THOUGH it is far too early to judge the career of Anthony Joshua as a sum of all its parts, it’s worthwhile this week – eight years to the day after he won his first major heavyweight belt – to examine his progress.

There remain an awful lot of people who prefer to criticise boxers like Joshua than praise them, yet, when looking back on all he’s achieved and the manner in which he’s gone about his business, both as a boxer and a celebrity, one wonders what the real motive behind any negativity might be.

It’s easy to remember the excitement that surrounded Joshua in the final stages of his amateur career, the Olympic gold in London, and then his formative years in the professional ranks. Though it is exceptionally unfair on the Klitschko brothers to label their time at the top of the division a low point in heavyweight history, it was certainly an era when they stood so far above the rest – boxing the ears off all-comers with predictable efficiency nearly every single time – that the making of worldwide attention-grabbing contests proved somewhat difficult.

Yet Joshua’s bombastic approach to professional boxing soon had fans excited again, particularly with Deontay Wilder rising fast alongside him and Tyson Fury establishing himself at world level. Perhaps therein lies the only justifiable frustration with Joshua’s subsequent development – the fact that he’s yet to share a ring with the two men who were for long periods his closest rival, whether just above or below him in the ranks.

It’s unknown if either matchup eventually occurs but logic should tell us, as the three of them edge towards middle age, that a simple trick was missed by failing to make those fights at the right time. Pinning the blame on one party for those missteps would be ignorant, however. One hopes that, as the public’s interest in sanctioning body titles continues to wane and relations between rival promoters appears to improve, lessons have been learned.

Joshua’s CV is surely the most impressive of any active heavyweight, even when considering the losses upon it. The obliteration of Charles Martin in April 2016 to win the IBF strap was predictable but nobody has subsequently dished out a beating to the American quite like that. Wladimir Klitschko may have been ageing, but with hindsight, that Joshua passed his first genuine test – against a great heavyweight – in such circumstances deserves only praise. Carlos Takam, who until recently was still dining out on his inbuilt crash helmet, came next before perennial world class operators Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin were also handily defeated. That run of four stadium fights (two at Wembley, two in Cardiff) is astonishing if you really think about it; during that 18-month period one boxer was capable of attracting more paying customers to those stadiums than were the national football teams of England and Wales.

The loss to Andy Ruiz Jnr in New York would have been disastrous to a fighter of lesser mental fortitude. For further context on that, since he defeated Ruiz in the rematch, the Mexican American has all but disappeared from the scene, despite earning significantly less money than Joshua has thus far accumulated. That the Briton continues to dedicate himself to his sport to the extent that’s required to remain at the top, while also being insanely rich, is simply beyond my comprehension.

Two defeats to Oleksandr Usyk could also have derailed his career, and don’t forget it was not only Joshua’s decision to welcome that challenge in the first place but also to venture into an immediate return. Yet here we are, almost two years after that public breakdown following the second Usyk defeat, with Joshua – still chasing betterment – riding high again after four consecutive victories.

Furthermore, Joshua has behaved pretty much impeccably throughout his time in the limelight. While others have failed drug tests, flaunted their wealth, and acted like spoilt children, Joshua continues to be one of boxing’s greatest ambassadors as he outlines the benefits of the sport to youngsters and supports boxing at grassroots level. Behind the scenes, there have been countless tales of his generosity to those in need, none of which he’d want to be made public. Whether this all sounds too much like a love letter I really couldn’t care less; let’s give credit where it is due.

Whether he’ll regain any belts, his place at number one, or even make a dent in the all-time lists is perhaps already irrelevant. Where he came from in the first place to where he is now, and how he has always conducted himself along the way, should surely be achievement enough.