Anthony Joshua doesn't want son to take up boxing

Anthony Joshua raising a fist with a smile at the camera while stood in a boxing ring
Anthony Joshua wants his "little JJ" to carve out his own future [Reuters]

British heavyweight Anthony Joshua says it would not be a "wise decision" for his son to follow in his footsteps and become a professional boxer.

The two-time former unified world heavyweight champion told BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs he would much prefer if his son Joseph Joshua, known as JJ, became an accountant instead, though he added that he wanted him to carve out his own future.

Joshua also spoke to host Lauren Laverne about how he got into trouble with the police for fighting when he was a teenager living in Watford and how he became homeless aged 17.

Reflecting on his career in boxing, Joshua said he found the sport at a time he needed it most.

He told Desert Island Discs: "I’d usually sit outside the estate and just have a cigarette. Then I started getting in trouble... I just wanted to make money, that was my goal," he told the programme.

“I was constantly getting in trouble."

Joshua first entered the ring aged 18 when his cousin suggested he take up the sport, which he said became helpful to "channel my energy".

Five years later, Joshua became a household name when he picked up gold at the London 2012 Olympics.

A year later, Joshua decided to turn pro - the breakout moment for him coming at age 27, when he met the Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko in April 2017.

In a sold out Wembley Stadium, roared on by a crowd of 90,000, AJ - as he is known to his fans - floored the 41-year old two-time world champion in the 11th round in one of the most gruelling but entertaining heavyweight contests.

Later, he said the victory over Klitschko changed his career.

A knockout artist – AJ has fought 22 professional bouts without defeat and won 21 of them, rising like a rock star over the following decade.

But the low point in the boxer’s career came in 2022, when he failed to recapture the unified WBO, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles from his nemesis, Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia.

As he tried to come to terms with the loss, Joshua at first denied it had a profound effect on him.

“I don’t feel anything,” he had said after Usyk defeated him in a spectacular rematch, before throwing two championship belts from the ring.

But at a post-fight press conference, Joshua was apologetic, choked back tears and held his head in his hands, saying the defeat “tore him apart”.

Speaking to Desert Island Discs, he said he has broken down over losing - adding that one time he went into a "dark room" for five days where he could not talk to anyone in order to "heal from the inside mentally".

Joshua said it was around this time that he realised he needed to have "more meaningful conversations" with his family.

Beyond the world of boxing, AJ is known to be a fiercely private man for whom loyalty to family is of paramount importance.

He grew up as one of seven children living between his mum's house and his dad's place.

In various interviews he spoke fondly about his mother Yeta Odusanya, and his son, JJ.

Soon after his career took off, he bought a place for his mum to live in.

“When you step up as a man in the house, freedom is making sure your parents are taken care of as well," he told the BBC.

"For me, that’s freedom knowing that no matter where I am in the world, my mum’s happy, she’s taken care of."

Joshua says he has "always kept boxing out" away from his family, adding that he is a father and son first.

Would he like his son to enter the ring?

He has previously said he did not envisage that life for his "little JJ", wanting his son to be the "best man that he can be" instead.

Speaking to Desert Island Discs, Joshua revealed that his views about his son’s future had not changed. He said he would tell JJ to "do the best you can do", when advising him about what he wanted to be when he was older.

"If I was to choose [a career] for him, I would ask him to probably look at accountancy because I think it’s good to understand numbers," he said.

But what about his own future? Does he plan to retire?

There are no plans for retirement yet, but he said that when he eventually leaves the sport he would like to start a care home for retired boxers with poor health.

“That would be part of my boxing legacy, that I gave something back to the sport that made me," he said.

"I know I’m not going to be in the hot-seat for all my life, so I have to make smart decisions while the iron’s hot.”

Desert Island Discs was recorded on Friday 12 April 2024.