The Pied Piper of the prize-ring walks with growing crowds. The instruments of this modern-day siren are his chuckle-berry voice, his cheek-splitting smile and ultimately his irresistible fists.
Thousands of Sky employees and their friends hung from the studio gantries in London as Anthony Joshua grinned a warning at Joseph Parker of the pain coming his way.
Thousands more followed AJ through the showery rain of his grand arrival in south Wales, then into a Cardiff theatre to watch his last work-out before he strives to add Parker’s WBO belt to the WBA, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles in his possession.
Anthony Joshua and trainer Robert McCracken train in front of media and fans on Wednesday
Joshua displays his skill with some shadow boxing in front of the media in Cardiff, Wales
The British boxer was keen to show off his skills in the open training session in front of fans
Oh, Anthony Joshua. The Principality Stadium awaits and will be thronged with almost 80,000 believers come Saturday night.
The magical charm comes with a bracelet of Olympic gold adorned, now, with 20 consecutive professional KOs.
No wonder he tells this to Parker, the Samoan Kiwi with the granite jaw and quick hands: ‘You cannot beat me because I cannot afford to lose. Too many people are relying on me.’
So much money depends on him, too. Some £20million more coming this weekend to stack towards the ambition of becoming sport’s first billionaire — a status which will enable Joshua to keep supporting many young people in London and around the country who are still as needy as he used to be.
The bond between Joshua and the British public is strengthening with every application of his respect and courtesy for others, all the stops for handshakes and selfies.
The heavyweight champion emerged in dramatic style at an open training session in Cardiff
Joshua poses with young fans after strutting his stuff ahead of Saturday’s bout in Cardiff
Joshua was keen to sign autographs and take selfies for young fans at the event in Wales
Joshua snaps a selfie with another young fan… no wonder he admits he cannot afford to lose
The good he does boxing is rooted in his willingness to take on all-comers and his determination to excite the crowds and the TV audiences, no matter what the risks to himself implicit in his attacking style.
Joshua’s only connection with Wales is that this is the second of his world title defences to be held under the roof of the stadium which is home to Welsh rugby.
Yet whenever he is in town, they flock here on cold nights, not only from Cardiff and its environs but also from the valleys, just to watch AJ go through his paces under the flashing lights of St David’s Hall.
Two Saturday night congregations here and the near-90,000 at Wembley Stadium, for his epic title unification victory over the legendary Wladimir Klitschko, will have drawn almost a quarter of a million spectators to his flame in three fights. These are unprecedented numbers for a combat sport. As they are for his work-outs.
Parker preceded Joshua on to the stage. He was wearing all black, as New Zealand athletes should. As expected, he looked trimmed for speed, leaner than at any time in recent years. He skipped as lightly as a featherweight.
Will he be man-handled by Joshua, or dance around him? Will those surgically repaired elbows take the strain at close quarters? Does he still carry KO power?
He says yes. ‘I’ve got the speed and the power for a war.’
Joshua was in the zone as he sparred in the ring in preparation for his fight on Saturday
Joshua raises his right fist to the supporters who packed into St David’s Hall on Wednesday
The 28-year-old says he is focused on knocking Joseph Parker out come Saturday night
The cheering Kiwis in the auditorium agreed. Only Saturday night will provide the real answers.
AJ came into the temporary ring to tumult. He, too, looks lighter than last time out, when he scaled a career-high 18st 2lb.
Unlike Parker, he worked the pads into the show with his trainer Rob McCracken. Power aplenty.
But Joshua played down Parker’s suggestion of a brutal battle and even claimed his opponent may be surprised by what he brings to the bout.
The WBA and IBF champion said: ‘It’s silly, it’s boxing. In boxing I’m hearing all you need is a good chin and a right hand but we’ve been working on finesse, technique and counter-punching. So I hope Joseph Parker falls into my booby traps because I’m going to set him up for some power shots as well.’
Parker shadow boxes in front of the crowds at the open session in Cardiff on Wednesday
Joshua added: ‘Physically I’ve always tried to prepare myself the best way. Not only that, I’m starting to believe in myself, which is important. I’m believing in my ability, I’m focused, I understand it’s a boxing match.
‘It’s not just about Saturday, it’s about the long-term. Every camp I do, I aim to improve, so let’s look out for it on Saturday night to see the perks that we’ve been working on in training.’
Joshua insisted he retains an underdog spirit. He said: ‘You still need to keep that challenger’s mindset. I’m still the challenger in my head. I try to not be seen with the belts too much.’
He invited some boy boxers to join him inside the ropes. Then he worked the room. More hand pumps. More autographs. More selfies. Oh, how they love him.
Oh, Anthony Joshua.
The New Zealander was wearing all black as he stepped into strut his stuff ahead of Joshua