Charles Philip Arthur George and the heir apparent to the British throne as the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth, recently honoured a Nigeria-born British pugilist, Anthony Joshua as he was decorated with Britain’s Highest Honours, OBE (Order of British Empire) by the Prince of Wales in appreciation of his contribution to the sport.
Anthony became very good at the sport of boxing very quickly and had won all 18 fights at an amateur level during his early 20s. He soon set a goal to become an Olympic champion. In 2012, Joshua won the gold medal in the super heavyweight category at the London Olympics.
Joshua was born in Watford to mum Yeta and dad Robert, both from Nigeria. The pair split when Joshua was four or five years old, leaving him and his siblings to be raised by Yeta on the Meriden Estate where, by his own admission, Joshua was “a bit naughty”.
When he was 11, Joshua and his family moved to Nigeria where he was enrolled in a boarding school. The future star had to wake up at 5.30am every morning to fetch water and was routinely beaten at school.
After a few terms, Joshua returned to Watford. He told Sky Sports documentary ‘Anthony Joshua – Heavyweight Hopes’ of his fondness for his hometown.
“My heart belongs in Watford and I spend a lot of my time there,” he said. “I think if you grow up there, you’ll know what I mean.”
After returning to the UK, Joshua threw himself into school sports, breaking the year Nine 100m record with a time of 11.6 seconds. But despite a promising future in sport, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the soon-to-be boxing legend.
“I got caught up in some of the wrong things,” said Joshua. “It doesn’t take long for things to happen. It wasn’t a long time but a lot went on.
“Now I look back on it, if I’d have taken advice from my parents that had been there and lived life, things might have been a lot easier.”
Joshua was keen to turn his back on the shadier elements of his youth and focus on his athletic pursuits.
His path along the straight and narrow saw him buy his first set of weights from Argos, get a job as a bricklayer and join Finchley Amateur Boxing Club.
Joshua had to borrow £25 from his cousin Ben Ileyemi for his first pair of boxing boots (they would later make their professional boxing debut together).
Finchley trainer Sean Murphy recalled how eager Joshua – then 18 – was to train and insisted he move on to sparring with pads as soon as possible. Eventually, Murphy gave in – a decision he’d instantly regret…
Fellow trainer John Oliver told Sportsmail, “Joshua hit the pad perfectly in the middle with one of his first shots. Bang!
“Then Sean starts yelling and the big lad is following him, saying ‘sorry, sorry’. We were all laughing but then Sean has to go off to hospital so that’s a bit more serious.
“My God, when we hear back from him, it turns out he hasn’t broken his hand – he’s shattered it! Every single metacarpal was smashed, maybe broken in 10 places.”
Joshua would later make up for his heavy-handedness, buying Murphy a flash new BMW and treating the club to a bus so young up-and-comers could get to boxing tournaments around the country.
The promising fighter quickly started turning heads in the boxing world, winning the Haringey Box Cup twice as well as the senior ABA Championships. Things were going great for Joshua and he even said no to a whopping £50,000 to turn pro.
He said at the time, “Turning down that £50,000 was easy. I didn’t take up the sport for money, I want to win medals.”
However, his past soon returned to haunt him. Joshua was put on remand in Reading Prison for “fighting and other crazy stuff”, which resulted in him being forced to wear an electronic tag around his ankle.
Despite the hiccup, Joshua was determined to make a go of his boxing career and earned himself a place on the GB boxing team, going on to compete in the Olympics where he won gold after a tense bout with Roberto Cammerelle.
Joshua had his final run-in with the law when he was stopped for speeding and found in possession of 8oz of cannabis. He was wearing his Team GB tracksuit at the time.
But after some sage advice from friends and mentors, Joshua made a decision to leave his criminal past behind him for good.