SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MAY 01: Anthony Joshua stretches during a training session during the Anthony Joshua Media Day at the English Institute of Sport on May 01, 2019 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Anthony Joshua on his past and present
03:17 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Unbeaten during his professional career and regarded as the savior of the heavyweight division, it’s no wonder it takes something significant to scare Anthony Joshua.

His biggest fear is being taken “before my time,” but that acknowledgment of the dangers of his chosen profession has made the British boxer, who has 22 wins to date, also remarkably philosophical of the responsibility he has to his sport.

“If you get hit, you’re vulnerable, you go down,” Joshua told CNN Sport’s Don Riddell, speaking about the danger both he and his opponents face.

“I don’t want to inflict that much pain onto my opponent that he can’t go home to his family and I hope that’s the same for me.

“I hope I can go on, see my career through and go on and do great things in this world.”

Anthony Joshua wants to retire from boxing while he's still healthy.

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‘I’ve seen things’

Helping others has become an integral part of who Joshua has become and is one of the driving influences behind his stellar career.

Once the bell sounds on his final round as a boxer, the Londoner wants to use his lofty platform to be an ambassador for charities and help those more vulnerable than himself.

“As doors have been opened for me, I’d like to open doors for others,” he revealed. “I feel like I’ve still got a lot to live and I want to live a full life.”

It’s a philanthropic mission perhaps borne from his own troubled teenage years.

His involvement with drugs and street culture has been well documented but Joshua is not frightened to speak about a previous life so different from his current one.

“I’ve seen a lot of things and I’ve been through a lot of things. I just thank God I’ve never had a near-death experience in my life,” he said.

“Nothing has been that scary yet because every hurdle that’s been presented to me I’ve had enough strength to overcome it.”

He overcame a troubled past to be appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2018.

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Learning the ‘hard way’

There was a time that almost robbed the world of the real Anthony Joshua. Despite being brought up in a good home, Joshua was influenced by the potential money-making opportunities that came with criminal pursuits.

“I had to learn the hard way and realize that no one is above the law,” he said.

“But I wouldn’t say it was a bad thing because I learned certain skills, mindset, business development, investing, making a return and all that type of stuff.”

His challenging journey to the top of his profession perhaps explains why so many people follow the 6-foot 6-inch giant on social media – he’s got over 13 million followers across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

However, more pertinently, Joshua credits the winning streak for his growing popularity.

“Everyone loves a winner,” he said. “I could be the same Anthony Joshua but, if I was losing, I don’t think I’ll be selling out arenas.”

DETROIT, MI - MAY 09:  Claressa Shields works out at the Detroit Boxing Gym on May 9, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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03:34 - Source: CNN

‘Life sentence to boxing’

Not that his rise to prominence hasn’t been without criticism.

Rivals have often called Joshua out for being fake, accusing him of turning his back on a former life.

Meanwhile, despite his undeniable talent in the ring, his boxing style has also been picked apart by opponents, despite his unbeaten professional record.

“I think for someone who’s fake, for someone who fights like a robot, I’ve kind of navigated my way through this maze pretty well,” he laughed.

“If being fake and being a robot is what it takes then I want to be the best fake person and the best robot possible.”

It was at the of age 18 that Joshua took the decision to swap a life of crime and dedicate himself to a “life sentence” of boxing. Joshua and boxing has been reaping the benefits ever since, with his reign sparking a wonderful rivalry with the likes of Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.

Despite a thrilling fight between Wilder and Briton Tyson Fury, Joshua is still the man to beat, given he holds three of the four major belts in the heavyweight division.

“Why am I the chosen one? The pedigree, the talent. You can’t deny it,” Joshua said, explaining what makes him stand out.

Joshua holds three out of the four major belts in the heavyweight division.

READ: Anthony Joshua on boxing, Brexit and his Nigerian roots

American adventure

Ultimately though, the three seem unlikely to meet anytime soon given they’re signed to different broadcasters, frustrating boxing fans across the world and arguably stalling the momentum boxing had garnered during 2018.

However, a meeting with one of his top rivals is still very much at the forefront of Joshua’s mind. In fact, he guarantees it.

“I think now the reason why the fight will happen is because people will be interested in earning a pound note off of what’s on the table,” he said, explaining the complex negotiations that go on to make any such fight happen.

First for Joshua, though, is a fight against American Andy Ruiz Jr. on June 01.

The IBF, WBA and WBO champion will fly to New York’s Madison Square Garden for his first bout on US soil and the Briton is excited to spread his message to a new audience.

“I say my message is definitely to look after number one, help elevate the people around you once you’ve elevated yourself and just be real,” he said.