MOST athletes need to be at the peak of their powers to claim an Olympic gold medal. Super-heavyweight Anthony Joshua however promises there’s more to come. That he reached the top of the podium at London 2012 in only the 43rd bout of his amateur career lends further credibility to the claim. He knows that his boxing can and will improve. Considering the achievements he already has to his name (a World silver medal to go with that Olympic gold), his power and athleticism, British boxing fans will watch his development with interest.
“A lot of what used to get me through with my boxing was the fitness, was brute strength. Now a lot of it comes down to how my technique is, slipping shots, counter-attacks. Back then it was ‘you
give me one, I’m going to give you three. You give me two, I’ll give you five.’ Just a battle of who’s the strongest,” he tells Boxing News.
The Watford man is now working on his technical qualities.
“If I still have the fittest and stronger element and have the technique, I’m already levels ahead,” he said. “Balance is important, really important. Movement as well. When you throw shots, it’s always got to be natural.”
The big man has been watching Muhammad Ali, Aaron Pryor and Sugar Ray Leonard, studying them specifically for their footwork.
He’s had time out with a foot injury and hasn’t boxed since the Olympic final, but insists his appetite for the sport is undimmed. “I look forward to competing now because I feel a bit more confident,
in what I want to do, throwing shots. I miss competing. As soon as a competition comes up, I’m ready for it. I’m still motivated for training,” he said.
An Olympic triumph, like his, would do wonders for anyone’s confidence. “I knew I could win,” Anthony reflected. “After the ABAs, World championships, I knew I could go there and I knew I could challenge the best. I thought, 'Okay I’ve got a good chance here.' Now my defence, understanding boxing a bit more, has
really been a big positive. Understanding the foot movements, the hand work,
That gold medal has raised his profile and that has brought its own pressures. “All of a sudden you have access to people like good trainers and people in America want to chat to you. Lennox Lewis wanted to talk to you. Audley Harrison wants to talk to you. It’s like, ‘Wow, this is great.’
Then all of a sudden you’re on the phone till 12 at night and you’re too tired to wake up for training in the morning. It wasn’t hard to stay focused, but [it’s about] making sure you always put your boxing first.
“That’s all it was really, getting used to it, the change and so on and so forth.”
Joshua has been training at the GB gym in Sheffield. With Joe Joyce heading to the recent Europeans, the Olympic champion took on the unaccustomed role of sparring partner. “Sparring is really important,” Anthony said, “being around the coaches that keep on reminding me. Practise, practise. That’s the only way to improve, to keep on going over what you’re doing.”
Boxing News watched them at work in the ring (the Olympic ring as it happens, which has been to transferred to the English Institute of Sport), as Joshua and Frazer Clarke rotated in and out against Joyce, each taking on different roles in the spar. “[GB performance director] Rob [McCracken says] like, 'Work on your jab for this round.' Then all of a sudden it’s open sparring. When you’ve worked on your jab so much, all of a sudden you’re popping your jab out, you’re defending it. Because you’ve worked on it alone, you can incorporate that into an open spar.
“This round we’ll work on our one-twos, then we’ll work on our hooks. We find out who’s the best – who can block a hook and counter-attack it. Once we go through all these things, we’ll go into open sparring.
If you’re clever, you’ll use what you learn just doing it singly doing open sparring, just let your combinations go. That’s what he tried to work on, tried to make you perfect one movement and take it into an open spar, where anything goes.”
The injured foot is behind him, he’s training hard, improving and keen to get back to fighting. “That’s why I’m in the gym now,” he said.
“As long as I’m switched on I think I can compete with anyone.”
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