The champion is talking about the weight of the crown. And Mars. And hidden tribes and poisonous frogs. It’s to do with the expectations of others and why, occasionally, it can be nice to think of a place and time where none of that exists.
It’s a thought he drifts to every so often. Sometimes he shares it as a joke, and others less so, because in his mind there is a comfort in the silence that might come after this chapter.
‘Once boxing is done everything gets deactivated,’ he says. ‘No one will ever see me again. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos — come on, we are going to Mars, baby.’
They refer to two Anthony Joshuas in his circle. There’s the one you know and the one they know, who has a different name. There’s AJ, the shining brand and the golden goose; then there’s Femi, the reformed hustler from Watford who, if he could, would stay up through the night watching clips of anything, anything at all, from Jack Dempsey to the independence of the Congo.
This conversation is mainly with Femi, in so much as it is ever possible in boxing to separate the man and what has been manufactured. He’s been through a long few months by the time we catch up, and a long old camp, too. It started with an agreement to fight that other guy and it will end on September 25, when he enters a ring at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to negotiate the considerable talents of Oleksandr Usyk.
‘August 14,’ he says. ‘That’s when the Fury fight was booked. It would have happened by now.’
But he’ll come back to that, both in this chat and in more meaningful ways, if boxing ever finds a way to stop soiling its sheets. For now, there’s just a sigh. Joshua is in no mood for trash talk today, nor the theatre of boxing promotion and the wider games of publicity. It is ‘noise’, as he calls it.Noise can be good. Noise can help you dance, and no one in the fighting trade has quite so many partners as this guy, who is paired with car companies, clothing lines, drinks manufacturers, documentary makers, providers of CBD oil, and most dots in between. Where there is a pie, one of Joshua’s fingers is nearby, and he’s worth somewhere north of £115million, says the Sunday Times Rich List. Noise helped build that.
But that business of noise has a tendency to leave a ringing in the ears. Noise attracts other noise — about family, how much the house cost; about a star, what they ought to achieve in sport, and what they ought to represent outside of it. After a time, noise has a habit of outstaying its welcome.
It is something that happens a little to a lot of athletes, but is only at its most intense for a very select few — Andy Murray, Lewis Hamilton, Raheem Sterling and Anthony Joshua, for nine years and counting. With the addition of Emma Raducanu, those individuals are arguably the peaks of transcendence in British sport.