Olympic gold medallist Anthony Joshua and his fellow professional boxer cousin Ben Ileyemi are planning to buy new equipment for their old gym to say thank you for helping change their lives.
Joshua, who grew up in Watford and moved to Golders Green in his late teens, had never stepped foot in a ring before he joined his cousin Ileyemi in attending Finchley Boxing Club, in New Barnet at the age of 17.
But five years later, he had secured the super heavyweight gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics.
Joshua has since turned professional and on Saturday won his second pro fight with a second-round knock-out of Paul Butlin at the Sheffield Motorpoint Arena.
Joshua, 24, revealed his plans to provide Finchley Boxing Club with new equipment when he was asked why his boxing alias is ‘The Future People’s Champion’ in his dressing room after the fight.
He explained: “I have a lot of friends and the people out there (in the crowd) are not just fans, they are people who support me through thick and thin - because it will get tough.
“So whatever happens, the people’s champion is about more than what you do in the ring, it is about the things you do to give back.
“For example I haven’t been doing enough for my old gym (Finchley) so I am going to buy all new boxing bags and get some of my memorabilia together to give to the gym because the children see it and it inspires them. My cousin is doing the same because we both want to give back.
“It is the least I can do because you know what I was like before I went to the gym and I wasn’t doing boxing so the gym has been a blessing.”
It was Joshua’s cousin Ileyemi, 26, who introduced the Olympic champion to the sport and Finchley Boxing Club.
The pair turned professional with Matchroom Sports at the same time this summer and decided to join Tony Sims’ gym in Hainult, which is home to several professional boxers including Barnet’s world champion Darren Barker.
Ileyemi, who has lived in Edgware his whole life and joined Finchley ABC when he was 19, said: “Finchley is where we started. Sometimes you have to give back to the people who helped you.
“None of the coaches [at Finchley] get paid anything and they do it out of their own time so we appreciate what they did for us.
“The coaches are animals; they are machines who just keep on going. They were always training and pushing us so we want to show them we appreciate all the work they did for us.
“It is difficult to put into words how much they have helped us. They gave us a new lease of life.
“The amateur club is really important to us so we want to let them know we still have them in mind.”
Ileyemi’s second professional fight is on Thursday, November 14 at York Hall in Bethnal Green – when Joshua will also be fighting.