Boxing: Anthony Joshua reveals he nearly knocked out the referee as well as his opponent on professional debut

Olympic gold medallist recorded a first-round knockout at The o2

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The Independent Online

Anthony Joshua saw disaster flash before his eyes before ending an explosive professional debut in the first round at The o2 in London.

The Olympic super-heavyweight champion blasted out brave Italian Emanuele Leo in just two minutes and 47 seconds with two successive right hands delivered amid a barrage of unanswered punches.

At the round's halfway mark he flirted with catastrophe, however, by accidentally cuffing referee Ian John-Lewis with the inside of his forearm.

John-Lewis was struck on the mouth and nose as he separated the fighters and had the attempted left hook connected cleanly, it would have been a headline-grabbing debut for all the wrong reasons

"I was aware of what happened. When there are two blokes fighting you're in the mode," Joshua said.

"I thought Leo was going to hit me and it's protect yourself at all times. As soon as I saw him flinch I thought 'I've got to get to him first', but the referee was there!

"I thought 'if I hit the wrong person, that isn't what I want to do!'."

Making his first appearance since outpointing Roberto Cammarelle in the Olympic final in July last year, Joshua landed at will, firing out a stiff jabs and big right hands.

The only surprise was that Leo, previously unbeaten in eight fights, displayed as much resolve as he did and there was an argument for earlier intervention from John-Lewis.

Joshua calmed his nerves for the occasion by chatting to fellow London 2012 gold medalist Luke Campbell, who marked his second professional contest with another first-round demolition, this time of Neil Hepper.

It was when Joshua was having his hands wrapped in the changing room that the meaning of stepping into a professional ring crystallised.

"This time around the nerves were controlled. Not a lot will top that experience in 2012, coming out in front of 10,000 fans," said the 23-year-old, who pointed out that Muhammad Ali also made his debut in October.

"The key code for everyone was relax and enjoy what you're doing. I felt comfortable.

"When I was getting my hands wrapped it felt like this was the real deal, like I was going into battle - one layer, two layers, three layers and tape, tape, tape. Then slipping your hands into tight gloves.

"I felt like this is the pros now. I really enjoyed the amateurs but I can't live off what I did in that. I want to prove myself and I want respect."

The plan is for Joshua to fight in Sheffield in three weeks and then Manchester a month later, but promoter Eddie Hearn insists finding suitable opponents is challenging.

"The situation is that it becomes impossible to match him. You have no choice but to fight better quality fighters who demand more money," Hearn said.

"Leo wasn't a world-beater, but he was 8-0 with a winning mentality. It's better that than a no-hoper who's 4-40."

Scott Quigg defended his lesser portion of the WBA super-bantamweight title after being held to a rare majority draw over Yoandris Salinas of Cuba.

The fight was scored 114-114 115-113 114-114, although the dissenting judge had Quigg as the winner in a dull contest that the 24-year-old from Bury began slowly.

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