King Joshua, the man who shook the world


LONDON – The king of the world did not, after all, retire on Saturday night to a Watford council house after his coronation.

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Anthony Joshua celebrates with trainer Robert McCracken (second from left) and his corner after winning the fight. Photo: Andrew Couldridge, Action Images via ReutersAnthony Joshua knocks down Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley on Saturday night. Photo: Andrew Couldridge, Action Images via ReutersThat famous uppercut from Anthony Joshua that rocked Wladimir Klitschko. Photo: Andrew Couldridge, Action Images via ReutersWladimir Klitschko also had Anthony Joshua on the canvas. Photo: Peter Cziborra, Action Images via ReutersAfter all was said and done, Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko savoured the moment. Photo: Nick Potts, PA via AP

He sits in an environment more befitting his status. Next door lives the High Commissioner of Ghana.

Downstairs is the indoor pool. Somewhere, a salt cave resides, and seven bedrooms. The value of this property, in St John”s Wood, is measured in tens of millions. But the king is only renting.

This is Anthony Joshua, the morning after the fight of his life. His trio of title belts are arranged for the benefit of the cameras. Red, green and dark blue: all decorated with gold. These are his possessions.

On the shelves are glass tigers and ornate decorations in crystal; two large paintings by Viviane Cisinski, a French artist, decorate one wall. These, he borrows for a few weeks as he gets into character. The champion; the invincible; the king.

Joshua moved in several weeks before his fight and will leave soon, now his work is done. “I could get used to this,” he says. “One hundred percent.”

He moves to the French windows and opens to a view of a walled garden and Italianate columns. “If I could get this, I would,” he continues. “Anyone would.

“Ambition is always to get ahead, never to stay in the same position. I’d never sit with kids who’ve had it tough and say, ‘Stay where you are’.

“The ambition is to move forward, and that’s what I’ll always preach. I would like to show this to them. You can’t achieve what you cannot see, you know? If you’ve never seen a Bentley, you won’t want to buy one. I’m not saying I need all this. A nice TV room, an office and a master bedroom. I need space. I’ve got so many training clothes.”

He returns to his theme. “I’ll invite them to places like this. That’s why it was important to me, while we were renting, to get my family down, to have a look, get inspired. I’d use my house for motivational purposes. To show people, not to rub it in their face. This isn’t ‘Look what I’ve got, now stay away’. I want them to use that.

That famous uppercut from Anthony Joshua that rocked Wladimir Klitschko. Photo: Andrew Couldridge, Action Images via Reuters

“Money isn’t everything. I know some wealthy, wealthy people – but they’ve never given me a pound in my life. What they have given me is millions in terms of knowledge and inspiration.”

This is the divine right of boxing’s kings. They get to reflect on their achievements the next day. The last great British heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis, would rest all Sunday at his penthouse apartment in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Las Vegas, before summoning the media early evening.

We would travel to his quarters in the private lift and he would hold court, lounging on the soft furnishings, the city lights in the background. It was there that Lewis would discuss his legacy, and any other subject that came to mind.

Joshua, just 19 fights in, is perhaps too new for grandiose concepts.

Lewis’ 19th professional fight was against a journeyman called Levi Billups, and his only titles at the time were British and European belts. He wasn’t even Commonwealth champion until his 20th fight.

Wladimir Klitschko also had Anthony Joshua on the canvas. Photo: Peter Cziborra, Action Images via Reuters

Joshua, who only started boxing at 18, absorbs boxing history, but does not think he will ever be able to consider his place in it the way past champions did. There is always an opinion or simply a random comment to drag a modern champion down.

Lewis did not have the chorus of doubt that constitutes so much of modern social media. If he had been in the mood on Sunday, Joshua could still have found some observers on boxing websites doubting the strength of his chin. Even after round six.

Yet, against his better judgement, he is still interested. He wants to know about the others, he wants a professional take on where he stands. Suddenly, he claps his hands, like a schoolteacher having called the register.

“You guys have been around boxing for how long?” A variety of answers. Some are still relative novices, others part-timers, at least one saw Ali. “Right, a long time. What captured your imagination back in the day?”

He doesn’t what to hear any more sycophantic praise for his performance on Saturday night. He wants context. He wants specifics.

“What was David Haye like?” he asks, as if considering a fighter from a different age. “What was Lewis like, at this stage?”

He listens intently to the replies. “Bruno?”

As he joins the discussion, it would appear he has studied Mike Tyson. He was amazed at the slightness of Evander Holyfield when the pair met. He had looked up Vitaly Klitschko. He had read a book on Larry Holmes. He consumes fights on YouTube and BoxNation.

Boxers have a fascination with the history of their sport, in a way, say, footballers do not. Some players cannot even be persuaded to watch this season’s games, let alone those from 40 years ago.

The best fighters are sponges for information. And poets, too. “Boxing is like a circus,” he says. “A circus of blood, really.”

This is Joshua preparing for future confrontations, fights that might not be conducted with the decency of his bout with Klitschko.

This is Joshua accepting that he may need to meet trash talk and the sport’s cartoon villains head on. He may have to say things his mum will not like. That is for another day.

“After this, I’m going back to the same house, with the same family,” the king concludes. “The ground I’m on hasn’t changed.”

But it has. It shakes beneath his step now. It trembles as he marches through. It shudders as he roams past its glass tigers, salt caves and soft furnishings.

That is how it is with kings.

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