Anthony Joshua has so much going for him and a lot more he wants to accomplish.
After winning the super heavyweight gold medal in the 2012 Olympics in front of his home crowd in London, he quickly became a star in the pro ranks. Just 16 fights into his career, he is a box-office sensation, selling out arenas and drawing big pay-per-view audiences in the United Kingdom.
He also won a world title in a fight that came before he or anyone on his team thought it would when he got the unexpected chance to challenge Charles Martin for his belt on April 9. Joshua did what he has done to all of his opponents -- he flattened Martin, impressively knocking him out in the second round.
Now Joshua has the title belt in hand and his popularity is soaring, so the sky's the limit for his future as he heads into his first defense. But first he must turn back 2012 U.S. Olympian and heavy underdog Dominic Breazeale when they meet on Saturday (Showtime, 5:15 p.m. ET) at the sold-out O2 Arena in London.
Joshua, who is going into the first fight of a contract with Showtime, which locked up his American television rights, has not had much time to savor his title win. He was back in training for the fight just a few weeks later with the same tunnel vision that helped him earn Olympic gold and a pro world title.
"I've got nothing to lose. I've always explained: Let's get rid of the belts, the atmosphere, because when the bell goes, it's just me and him in the ring. Two gladiators, two respectful warriors coming together. We're going to slug it out and put our zeroes on the line." Anthony Joshua
Joshua (16-0, 16 KOs) expects his success to continue against Breazeale (17-0, 15 KOs), a former college football quarterback from Los Angeles.
"There will always be pressure. But look, it's always been the same concept: Train hard -- it's the same ring. It hasn't changed," Joshua said at Thursday's final news conference. "I've got nothing to lose. I've always explained: Let's get rid of the belts, the atmosphere, because when the bell goes, it's just me and him in the ring. Two gladiators, two respectful warriors coming together. We're going to slug it out and put our zeroes on the line.
"I'm prepared, Dominic is prepared well, and one of us has to take a loss. Each fight is a stepping stone to the big tests. I want to look like the real deal."
The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Joshua, 26, has certainly looked that way since turning pro. He has only been past three rounds once, in his seven-round slugfest with Dillian Whyte in December, and he has many viewing him as the future of the heavyweight division.
Most do not think this fight with Breazeale will last nearly as long the one against Whyte. Joshua showed vulnerability when he was hurt by Whyte, and Breazeale was knocked down and in trouble in his last fight, although he pulled out a fifth-round knockout of Amir Mansour after breaking his jaw.
The way Joshua sees it, this is the right fight at the right time as he moves toward much bigger fights in the future.
"I'm 16 fights, 16 wins, Dominic is 17 fights, 17 wins," Joshua said. "We've been pro for the same amount of time, amateurs for the same time, so we're at a similar level on paper. People think this will end in two rounds? Brilliant. I am winning fights early because of my talent and hard work. Where I am in my career, it's a perfect fight.
"I don't overlook anyone. People talk and talk, that's irrelevant. It's all about whether he can fight. I think he believes in himself, but he knows what's in store here. He needs to know I'm serious about this boxing. He thinks he's going to KO me. He's dismissed Charles Martin. Sometimes you just have to humble somebody and show levels, let them know it's not that easy. The second I stepped into the pros, it was 'Boom! Anthony Joshua, headlining.' That's not down to me. It's media channels and people wanting to get to know the guy behind the gloves. So it's been hard to build a career at the right pace without criticism because people want to see me in massive fights right now.
"I definitely believe [Joshua] realizes [and] understands that he's got a big test in front of him. He's got a big fighter in front of him. He's got a guy that's going to break him down, test his will and see if he is a true champion." Dominic Breazeale
"You can't jump from hero to zero. There are people guiding us over a long and a dangerous career. People have to understand that it's a development of a career, and if I ever train a fighter, I'll tell them the same thing."
The 6-foot-7, 255-pound Breazeale did not look all that good against Mansour, but the fight nonetheless helped Breazeale land the title shot.
"He's a tough guy," Joshua said of Breazeale. "He managed to go out there and break Mansour's jaw and capture a win, which has led him into where he is now. Whichever angels were floating in the ring with him that day have led him to this point, so I've got to put an end to his dream."
Breazeale is not concerned with whether his struggles against Mansour led to his selection as Joshua's opponent. Breazeale just knows he has a huge opportunity in front of him and plans to take advantage of it.
"Honestly, the way I see it is that someone didn't do their research," Breazeale said. "They didn't look deep enough. They didn't find out enough about me and maybe they're looking at me as just another football player that transitioned into boxing. And I'm hoping they're overlooking me. It definitely can be a situation where they're just watching one fight, especially my last fight. But there's been a lot of tough ones. If they're looking at that one situation, I'm glad, because that's to my liking.
"I definitely believe [Joshua] realizes [and] understands that he's got a big test in front of him. He's got a big fighter in front of him. He's got a guy that's going to break him down, test his will and see if he is a true champion. I'm blessed to have been picked for this fight and am thankful for this opportunity. The way I look at it, and the way I look at every fight that I go into, is that as long as I do everything that I need to do in the gym as far as sparring, preparation and training, running my miles, sleeping right and eating right -- I've crossed all of my t's and dotted all of my i's. I've got nothing to worry about. I've got nothing to second-guess. I've done everything I'm supposed to and I just can't wait to shine. ... It's my Super Bowl. Being a former football player, this is my Super Bowl."
Joshua also expects to shine and move on to bigger fights, perhaps eventual unification bouts against Deontay Wilder, should Wilder defeat Chris Arreola on July 16, or against Joshua's countryman Tyson Fury, the recognized world champion, should Fury defeat former champion Wladimir Klitschko in their rematch on July 9.
To hear Joshua tell it, winning the belt from Martin, while a significant accomplishment, did not mean all that much to him. He still has work to do, and it begins against Breazeale.
"It didn't mean much," Joshua said. "I still have another couple titles I need to get my hands on. I'm still hunting. There's still work to be done. So it only ticked one of the boxes on my to-do list."