“Boxing is the toughest and loneliest sport in the world,” the British boxing icon Frank Bruno once said. He has been there and he knows how it feels to win or to lose after suffering those deadly punches from the likes of Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
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Dubbed the “sweet science”, boxing is an art of hurting the other person to bring pleasure to millions of masochists around the world who pay to watch, who derive pleasure from seeing blood in the ring, from seeing two gladiators duel for glory, fortune and misfortune. This give-and-take game of guts, glory, and bloody pain. It is the only game in the world where you are licensed to kill and maim, where you can get away with murder in the elevated ring where two half-naked men in gloves prey on each other, go at each other, guided by a gentlemanly referee in bowtie separating the two fighters now and then and issuing out warnings against hitting below the belt.
In a cold, autumnal London night at Wembley drenching and shivering me with cold rain, the 80,000 boxing fans were screaming and baying for blood but it was the wrong person that was gushing blood. Our man Anthony Joshua, the man carrying the Nigerian flag into the ring of boxing, the one who had Africa and Nigeria tattooed in his ferocious arm, he was the one bloodied in the nose in Round One. He was bloodied but unbowed. The master of his fate and the captain of his soul, he fought on like a true champion. The bloody nose frightened me. It wasn’t a good omen. It wasn’t in the script. But that is boxing for you. Anything can happen. In the heavyweight class, it takes one single punch to finish the other man.
I remembered the famous poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley, the poet whose leg was amputated while suffering from tuberculosis at age 16. He wrote this poem in hospital in a moment of adversity. It’s one poem that had inspired great men like Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela among others. It has the famous quote: “My head is bloody, but unbowed.” Anthony Joshua’s nose was gushing with blood but he was unbowed. He was losing the early rounds, but he trudged on, waiting for his moment. In the seventh round, the long-awaited opportunity came knocking and Joshua took it, knocking out the tough Russian challenger Alexander Povetkin in a spate of deadly punches. Povetkin was down and out like a drunkard. And Joshua was in Seventh Heaven because the Lord gave him victory. The Book of Joshua 10:40 confirms it all: “So Joshua conquered all the land: the mountain country and the South and the lowland and the wilderness slopes, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded.” As you read this piece, may the Good Lord give you victory in all your exploits.
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Shortly after the fight, Anthony Joshua wrote this inspirational big-fight diary published in LONDON EVENING STANDARD, the free newspaper that litters train stations and every nook and corner of London, ironically owned by a Russian Evgeny Lebedev who also owns The Independent.
A FEW years ago, maybe I wouldn’t have won that fight.
So with the dust settled, credit has to go to all the people who help me in camp: my coaching staff, nutritionist, management team, all just trying to make my life easier.
Every day is about developing. Top, top fighters have lost in the past and that just shows how tough this game is. I’m in it to win, I’m inittolearnandI’minittobethe best boxer I can possibly be.
The harder the fight, the more you learn and I’ll take a lot from Saturday night. I can still get better and, as I said at the press conference, this is Chapter Two. We’re at a different level now and I’ve got to find my feet again.
People always ask who I want to fight next, and I want to fight whoever the fans want me to fight.
There are always unseen complications with negotiations but the sport is about what the fans want. Sometimes we have to face our mandatories, which I did on Saturday night, but it’s supporters who make this sport.
I want to face serious challenges and anyone is welcome. There’s obviously a lot of talk about Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury at the moment, and good luck to the both of them in their fight. If one of them then wants to step up, then they know where they can find me.
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To all the fans at Wembley on Saturday night, I want to say a massive thank you. I prayed for sunshine, Saturday night was rainy, but you still came out and Wembley was rocking once again.
The energy in the stadium was incredible and spurred me on, helping me through the fight. I said all along. Alexander Povetkin is a very good challenger. He proved that on Saturday night with strong left hooks and counter-punches.
You get this with the shorter guys. They tend to be very good at coming through the middle, and Povetkin came here to have a fight and to take my titles. It was never going to be easy.
Povetkin earned the right to challenge me and came to London expecting to win. In these fights, it’s not just about talent, it’s about digging deep and finding that extra to get you through.
He came here full of heart and he gave it everything, but I knew I’d always end up victorious because I know what I can do and how deep I can dig.
I went into the ring to have fun, do what I’ve been working on in the gym and give it my best.
I knew he was going to be strong to the head but weak to the body so I was just mixing it up. Every jab takes a second of breath out of you and slows you down, so I just kept
him within range and kept trying to break him down.
We weren’t looking for the knockout but, in the seventh, instinct told me he was hurt and I had to follow up. I knew it was time to get him out of there. I was prepared to take my time. It could have been seven, maybe 12 rounds but the ultimate aim was to be victorious.
I’m happy with how the fight went. I feel I executed my game plan well and I got my knockout streak back. I found my right hand. It’s been missing for a while but I found it and I’m now lining it up for what’s next. For now, I’m going to take a bit of time off.
The training camp pushed me to a whole new level. I need to go away, rest my body and mind, so that when training camp starts, we go again and we improve on the lessons learned from Saturday, and prepare for another win here in London on April 13, whoever the opponent is.