Britain’s biggest boxing star returns to the ring this Saturday night as he defends his world titles against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
In the weeks beforehand, Joshua has been locked away from prying eyes in a stringent training camp, and cousin Ben Ileyemi has been overseeing security for the WBA ‘super’, IBF and WBO champion.
A former fighter himself, Ileyemi first introduced AJ to a boxing gym, and reveals how he maintains Joshua’s safety before an upcoming bout.
How did you encourage Joshua to take up boxing?
We went down to try and get fit, get stronger, and for him, he just picked it up so quickly because he’s really good at picking up new skills. From there, the rest is history.
We were sparring one guy, who used to beat the cr*p out of us. I remember Joshua always saying ‘I’m going to get him’, and I was like, calm down. Give it a month or two later, he literally put it on him.
When did you become AJ’s full-time security?
That was about three years ago. I was more or less around him all the time, and I was doing security anyway, so he put two and two together and said he was going to bring me on board.
What key skills do you need to have?
How often do you have to intervene?
Quite a lot. It’s not someone trying to kill him, you just get some fans who get really excited. He’s the heavyweight champion of the world, the best boxer that we’ve had in a long time, so a lot of people get excited. It’s just controlling the crowd and making sure that he’s safe at all times.
We had some keen fans follow us for about 45 minutes in a car. I dealt with that alright. Made sure he was safe, got him to a safe location, and just did my job.
What did you make of AJ’s clash with Jarrell Miller?
Jarrell Miller just wants to make noise. You’ve got the heavyweight king – and you’ve got the heavyweight clown. That’s the way I put it.
I think Jarrell was very shocked that AJ did respond, because he thought he wouldn’t. Anthony is a human being. If you push someone’s wrong buttons, they are going to bite back, no matter who they are. It was the wrong place and the wrong time for Jarrell.
Do you expect similar confrontations with rivals?
Everyone has got an entourage, but it doesn’t mean anything. We all conduct ourselves properly. It’s all about the sports people, not the entourage anyway. I just make sure that he’s safe, that’s my main concern.
Have you also acted as a sparring partner?
When I was pro, we used to spar a lot. They were brutal, they were just wars.
When we were first amateur, we didn’t want to hit each other hard. Then our coach told us, ‘Listen there’s going to be guys that come in the gym that are going to try and knock your head off, so you need to get prepared for that.’ We thought alright, let’s do it. From that day onwards, just wars all the time.
What has it been like to watch AJ’s progression?
For me, I’m proud of him. It’s great motivation as well, when you see how he carries himself in front of the camera, and how he carries himself in public.
He’s got a lot smarter, more articulate, and as a person I think he feels better for himself, just because he’s learning so much as well from people around him.
And finally, tell us your secret to success?
Just being calm. You don’t have to be walking around, holding your hand to your ear, wearing dark glasses. That’s just for films. Stay nice and relaxed and calm, that’s the best thing to do.
Watch Joshua vs Povetkin, at Wembley Stadium, on September 22, live on Sky Sports Box Office, from 6pm. Book via your Sky remote or book it online here.
Even if you aren’t a Sky TV subscriber you can book and watch it at skysports.com/boxofficelive.