COMMONWEALTH heavyweight champion, Lenroy Thomas is an impressive man both inside the ring and out. Having overcome homelessness, prison and suicidal feelings he fought his way from a minimum wage job to a major international boxing championship.

He overcame Dave Allen for his first title on the undercard of Kell Brook vs Errol Spence. Thomas has encountered some of the best fighters in world boxing and was keen to tell us about the time he spent with Anthony Joshua, as the English fighter prepared for his IBF world title bout against the USA’s Charles Martin. “I love Joshua man. I spent six weeks with the guy. He’s very humble… I never hear him talk smack, I never hear him be disrespectful.”

Thomas’s style is similar when it comes to pre-fight talk. He doesn’t rise to it. It’s not something that worries him either, his message to the heavyweight division was an invite. “You talk. I’m gonna shut you up.”

That’s not the only reason Anthony Joshua gave Thomas to think he was a stand-up guy though. He recalled spending time in the UK: “When I with him two years ago it was actually my birthday and he took the time out to go out and get me some Jamaican food and bring it back to me, to my hotel room. Mad respect to him for that. He made me feel like I was at home and his training staff, everybody, just made sure, whatever I need – I had it. For the future, if he ever needs my help I’m there for him. Real talk.”

Being in the ring was a learning experience for both Joshua and Thomas, both have since gone on to claim titles. Lenroy told us more about sharing a ring with the man who went on to become the world’s number one heavyweight: “What I learned from AJ, man, you can’t hit him with the same shots over and over. As the sparring went on, I might do one thing Tuesday and go back the next day and he’s a completely different fighter.

“He makes adjustments very well and that’s what I love, I love guys that’s gonna bring the best out of me. He motivated me to come back to the US and to train my butt off.”

What Lenroy Thomas saw of Joshua in those sparring sessions left a lasting impression and he said returned to the US with an un-popular opinion, “I knew he was gonna stop Charles Martin. I came back to the US and I told everybody and they laughed at me. I should have bet on the fight but I’m not really a gambling guy either.”

While Tyson Fury called Joshua a “bodybuilder” in an attempt to deride his ring intelligence, Thomas was keen to contradict that opinion: “AJ’s boxing IQ is at an all-time high and I respect that about him.” Describing his own style as a thinking one Thomas connected with that aspect of AJ’s style and thinks it can take him even further in the heavyweight division.

“Deontay Wilder, that’s a fight I want to see happen”, he says. He’s not the only one keen to see the fight that would have boxing fans on both sides of the Atlantic, and beyond, glued to their television sets.

Lenroy Thomas on Anthony Joshua

It says everything for Thomas’s growing confidence though, that despite rating Joshua so highly he would be willing to step into the ring with him again and for higher stakes.

“I just want to see one guy unify all the belts, you ask me who I think it’ll be. I think it’ll be Joshua. I think it will be Joshua and later on down the road, if it makes sense, I’d love to get in there and rumble with him. The best fight the best man!”