Zlatan Ibrahimovic described Anthony Joshua as the ‘perfect example’ of a champion but said the world heavyweight king is still not quite as great as him.
The Manchester United and Sweden striker is a huge combat sports fan with a black belt in taekwondo who is often spotted at ringside for big boxing events. However, until Saturday night, Ibrahimovic had never watched Britain’s IBF and WBA champion Joshua in the flesh.
The 36-year-old striker is yet to feature for United this season due to a knee injury but he has been working hard to return before the turn of the year. He took a break from his rehabilitation to watch Joshua stop Carlos Takam in 10 rounds at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.
The Londoner, a gold medallist at the 2012 Olympics, is now 20-0 with all wins coming by knockout.
And Ibrahimovic, who returned to the north on his private jet shortly after Joshua had left the ring, was impressed by his first glimpse of Britain’s golden boy.
“I think he has done very well, he did his job,” Ibrahimovic said. “It wasn’t easy because he had a guy coming in from 12 days’ notice and a tough fighter but as a professional that Anthony is, he did the job.
“I think he got his nose broken or something happened in the second round but he did what he needed to do and got the TKO so we are all happy.
“It’s my first time to come to watch him. He’s the perfect example of how a boxer needs to be today.
“He’s powerful, he has the movement, obviously he is a heavyweight, he’s a knockout artist. Even the character, his personality is good because he is perfect and he is not trying.
“There are positive vibes around him, he has good energy, he expresses himself very good and that’s why the people love him and that’s why he is the people’s champion. Is he as good at boxing as I am at football? Not quite but he’s getting there.”
Before taking his ringside seat, Ibrahimovic visited Joshua in his changing rooms as the defending champion got his hands wrapped and his body warm.
The mood was jovial but Joshua was surprised that the football superstar pulled him up on something he had said in the aftermath of his memorable April super fight against Wladimir Klitschko.
Joshua said: “Zlatan loves boxing but he picked up on something I said after the Klitschko fight. In the ring when I was getting interviewed that night I said ‘I’m not perfect, but I’m trying’.
“He said ‘no, no, no, what you should say is ‘I am perfect and I’m not trying!’
“I thought this guy’s mindset is phenomenal.”
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