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Anthony Joshua: ‘If I Chose Football, You’d Have Never Heard Of Virgil Van Dijk’

Anthony Joshua: ‘If I Chose Football, You’d Have Never Heard Of Virgil Van Dijk’

Anthony Joshua has cheekily compared himself to a young Virgil van Dijk when asked if he could've made it as a top footballer.

The heavyweight champ was a towering defender in his teens and "could have made it" all the way to the Premier League if he'd chosen football over boxing. At least according to his long-time friend and camp manager David Ghansa (admittedly not an unbiased source).

SPORTbible asked AJ whether he really could have been an elite footballer, pointing out he came to boxing comparatively late but still rose to the pinnacle of the sport. Why should football be any different?

"Look, you might not have ever known about Virgil van Dijk or anyone," replied a laughing Joshua, tongue firmly in cheek. "You'd have never heard about Chris Smalling if I'd have carried on my football days.

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"Actually, I wasn't a bad defender at the back! But I didn't take it seriously.

"I like boxing, it's an individual sport. And I just like to challenge myself. With football sometimes, I felt like I could depend on the other 10 players on the pitch to a certain degree.

"Whereas boxing, you know what? You can't even depend on your coaches. It's just you. It's you, alone in the ring, no one wants to win more than that one person. That's why I love boxing."

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AJ was speaking to SPORTbible via Zoom for the launch of #JDChampsHonours List, his campaign that celebrates people who made a big difference in 2020.

Sporting titans like Joshua and Van Dijk are heroes to their fans, but last year's challenges made champions out of a lot of people. So Joshua and JD launched a campaign to find the regular people who have made outstanding contributions to their community.

Nominations were received via friends and family UK-wide. Now AJ has revealed his champions who rolled with the punches and came out fighting; from volunteer workers in food banks to people who have tirelessly supported vulnerable families.

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As for his own sport, and a current boxer Joshua admires at the highest level, the 31-year-old paused for thought before answering.

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"A pro fighter now? I watch a lot of the old-school boxers," admitted Joshua, a keen student of heavyweight boxing history who has called the incredible, up-and-down slugfest between George Foreman and Ron Lyle in 1976 his favourite ever fight.

"But maybe, today... Vasyl Lomachenko. I like Lomachenko's style, he's great. His movement is unbelievable.

"Let's say, in today's modern era, I like to watch Lomachenko at work."

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The Ukranian master-boxer was actually defeated in his last bout, a points reverse against the younger and larger Teofimo Lopez in October. But there's no doubt he's one of the best modern, pound-for-pound practitioners of the sweet science with a skill set and boxing IQ that's baffled even his fellow champions.

We also had the chance to ask AJ about his proposed mega-fight with Tyson Fury and what he learned from their famous sparring session together, over a decade ago.

Safe to say the big man was less glowing in his Fury review than he was about Lomachenko.

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JD & Anthony Joshua launched #JDChampsHonours, an empowering campaign that shines a light on those who made a difference in their communities in 2020. For more information & details of all the winners please visit www.jdsports.co.uk/page/champs-honours

Topics: Heavyweight boxing, Anthony Joshua News, Boxing News, Boxing, Virgil Van Dijk, Fight News, Anthony Josuha

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Alex Reid

Alex Reid is a writer at SPORTbible who’s previously strung words together for FourFourTwo, Boxing News, The Guardian and, yes, Cruise International (it’s about big ships, not Tom). Interests range from football and boxing to real sports like WWE and darts. He is not a cage fighter.