After winning Olympic gold in London at the 2012 Games, the world seemed to be Anthony Joshua's oyster and if being totally honest, the world is his oyster. Despite world interest from the likes of Golden Boy and other international promotional companies, AJ turned to Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing to begin his journey as a professional and in his eight-year career under the bright lights, Joshua has created some of the most memorable nights in British Boxing history.
Yet, it has not all been plain sailing for Joshua. A devastating upset to an out-of-shape looking pig on his American debut and criticism for his fighting style and activism outside the ring, Joshua has displayed the true character of a champion and while we await a certain fight [no, not the Charles Martin rematch], Planet Sport takes a look at his greatest wins from a 25-fight career.
1. Domestic grudge match against Dillian Whyte
Billed as "Bad Intentions", the two undefeated London rivals went toe-to-toe at London's O2 Arena in 2015. There was bad blood between the pair who had previously fought in the amateurs with Dillian Whyte coming out on top.
The second meeting - this time at professional for the British and Commonwealth titles - was different with Joshua seen as the golden goose of heavyweight boxing in the UK. Televised on Sky Sports Box Office, the two undefeated fighters slugged it out in an entertaining affair which saw Joshua in trouble for the first time of his career with Whyte wobbling him in the second round.
AJ would rally back though and laid the "Body Snatcher" to the canvas in round seven with a devastating uppercut.
The bout ended up being a genuine fight of the year contender. Despite the loss, Whyte took a lot from it as he really troubled AJ at times. For Joshua, this was his first big test as a professional. Even though he was troubled early on, he passed it with flying colours which set him up for a world title shot next…
2. AJ is crowned world champion against Charles Martin
Following on from his vicious knockout of Whyte, Joshua would challenge Martin for the IBF crown in 2016. The same Martin who won the vacant title after his opponent was forced to retire with a knee injury in Russia. The same Martin who proclaimed himself to 'walk this Earth like a God'.
Joshua asserted his dominance in the early going and stopped him in the second round to become the first British heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis. It ended Martin's 66-day reign as world champion - the second shortest in heavyweight history after Tony Tucker who lasted just 64 days in 1987.
Listen, Martin was hardly a Sonny Liston, Rocky Marciano or even Buster Douglas but this fight ranks as one of Joshua's greatest wins because of the pressure he faced to deliver so whoever is moaning about it can shut up.
3. All-time classic vs Wladimir Klitschko
After routine victories over American duo Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina, Klitschko was next up for Joshua in 2017. As expected, following Joshua's emphatic domination of Molina, Hearn took the center stage to announce the contest would take place in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium - the English home for soccer - with the WBA, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on the line.
In contrast to the build-up between "Dr. Steelhammer" and Tyson Fury, the respect was mutual between Klitschko and 'his little bro' Joshua while also featuring a lot of uncomfortable fist-bumps. Any respect either had for each other went out of the window on fight night with it becoming one of the best heavyweight fights of the century.
The bout was in full flow by round five with Joshua dropping the Ukrainian to the canvas after a flurry of heavy shots. The writing was on the wall, we thought anyways. Klitschko - a 2020 inductee of the Boxing Hall of Fame - silenced 90,000 people in London by knocking Joshua to the deck himself. With Joshua's legs as steady as Bambi's on ice, Klitschko failed to trigger the final combination to regain two of the three heavyweight titles he had lost to Fury 18 months prior, resulting in Joshua to capitalize in the penultimate round by knocking him down three times on his way to a stoppage win. The contest is remembered from a sickening uppercut produced by Joshua in the 11th round.
AJ now had more belts, but more importantly, a lot more respect to his name after dispatching one of the best heavyweights of all-time, albeit a legend who's best days were behind him. With Fury out the picture, Joshua was now the posterboy of heavyweight boxing.
4. Redemption in Saudi Arabia against Andy Ruiz Jr
Joshua made his American debut in the summer of 2019 with Jarrell Miller his expected opponent until he failed a drugs test. With such little time remaining, up stepped former world title challenger Andy Ruiz Jr. Despite falling short in a disputable loss to Joseph Parker for the WBO title in the latter's backyard of New Zealand, Joshua was a massive favourite to retain his belts at Madison Square Garden.
In a night which included a controversial victory for Katie Taylor and a draw for Josh Kelly against unknown American Ray Robinson, the night got worse for Hearn and co with Ruiz climbing back up from the ropes to beat a concussed Joshua in the seventh round. It is regarded as one of the biggest heavyweight upsets in the history of boxing.
AJ was respectful in the aftermath and spoke like a true champion as he congratulated Ruiz on becoming the new unified heavyweight king. The rematch would take place in December 2019 in Saudi Arabia. It was do or die for Joshua and thankfully for him, Matchroom and Sky, AJ reclaimed his belts with a unanimous decision win.
5. Dominant KO victory over Kubrat Pulev
After just over a year out of the ring, Joshua made his long-awaited return to action against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev. The pair were expected to face off in 2017 only for Pulev to pull out with an injury. They were then set to commence battle in the summer of 2020 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, only for the coronavirus pandemic to postpone it.
Joshua and Pulev eventually fought in December 2020 in front of 1,000 fans and AJ displayed his old punching prowess to knock Pulev to the floor in round three before stopping him in the ninth with a venomous right hand.
In what was Joshua's first fight in the UK for two years since breaking down Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium, Joshua ensured he was in the driving seat to deliver what the fans want in 2021… an all-British battle with the "Gypsy King".