Anthony Joshua has revealed the intense pressure he has felt under while preparing to challenge IBF heavyweight champion Charles Martin in London on Saturday night.
The fight, at The 02 Arena, is only Joshua’s 16th as a professional, but comes after a decorated amateur career in which he won an Olympic gold medal and a promising period in which each of his previous 15 fights generated significant interest.
That he has long been considered the great hope of the heavyweight scene means he has had to progress while being a mainstream attraction and with the big audiences that regularly attracts.
For all that he has long been groomed for this platform, however, it surprises some that his first world-title challenge has come so soon.
Martin is similarly inexperienced, which may explain why Joshua is already fighting at world level. Yet even as the favourite for today’s fight and possessing a record of 15 stoppage wins, the 26-year-old has spoken of his struggles to sleep.
“Do you know what, some nights I haven’t been sleeping,” said Joshua. “I don’t know why. It’s not so much thinking about just the fight. Sometimes I might just be thinking about my boxing and how I can get better.
“I get a lot of pressure in the gym to get better so some nights I haven’t been sleeping. But not this week, I’ve been okay this week, but in camp (I’ve struggled).
“It has been a tough camp with a lot of pressure. My coach (Tony Sims) is something else, he works me very hard.
“What I like about (pre-fight build-up is) that it gives you an opportunity to build your nerves so that when Saturday comes, you’ve already learned how to deal with your nerves.”
If the proposed July 9 rematch between WBA and WBO champion Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko represents the title fight between the two experienced technicians of the division, today’s fight between Joshua and Martin will be about athleticism and youth.
It is perhaps for that reason Joshua took the unusual step of speaking of what may be seen as a weakness, and also why the defending champion Martin, 29, believes he is facing him at the right time. “You’re always fine tuning after you turn professional,” said the American, who represents the first southpaw opponent of Joshua’s professional career and who at 17st 7lbs outweighs the younger fighter by 1lb.
“You get better and get better as you go and I know he ain’t as calm and collected as me. So getting him now is the perfect time.
“Plus I didn’t want to wait and let him become my mandatory (challenger) because then he is supposed to be there.
“If I call him out early, it makes me think, ‘He had to gather himself and think about it’.”