Boxing: Joshua aims to turn silver into gold, not piles of cash

Bright new face of Britain's heavyweight division insists London 2012 gives him 'a beautiful feeling'
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The Independent Online

Now that David Haye has apparently become the retiring sort – though should the Klitschkos make him an offer he would be wiser to refuse, you can bet he will swiftly unretire – there is a charisma chasm at the top of boxing's heavyweight division. But not for long.

Step forward Anthony Joshua, 21, 6ft 7in, strikingly handsome and with a pleasantly engaging personality that is a promoter's dream.

Moreover, he can fight. The silvermedal with which he returned last week from the World Amateur Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan,is testimony to that.

Sometimes silver is an unwelcome consolation prize. The look on Sebastian Coe's face as he glanced down at his after Steve Ovett had pipped him in the 1980 Olympic800 metres final was one of disgust rather than delight. You sensed he might disdainfully have tossed it into the Moscow River.

It is a feeling that should not be shared by Joshua and his fellow world silver medallists Luke Campbell (bantamweight) and Andrew Selby (flyweight). In an outstandingchampionships for British boxers theirs were no bits of bling. Indeed, they could well be worth their weight in Olympic gold in London next year.

Especially Joshua's. For the young super-heavyweight is already on his way to becoming a superstar after first dethroning the reigning Olympic and double world champion Roberto Cammarelle, an Italian policeman, and then losing an arguably home-town decision by a single point to the Azerbaijani competitor in the final.

There is one problem. Will he be able to resist the rustle of banknotes from ear-bending promoters urging him to turn pro before the Games? Just over a year ago, after boxing for only two years, he won the ABA title in his 18th bout and received an offer of £50,000 to go pro there and then. He could get 10 times that amount now. But gold in London would be worth a couple of million.

Therein lies Big Josh's dilemma. Olympic gold would set him up for life, but there is always a risk. He could get injured or beaten and that world championship silver would lose its market value. It was a risk the then 17-year-old Amir Khan was not prepared to take after Athens, cashing in his silver in return for a seven-figure cheque from Frank Warren.

However, I am assured Joshua is committed to staying on for London. "I didn't take up the sport to earn money," he insists. "I did it to win medals. The thought of boxing in the Olympics gives me a beautifulfeeling." So, beauty KO's booty?

Had Joshua's bout against Magomedrasul Medzhidov been the 2012 Olympic final, there is no doubt he would have got the decision. In Baku the odds were stacked against him, with the Azerbaijani president sitting alongside the AIBA chief, Dr C K Wu, and thousands of screaming fans desperate to see the tournament conclude with a gold medal for the hosts. No surprise, then, that Medzhidov got the nod as Mr President warmly shook the hand of Dr Wu.

The British-born son of Nigerian parents, Joshua was brought up in Finchley, north-west London, where he is coached at the local amateur club by the former British featherweight champion Sean Murphy. As a child he was a talented footballer and ran 11 seconds for the 100 metres aged 15. It is this fleet-footedness which helps make him a less robotic version of Frank Bruno.

In his 29 bouts he has shown commodities that make a potentially great heavyweight: balls, a good chin and a decent punch. Yet earlier this year there was a good chance he would not make the Olympics, or any further international appearances, after being suspended by the Amateur Boxing Association of England when charged with possession of an illegal recreational substance with intent to supply. He was in danger of being kicked off the GB squad for good.

Joshua always protested his innocence, claiming he was set up, and the case appears to have been quietly dropped, much to everyone's relief.

While he may not have the chat and chutzpah of Haye, here is a genuine heavyweight with a smile that could make him one of the poster faces of 2012. Tomorrow he will receive his first accolade, having been voted the Amateur Boxer of the Year by the Boxing Writers' Club.

He may still be learning the ropes inside them and out, but Joshua now has the world at his fists. The questionis: can Josh resist the dosh?

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