitschko — even more.
“He talks more, has a lot to say about me,” says Joshua. “He brings a lot to the table with his mouth. It would be a really good fight and one that the British public want to see.”
Before that can happen, however, the champion has another title defence to mount in Manchester on 26 November.
Potential challengers have rushed to talk themselves up, including British heavyweight David Price who has called Joshua a “British champion with a world title around his waist.”
“It’s their job, they’re not who they are on social media”, says Joshua. “When I look at these guys I see a Twitter emoji on their heads. Like when a fat guy looks at someone and sees a hot dog.
“I’m the hunted now. Everyone will get their chance and I’ve got to defend my empire.”