Saturday night will see Anthony Joshua step up to headline Saudi Arabia’s blockbuster ‘Day of Reckoning’ card against the formidable Otto Wallin.
Victory in Riyadh could see the setting up of a long-awaited clash for the British boxer with Deontay Wilder, who will also be featuring on card as he goes toe-to-toe with a former Joshua adversay, Joseph Parker.
But the stakes get even higher when you understand what could be at stake if Joshua was to lose to Wallin – who has only ever been defeated by Tyson Fury – less than two years after consecutive defeats to Oleksandr Uysk.
‘I know where I’m going in my life but I’ve got to say this is a checkpoint and if I don’t get past this, there is no future so I’m fully locked in to Otto Wallin and doing the job,’ the former two-time world champion said soberly during the press conference ahead of the contest.
Hours before the hotly anticipated bout, Mail Sport looks at the boxer’s life away from the sport, covering everything from his close family bonds to his megawatt brand deals.
Anthony Joshua (left) will go toe-to-toe with Otto Wallin on the ‘Day of Reckoning’ on Saturday
The 34-year-old has enjoyed a decorated career and in the thick of bouncing back from recent defeats against Oleksandr Uysk
Away from the ring, Joshua is a devoted family man and father to seven-year-old Joseph
EARLY LIFE LESSONS
Joshua’s path to the ring was far from straightforward. Although a markedly impressive athlete during his school days, it was football that captured the fighter’s head first, and the prospect of turning professional.
Whilst attending Kings Langley school in Hertfordshire, Joshua was scouted by local team St Albans City’s under-18 team, where he featured as a pacey winger with ample attacking threat.
‘I remember him turning up for about three training sessions under (coach) Richard Smith at the time,’ a former team-mate shared in 2022. ‘He was taller than everyone else, but skinny.
‘He was really athletic and quick, definitely rapid. Skill wise, he wasn’t amazing, but he was decent. He could go at people.’
Joshua has a rosier-tinted view of his achievements on the pitch, referring to himself as a ’41 goals a season’ striker in his playing days, and remains a committed football fan and player with friends.
By the time Joshua turned 18 in 2007, however, even semi-professional football was off the cards and the fighter was working as a bricklayer while he saw out college. A suggestion from his cousin to take up boxing at his local gym Finchley ABC in Barnet would change everything.
Just two years after his prodgious start, Joshua won his first trophy, the Haringey Box Cup, but in the same year, the 20-year-old also had his first run-in with the police.
Joshua has been vague about the specifics of how he found himself on remand in Reading Prison, dubbing it ‘fighting and other crazy stuff’, but the sentence could have been significant – up to 15 years in jail.
But the fighter was clear-eyed about the prospect even as a youngster, claiming in a later interview that he thought he could serve the time ‘easy’.
‘I just knew that I was looking at 15 years, I thought I’d do that easy. I’d have been out two years ago. If it’s guilty, it’s guilty,’ Joshua said. ‘My mindset was in a different place, “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” type of mindset.
‘When I got bailed, I started learning how to box and lift weights because I thought “I’m going to do a long sentence, I need to back myself”.’
Joshua announced himself on the global boxing scene with gold at 2012 London Olympics
Joshua later unified the WBA, IBF, IBO, and WBO belts following victory over Joseph Parker
Instead, Joshua was handed his freedom – albeit with the caveat of sporting an electronic ankle monitor. But after his release, focused settled ten-fold on pursuit of his amateur career, and within a year, he was called up to join Team GB.
But it was in his national colours that Joshua had his closest brush with the law when he was pulled over for speeding in 2011. A subsequent search of his Team GB kitbag revealed eight ounces of cannabis, and AJ was charged with possesion with intent to supply.
‘It wasn’t meant for me to be a champion,’ he told Louis Theroux in 2023. ‘I was in Reading in 2009. In 2011 I was stopped while I was in the Olympics team. I started smoking more as time went on.
‘(The eight ounces) looks like a whole heap of cash. When you’re big and black you could be doing 20mph and its “You’re speeding”. It is what it is. Wrong complexion and wrong connection. It’s part of the game.’
After submitting a guilty plea, Joshua was handed a 12-month community order and 100 hours of unpaid work, but more crucially, was suspended by Olympic committee. Only the pleas of his trainer and mentor Rob McCracken saw him reinstated – but he was repaid in kind beyond expectations as Joshua’s meteoric career took flight.
Within two years, Joshua had won gold at the 2012 London Olympics, but the fighter admitted ahead of the contest that his arrest and boxing ban had played a key role in helping define him.
‘I could have seen (the charge) as a badge of honour,’ he said in 2012. ‘I could have taken the rap, seen it as a slap on the wrist and done it again. But I didn’t. It wasn’t so much the actual charge that had the effect. It was all the grief afterwards, from my friends, from my family – especially my mum – and from boxing.
‘The arrest changed a lot. It forced me to grow up and to respect my responsibilities.’
At the fore of his responsibilities, in Joshua’s eye, is supporting his family, and in particular his mother Yeta Odusanya. The 34-year-old has an extremely close relationship with his mother, who he moved back to the UK with following his parents’ divorce when he was 12 after a brief stint living in Nigeria.
The pair still live together, which Joshua cited as culturally important to his family when discussing his family life with Theroux.
‘Why am I going to move out and leave my mum by herself, for some girl? Family is the most important thing,’ Joshua disclosed, after sharing throughout his career that marrying him would mean marrying his family too.
In the interview, Joshua admitted that he likes to keep his personal life relatively private, sharing that the ‘pressure’ had made some relationships – and careers – he had seen crumble.
