Since winning the Olympic gold medal in London six years ago, Anthony Joshua has gone unbeaten in 21 professional bouts, has won six consecutive world heavyweight fights and has swaggered with his giant and generous smile through just about every conceivable request made of him. "What more can I do? I'm unbeaten in 21 fights and I do everything right," said the fighter on Wednesday afternoon.
Joshua has also, in private and away from any media involvement, put in appearances for a lot of good causes on time-consuming days; he has never asked for recognition, craved idle praise and there are just signs now that he is ready to be a bit more private, a little less open and a lot more like the other heavyweight champions. The rules of engagement have shifted slightly.
At the latest open-day at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, where Joshua has prepared his body for fights since 2011, there was an attempt to reduce the size of the audience and limit the time Joshua spent being interviewed and filmed.
The day still lasted over four hours, with the unbeaten champion having to explain his taste in music with journalists from Denmark, his hair styles with gossip columnists, duck and dive when pushed on his failure to fight Deontay Wilder and late in the day perform a skit or two with a couple of hired comedians. It would have taken a brave publicist to have asked Mike Tyson to play ball with most of Wednesday's requests.
At the open-day for the Joseph-Parker fight back in March, also at the EIS, the commitment to talk to everybody meant that Joshua was still sitting on the ring being interviewed less than an hour before his crucial evening training session. It was one of his last sparring sessions and he had been forced to miss a meal, had been there in front of the microphones and cameras for the best part of five hours, probably more, and still he continued talking.
Joshua's nutritionist was not impressed -- Joshua needs to eat and digest thousands of calories each day to allow him to put his body through the punishing schedule -- and neither was his trainer, Robert McCracken.
"This is a real gym and there are a lot of other fighters in here," McCracken said on Wednesday. "It's nice having the media here, but there has to be a limit to the numbers and the time it takes. Josh will never say no, he just keeps on going."
It has to be pointed out that Tyson, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko never quite had days like Joshua has hosted since last April.
Tyson would hold open sessions and might meet with the press -- all press -- after for a talk. He would stay until dusk or he would get hustled away in an insulting dash after just five minutes. At other Tyson sessions it was possible that the press would have to wait outside whatever gym he had selected. Tyson had enough people near him to slip enough marketable tales out and other journalists found a variety of methods to get "close" to Tyson for one of the millions of Tyson Exclusives. It was, trust me, an unedifying way to make a living.
Lewis would open his camp for a day, the media would be allowed in behind a fence and then sit through a training session. There would be very little contact during the hour or two-hour session. Lewis would then emerge, sit relaxed with the media and talk. He seldom gave much away and his open-days were certainly not five-hours of candid interviews.
As part of the travelling boxing pack then, I can testify that we were often dependent on Frank Maloney giving us something a bit tasty for tomorrow's paper. Maloney, incidentally, seldom failed to make the mundane lurid.
Big Wlad had Joshua in his high-altitude Austrian training camp once and it was a valuable experience for both; Joshua had his eyes open every second, devouring the knowledge and Klitschko took a live gauge of Joshua's ability in the sparring. Klitschko had fabulous open-days at the glorious five-star retreat he used as his training base. The media had excellent access, could film and talk to everybody involved.
However, it always felt like the media were temporary tourists, observers for a few hours and then the hefty door would be closed firmly on our prying eyes. The contact was definitely over at that point.
The open-days with Joshua were so different until this week, when the barriers came down. I understand why it has changed: I don't like it, but I totally understand. It makes sense to limit the accreditation list for Joshua's open-days, especially at a time when he still has critical sparring to do. There has been a tiny caveat on the press invite for a couple of open-days now and it warns the reader not to ask for any selfies or autographs. That sentence is damning enough.
There is also the risk of contamination with so many people packing the gym and getting close face-to-face time with Joshua. I listened on Wednesday and heard several people sneezing, coughing and blowing their noses. It was far worse in the winter last year, when Joshua prepared for the Parker clash amidst the 'Beast from the East'.
Joshua would spend even more time doing interviews if he was allowed and there are, trust me, no shortage of men and women with cameras and microphones desperate for some of his time. The restrictions work and now Joshua and his people are controlling the time he spends being open. It makes sense -- even if it means missing out.