The evolution of Anthony Joshua, as a fighter, businessman and brand
One thing that has struck this penpal while spending time with Joshua over the years is how much bigger his entourage is now. It’s a compliment, because Joshua surrounds himself with the best. While initially he had three people around him, he will now have more than 20 on the night of the fight. The transition from Olympic amateur to dominant professional is not easy, but Joshua has mastered it.
“You come from amateur boxing with GB, which is extremely well put together, everything is provided and when you go pro you have to do everything yourself,” says Freddie Cunningham, his commercial director. “You have to build your team. Team GB is a good base. He took this model and made his own team.
The key to this transformation is to learn from those he has met, like Klitschko.
“Training camp started with Rob McCracken, the strength and conditioning trainer and nutritionist,” says David Ghansa, director of Joshua’s training camp. “We were all still in the Olympic configuration. Over time I think the real change factor for him has been to go to Klitschko camp and see how a real world champion organizes everything. Even though it was so early he took some notes and came back and told us how it was.
“It involved all the details of physical preparation, sports science and world experts in the field. We have built this and grown the team. He has it all in mind how he wants it to work. It is constantly evolving.
Few athletes are as conscious of their own brand as Joshua.
“AJ really understands his own brand,” says Andy Bell, his public relations manager. “I don’t think he did it at first. It has increased dramatically, not just over the past eight years, but over the past four or five years. After Dillian Whyte, things from a public relations standpoint exploded.
Joshua’s relatives understood how the building blocks were there. He was an Olympic champion with an outsider history that looked like a male model. But the big moment came when he defeated Klitschko on that unforgettable night at Wembley on April 29, 2017. The dramatic nature of that victory – a truly epic contest that lived up to the hype – and even the smile that Joshua gave gave in the moments after the referee signaled the fight was over, launched the Londoner in a place few of this country’s sports stars have been to.
“From a media point of view, this is when he went from being a big boxing star to Graham Norton, GQ – this genre [of media]Bell adds. “He was there at the time.
“He did a campaign for Google over the summer. They are great brands. Under Armor, Hugo Boss, these are house brands that all want to be associated with the Anthony Joshua brand.
The key is that Joshua demands his own imprint on what he does.
“Everything he does is about himself and putting his own stamp on it,” says Bell. “No one size, no cookie cutter [approach] – none of that. Everything is custom built around it.
And while Joshua is aware of his brand, he is also aware of its value. In the summer of 2020, he launched his own production studio, SPX Studio, which will give him full control over his image rights.
This desire to understand the business world even struck Hearn when they first met.
“He’s always been super sharp in a business sense. But he was always quite curious and wanted to know everything. I remember that when we first met it wasn’t that he didn’t trust us but he had to assimilate everything. So I told him to go away and talk to everyone and make his own judgment. It has always been like that, with sponsorship or investments. He educates himself.
Forbes declared Joshua the 19th highest-paid athlete in the world in May 2020, with an annual income of £ 35.62million, of which £ 8.34million came from sponsors. Considering his age and the fact that Kubrat Pulev’s loss was only his 25th professional fight, that’s an impressive number.
“A lot of athletes like Andy Murray, Rory McIlroy and Lewis Hamilton did a tremendous job and did it towards the end of their careers,” Cunningham said. “Anthony saw it early on and wanted to capitalize. He did it even before his first world title fight. Over time he has learned more and he takes information about every situation and every partner we have. He develops as a person.
Not just as a person, but also as a boxer, businessman and brand.