Joshua revealed why he still lives with his mother Yeta Odusanya at the age of 34 in November
The fighter shares son JJ with his former partner and old school friend Nicole Osbourne
Joshua jokingly claimed that his son ‘doesn’t care’ about his numerous boxing accolades
‘Are we going to dissect everything I say and use it as a narrative to create a story? That’s why I keep myself to myself,’ Joshua added.
‘You put all this pressure on yourself to come and be this big star and be perfect.
‘I’m telling you, they’ll pull you down. The higher you are, the bigger the drop.’
As good as his word, relatively little is known about Joshua’s on-off relationship with the mother of his son Nicole Osbourne.
The pair are thought to have met at school, and share a seven-year-old son called Joseph and known as JJ, to whom Joshua is devoted – and more than happy to share snaps of. Indeed, father and son once posed together for GQ when JJ was three years old.
But despite their close relationship, Joshua teased that his son was less than impressed by his father’s choice of profession.
‘He’s definitely aware (of my career),’ Joshua said. ‘I don’t think he cares!
‘I always look out when I’m at camp and I see people going about their business. Boxing is so important in our lives, but it’s not important in everybody’s lives.’
BUILDING THE BRAND
Joshua has earned an enormous fortune from his accolades in the ring – and is likely set to rake in even more millions as the banner headliner on the ‘Day of Reckoning’ due to Saudi Arabia’s deep pockets and appetite for showstopping fights – but his portfolio has been bolstered by a raft of brand and business deals.
Even as an amateur, the British starlet was a marketable talent, but after turning professional, Joshua’s brand exploded quickly under the wing of Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn.
Joshua has been a long-running brand ambassador for German label Hugo Boss – once even posing with his son JJ for a campaign
At the start of his professional career, Joshua started working with brands such as Lucozade
Joshua has a long-term relationship with sportswear powerhouse label Under Armour
AJ makes no bones about his ambition to build an empire, and told GQ in 2017 that ‘the new school of thought is that I need to be a billionaire.
‘I know self-made billionaires,’ Joshua added. ‘It’s hard, but it’s possible.’
Joshua has spent lavishly – his love of cars has been well-documented – but invested wisely too, with the profits from big fight paydays and sponsorship deals with brands including Lucozade, Beats, Under Armour, Jaguar Land Rover, and German fashion house Hugo Boss.
One arm of his investments is in property, and the boxer is thought to have spent around £40m on his property empire under the brand 258 Investments. Recent years have also seen the launch of a promotion – 258 Management – and his own sportswear brand AJBXING.
In 2021, Joshua also became a key shareholder in CBD and hemp product supplier Love Hemp Group in a three-year licencing deal.
At the height of his earning potential, Joshua was thought to be raking in over £8.4m in sponsorship deals, but successive defeats to Oleksandr Usyk put a dent in his impressive armour.
It was revealed Joshua’s 258 group lost around £3m in sponsorships after he was beaten in the fight that saw him relinquish his world titles, and in the subsequent financial year, up to February 2022, his endorsements almost fell off a cliff, with the company bringing in just £5.5m.
But steady victories since being overcome by the Ukrainian have helped fire up his star power once again. Victory against Wallin on Saturday night – and the possibility of a banner fight against Deontay Wilder in 2024 – will only boost his prospects.
The heavyweight is a long-term fan of off-road motorbiking in his relatively scant free time
Joshua also has a love of chess, which was put to the test when he spoke at the Oxford Union
SPENDING HIS FORTUNE
Joshua has amassed an estimated £200m during his stunning rise from amateur teen to heavyweight world champion and back down the rankings again, but has been shrewd with his spending on smart investments.
Property has been Joshua’s main investment focus and has purchased several business and residential establishments in London during throughout his career.
Getting a place in London is extremely expensive, however, if you can afford to plunge millions into bricks and mortar in England’s capital then the financial rewards can be extremely beneficial.
Through his company 258 Investments, AJ has invested in locations in north and west London, along with in his hometown of Watford, as reported by The Sun.
The heavyweight star bought commercial space in Mayfair where he is the owner of 12-16 Derring Street
One of the superstar’s most impressive investments was on the ever-popular New Bond Street where he paid a sum of £23m for the address.
Recognised as an extremely upmarket part of the city, Joshua made his purchase after comfortably beating Jermaine Franklin in April.
From one posh postcode to another, the British boxer also bought commercial space in Mayfair where he is the owner of 12-16 Derring Street.
Joshua invested in the 6,300 square foot building that boasts a gastropub operated by Bonds and luxury office space at an estimated price of £20m.
Joshua’s priciest purchase registers at a stunning £30m, which is what he paid for the former Hertfordshire headquarters of oil company BP
Next on Joshua’s expanding business portfolio is two homes in north London. Both are listed on his 258 investments’ website and income from private renters can net Joshua tidy fee with both estimated to cost £2m each.
However, Joshua’s priciest purchase registers at a stunning £30m, which is what he paid for the former Hertfordshire headquarters of oil company BP.
The stunning business estate boasts over 1000 car parking paces and is used by a host of blue chip firms, with plans apparently afoot to further development at the premises.
The 34-year-old’s final property purchase is a massage shop in north London that was sourced ‘off market’ according to 258 investments and is worth a more modest £750,000.
Some activities which Joshua have used to unwind from the stresses and strains of heavyweight fighting have had a glamorous tinge – off-road motorbiking was an early passion, and the fighter is no stranger to sharing pictures on social media from exotic locations.
Others have a more intellectual flavour, like Joshua’s devotion to chess. The 34-year-old is avowed player, having taken up the game in a bid to emulate talented amateur player Lennox Lewis, who once appeared on the cover of British Chess Magazine.
Speaking at the Oxford Union in 2022, Joshua shared how he had been taught the game by his niece and has played it for the past four years.
In the wake of his second defeat to Uysk later that year, AJ was pictured playing chess poolside in Saudi Arabia with his friend and coach JC Elite.