By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
ANTHONY JOSHUA will bring a tear to the eye of the man he once feared on Saturday.
GB Boxing coach Paul Walmsley was in the corner throughout an amateur career that saw him go all the way to super-heavyweight gold at London 2012.
Joshua takes on IBF champion Charles Martin at the 02 Arena this weekend and if he wins, Walmsley said: “I might shed a little tear. I’d be that happy.”
Joshua, 26, was a late comer to boxing and had not even watched it in 2008 when James DeGale stormed to gold in Beijing. But by 2012 he was the star of the show.
Now he is closing in on a world title after 15 knockout wins in 15 fights and could become just the second British gold medallist after DeGale to win a world title in the paid ranks.
It is a journey that started in Finchley Amateur Boxing club in Barnet but really took off at the home of GB Boxing in Sheffield.
“He walked into the gym and didn’t want to come back because he apparently thought I was too military and too strict,” he said.
“I remember the first day he came in and he was a bit sheepish and he was nothing like the kid I expected because of the stories I heard. I took to him straight away and the feeling was mutual.
“The very first time he came in on the development squad around 2009, I looked at him and thought ‘what am I supposed to do with him’.
“He was a bit like a coal man with his stance, over the front foot, weight in the wrong place, but Anthony being Anthony he was just a sponge.
“He took everything on board you told him. He was always asking ‘what about this, what about that?’. He was first in the gym, last out of the gym. He just absolutely lives and breathes the sport.”
Walmsley is best placed to explain the 6ft 6in man mountain’s stunning rise.
Critics claim his world title shot has come too soon and even Walmsley said: “I don’t think this has been done before so quickly.
“That is Anthony down to a tee, if he gets his mind on something that is it. He gives it 100 percent.
“If he was going to be a runner he would apply himself the same. He is thorough about everything and how he goes about it.
“He watches other boxers, listens, wants to know what other boxers do, what their coaches do, wants to go into detail into coaches and what they have achieved. He goes through everything with a fine-tooth comb.”
Liverpool-born Walmsley knew he had a job on his hands when he first watched Joshua, but he also realised there was plenty to work with.
“There is always something when you see boxers like Anthony,” he said. “It is like an aura, there is something special about this kid.
“He was destined for great things. He lights up the room when he walks in with his personality and there is something else about him, it radiates from him. That belief he will and can do it. He makes other people believe his belief. He is incredible.”
There were worrying times along the way though.
Like when Walmsley took the call from the police after Joshua was arrested for possession of a class B drug in March 2011.
Or when Walmsley threw in the towel in the final of the European Championships a few months later as a hard-hitting Romanian went to work on the Englishman.
“I’ve been through so much with him,” is all Walmsley will say about Joshua’s brush with the law.
If he can deliver and hand Martin his first loss, Walsmley said: “It will be the icing on the cake for me.
“But I told him to do this for himself, he doesn’t owe anyone anything. I love the man, I hope and pray that he does it on the night.”
Sky Sports Box Office will show Martin v Joshua on Saturday. Buy now at www.skysports.com/joshua