Anthony Joshua has taken some time off to prepare for his upcoming rematch with Oleksandr Usyk to kick the ball with an old friend and reminisce about his days as a prolific footballer.
The Watford-born former heavyweight champion spent his formative years playing football before switching to boxing aged 18 in 2007.
“I was playing football with [his friend] Hiney when we were 13! I was a problem! Best striker! 41 goals per season,” Joshua wrote alongside a video of himself playing without a rebound with his former teammate.
Joshua played the beautiful game at Kings Langley School in Hertfordshire and eventually made his way to the local semi-professional youth teams, including St Albans City’s Under-18 side.
A former Joshua teammate, who briefly played with him and declined to be named, remembers ‘AJ’ for his athletic ability rather than his footballing prowess.
“I remember he came for about three training sessions under [coach] Richard Smith at the time. He was taller than everyone else, but skinny,” he recalls.
“He was really athletic and fast, really fast. Skill wise he wasn’t amazing but he was decent. He could take it out on people.
Erik ten Hag identifies his ‘#1 target’ this summer if he becomes Man United boss
Southampton ‘aware of Le Tissier’s Twitter activity for some time’ as he quits role
New look for Man United after superstar exit and £250m transfer spree
to come up
Failed Arsenal transfer could work with €60m ‘striking bull’ set to leave
Ashley ‘still interested’ in Derby takeover as US millionaire’s offer accepted
‘Absurd’ – Simon Jordan hits out at criticism of Derby favorite bidder Chris Kirchner
Joshua eventually left football behind and started training boxing after getting into trouble with the law and facing the real possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.
“When I got out on bail, I started learning how to box and lift weights,” he said.
“Because I thought, ‘If I have to serve a long sentence and I have these silly little kids in prison, then I’m going to come in and I’m going to defend myself.
“So I started pumping weights, me and my cousin…I signed up for one of those tough men’s gyms,” he said, explaining the strict routine his training conditions were in. bail had placed him at 18 – he was tagged and had to be home by 8 p.m. every night – was very helpful to him.
“And I think that’s what helped me with my boxing. When I came out of tag I was already in a position where I was ready to take off with boxing.
Since then, Joshua’s career has taken off. The 32-year-old conquered amateur boxing before transitioning to the professional ranks and becoming world champion after just 16 fights.
Joshua has beaten Dillian Whyte, Charles Martin, Dominic Breazeale, Wladimir Klitschko, Carlos Takam, Joseph Parker, Andy Ruiz, Kubrat Pulev, Alexander Povetkin on his rise to the top of the sport.
Joshua last relinquished his WBA, WBO, IBO and IBF heavyweight titles when he came down to a unanimous decision against Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September. He will get his chance to redeem himself in the heavyweight duo’s rematch later this year on a date yet to be determined.
Betting offer of the day
888sport: Get 10/1 Chelsea to win or 25/1 Real Madrid to win – CLAIM HERE
Deposit at least £/$/€10 using promo code 888ODDS • Bet up to £/$/€5 on your selection at normal regular market odds • If your selection wins, we’ll pay you the normal price and any additional winnings from the advertised enhanced prize will be paid out to you as free bets • Free bets are awarded within 72 hours and expire after 7 days • Free bet stakes are not included in returns • Deposit balance is available for withdraw anytime • Restrictions apply to withdrawals, payment methods and countries and full terms and conditions apply 18+ begambleaware.org