Anthony Joshua Aims To Make a Statement in Debut
Anthony Joshua is determined to make a professional debut worthy of an Olympic champion when he faces unbeaten Italian Emanuele Leo at the O2 Arena on Saturday.
Joshua will face an opponent who has won all eight of his fights and, while Leo has previously campaigned well below the London 2012 gold medalist's level, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn views him as an "outrageous" first outing.
For Joshua, who co-headlines the bill with Scott Quigg's challenge against Yoandris Salinas for a portion of the WBA world super-bantamweight title, facing Leo over six rounds is about establishing respect.
"My opponent is here to win, I'm there to win. It will be a great start. It's about respect," the 23-year-old said.
"I want to get respect by beating an opponent that I shouldn't be beating. By fighting an opponent with that type of record I'll get respect.
"I'm going in as an Olympic champion so it's time to step up and raise the bar. I've got to start at a level that's credible for an Olympic champion.
"Becoming a professional has been tough, everything's based around three-threes, but my body's adapting really well. It's been tough but good."
Joshua is taking a different route to predecessor Audley Harrison, who fought a succession of poor opponents after winning gold at the 2000 Olympics, launching an undistinguished career that fell well below expectations.
"I have a lot of respect for Audley. The only thing he didn't do was win a world title. Obviously I'd like to, that's what I have my heart set on," Joshua said.
Hearn explained the thinking behind choosing Leo for Joshua's professional debut.
"We've been outrageous really in choosing an 8-0 Italian who's here to win the fight," he said.
"Most of the times at this level you match them against a journeyman who has come over to take the money, put on a decent show but ultimately loose.
"In that respect it's quite nerve-wracking. But as a promoter and fan I want to be nervous and know that he's in a proper fight and not an exhibition."
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