Heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua having mid-life crisis ahead of title defense

LONDON – The baddest man in boxing is approaching one of the definitive fights of his career and Anthony Joshua’s mind is locked in on thoughts of … a mid-life crisis?

Joshua, along with middleweight combatants Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, forms boxing’s modern elite and might be the biggest name in the sport – at least until Floyd Mayweather comes through on promises to step out of retirement.

But ahead of the English heavyweight’s latest test, a WBA, WBO and IBF world title defense against Russia’s Alexander Povetkin in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, Joshua (21-0) admitted that fame, fortune and the status of being boxing’s potential savior have begun to wear him down.

"I've got to the stage right where – what do I live for?" Joshua told reporters this week. "What am I doing? Who am I impressing? You get to a mid-life crisis and you just don't care (any) more.

"And then you know what it is like when you are younger; I wanted to be heavyweight champion of the world. You become it and you think it is going to change your whole life, but I've realized it doesn't.

“I am just still sitting here, (in a) small room, content with my (apartment) and I just hit a wall where I was like: 'You know what, I just don't care anymore.' "

Joshua says he hasn't even cut his hair recently as part of his general apathy and has wondered what it would be like to be a regular 28-year-old, going to the beach, looking at cars, hanging out. But despite his gloomy thoughts he has buckled down in training and claims to be ready to take on Povetkin, who is seen as an outsider to be respected, but a long-shot nonetheless.

England is soccer mad, loopier for the world game more than anywhere else. But it is Joshua who is the nation’s most popular and highest-earning sporting son, with his bouts having stuffed tens of millions into his bank account so far. For the most part, the money stays there, with trainer Robert McCracken insisting his charge stays true to the spartan regimen that took him to a 2012 Olympic gold medal and an April 2017 dethroning of Wladimir Klitschko to become the most world's feared heavyweight.

Ahead of the bout with Povetkin, whose only defeat in 35 fights came against Klitschko in 2013, it has been back to basics, with modern technology being drilled out of his daily schedule as much as possible. That includes time spent looking at his cell phone, his training group surmising that spending too much time gazing at a screen would weary his eyes and reduce his sharpness.

"It is all about wellness and how you are feeling," Joshua said. “We look at stuff like sleeping, the amount of time we spend on our phones. Your eyes have muscles so you have to work your eye sockets, and recover.

"I am focused and I am leaving nothing to chance. Everyone knows that with heavyweights one punch can change the course of history." 

Boxing fans would love a showdown between Joshua and WBC champion Deontay Wilder. The two have circled each other for more than a year now, but a deal looks no closer to getting done. If it eventually happens, it would be the most significant heavyweight bout in more than a decade.

Saturday’s fight will be broadcast in the U.S. on the DAZN streaming service, with which Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has a long-reaching partnership. An explosive clash, like the drama of the Klitschko victory, would boost the appetite for a Wilder showdown more than ever.

Assuming, of course, that his brush with a mid-life crisis hasn’t taken too much out of Joshua. In reality, it sounds more like a mid-career funk, the point where he needs to figure out how much his legacy and the potential to be one of the greats means to him.

If he gets through that, and Saturday's challenge, the opportunities are endless.

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