Former world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua faced the real possibility of a lengthy prison term in his teenage years.
After years of questions, Joshua finally opened up on how the threat of a 15-year jail sentence ultimately forged his boxing path. He spoke to Ebro Darden of Apple Music’s Songs for Life about his life path during the pandemic.
Joshua, who held three versions of the top division crown on two occasions, was locked up for two weeks on remand as a teenager for an alleged drug charge.
Anthony Joshua on prison term
The Londoner, threatened with a long stretch that could see him incarcerated until his 30s, began working out to be ready for any prison bullies.
As he explained in his appearance on Apple’s Song for Life, the rest was history. Darden, the show’s host, didn’t hold back in an honest exchange with Joshua.
Ebro: In 2009, you were in prison for two weeks?
Anthony Joshua: Yeah. Couple more weeks. Nothing, nothing major. Yeah.
Ebro: Nothing major?
Anthony Joshua: Nah, I was just. I was on, so I’d been charged. It’s what we call being charged.
So it’s what we call remand. So they’re holding you in a secure location.
Ebro: To figure out what you’re?
Anthony Joshua: Yes. So, obviously, you can’t influence any of the case goings. You can’t go and see certain people – to make sure. So that’s just how it is.
Ebro: That time when you were in prison, it was two weeks. What do you remember from that moment?
Anthony Joshua: I feel like I was looking at 15 years. I thought I’d do that easy. I would have been out maybe two years ago .
So I was like, “Cool. No problem. If it is guilty, it’s guilty.
Anthony Joshua: Yeah. It’s just a mindset.
So my mindset was in a different place. I was – “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time” – the type of mindset.
And then I remember these little kids, not kids but people my age, that was hype.
There was one kid that was at the back, just shouting. We’re just trying to chill. This is our time out of the cell. And then I looked back. He’s like, “What are you looking at?”
I said, “Who are you talking to?” I mean, like.” Also, because I didn’t have any of my stuff back then. So it’s like, basic.
So you start learning, like quickly start picking up. But when I got bailed, I started learning how to box and lift weights.
Because I thought if I’m going to do a long sentence, I’ve got these little idiot kids in jail. I’m going to come in there. I’m going to be myself.
Early boxing beginnings
Ebro: Got to be ready.
Anthony Joshua: Yeah. So I started pumping weights, my cousin and me. He said, “Come over to mine,” We bought one of these all-in-one weight machines.
Anthony Joshua: So we just put it in the living room. I would be bench pressing. Listening to Papoose, 50 Cent Get Rich, or Die Tryin.
I didn’t have a clue. I just thought it was like bench-pressing press-ups. And he showed me shoulder press, delts. Do you know what I mean?
Then I say, “Yeah. Now. Now, I’m about my business.” I signed up for one of these hard-man gyms. Because I was on a tag, obviously, I’m out on bell conditions. So I got the tag on my legs.
So I have to be home at eight o’clock every day. I was in a strict routine—a time when I was only 17, 18.
And I think that’s what helped me with my boxing. That when I came off of tag, I was already in a position where I was ready to take off with boxing.
And I just had to; whatever work the devil had for me, I had to block out and stay focused on a righteous path. And that’s still a battle today, but I know how to manage it.
Within a few years, Joshua was a fully-fledged member of the Team GB Squad. He was heading to the Olympic Games in his hometown.
A gold medal later, AJ was the most sought-after young fighter on the planet in 2013. He turned pro with Eddie Hearn.
Joshua has since become one of the most successful money-earning British heavyweights in the sport’s history.
It could have been so different.
Songs For Life aired on Apple Music and is available on demand at apple.co/_SongsForLife.