Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua wants to open care home for retired boxers

<span>Psychological pressure on boxers can be intense, Joshua says.</span><span>Photograph: Richard Pelham/Getty Images</span>
Psychological pressure on boxers can be intense, Joshua says.Photograph: Richard Pelham/Getty Images

Anthony Joshua has said he is considering opening a care home for retired boxers with health problems.

Speaking to Lauren Laverne on Sunday’s episode of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, the former world heavyweight champion said he had discussed issues faced by ex-fighters with his former boxing coach, John Oliver.

“They suffer by themselves, so we’ve been speaking about opening up a care home,” Joshua said. “That would be part of my boxing legacy – that I gave something back to the sport that made me.”

The boxer, 34, reflected on the dangers of his sport. “The one thing I would hope for is to keep my health intact. Because it’s your health that is the most important thing you’re ­putting on the line,” he said.

“We can notice it in fighters when their health is deteriorating, but we never actually talk about it among ourselves. All we focus on is winning.”

Joshua described how boxing helped him turn his life around as a teenager. Born in Watford, he spent part of his childhood at boarding school in Nigeria.

It was during his teenage years, back in the UK that Joshua had run-ins with the police and was eventually banned from Watford town centre for fighting. “I started getting in trouble – I wanted to make money wheeling and dealing,” he said. When Joshua was 17, his mother moved to London, and he fell into selling drugs: “I was kind of homeless. I moved into a hostel.”

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His cousin Ben introduced him to Finchley Amateur Boxing Club. “I’m really glad I found boxing – it changed me a lot,” he said. “You can turn your life around if you focus.” Three years later, Joshua was competing at the Olympics. This August marks 12 years since he took home a gold medal at London 2012, with a victory over Roberto Cammarelle. Olympic training was “really tough”, he said, telling Laverne that the psychological pressure can be intense, especially when dealing with defeat. “I’ve broken down when I’ve lost before.” He revealed that he once spent five days in a dark room to help himself “heal”.

Joshua added: “That’s why I love music. Music can always set the tone with me for what I’m trying to achieve.” Among his eight tracks is the classic boxing anthem Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger, which Joshua often trains to, and Stormzy’s Shut Up, a previous ring walk track.

Joshua said he’s putting energy into the business side of boxing to ensure a secure retirement. Asked by Laverne about his decision to fight big-money matches in Saudi Arabia, which has been criticised for its poor record on human rights, he said: “I’m there for boxing. I don’t get involved in the politics.”

His son, JJ, is eight. Joshua hopes he doesn’t follow him into boxing. “If I was to choose, I’d ask him to look at accountancy.”