World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has made a substantial donation to help fund amateur boxing in Britain – saying he hopes “we have not lost the next generation” of fighters.
Some clubs have closed and boxing was not included on a list of sports that received a £300m bailout in November.
Briton Joshua, 31, gave a six-figure sum to the amateur boxing federations of England, Wales and Scotland.
“Without grassroots boxing, there is no Anthony Joshua,” he said.
“The doors to these gyms are always open to any kid from any background,” Joshua, who turned professional after winning Olympic gold at London 2012, told BBC sports editor Dan Roan.
“If I was 18 again and I was in a position where the gym was closed and it might not open, I would be devastated.
Listen to the full interview with Joshua on the Bunce & Costello podcast
“It’s not just financial help. I will often try and motivate these kids by being among them, bringing my belts down and training with them.
“I believe in the next 10-15 years, you are going to see the leaders of tomorrow, but I hope it’s not 25-30 years because we have lost this next generation.”
Funding will be provided to the clubs most in need.
Gethin Jenkins, chairman of England Boxing, said: “We are delighted and we thank Anthony for this much-needed financial support and for drawing attention to the role and support the clubs offer in their local communities and with it the need for greater government support to grassroots boxing clubs.”
Although boxing was not included in the government’s bailout last month, Sport England has distributed £2.5m to local clubs since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Joshua first became world champion in 2016 when he beat American Charles Martin to win the IBF title.
His most recent fight was a ninth-round stoppage of Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena on 12 December.
Joshua, who holds the IBF, WBA and WBO titles and compatriot Tyson Fury, who is the WBC champion, currently occupy all of the world heavyweight titles between them, and the former says he is “certain” the pair will meet in a unification bout in 2021.
Both fighters have progressed from the amateur ranks and Joshua says “the world’s eyes will be watching” their fight.
“I’m certain [it is going to happen], I’m keen and I’m ready,” said Joshua.
“It’s about me challenging myself and getting my hands on that WBC belt because I want to be an undisputed heavyweight champion. That is legacy.”
With rumours of the fight being agreed in a lucrative deal overseas, Joshua said he “prays” the bout happens in Britain, but he is “more interested in the fight than where it happens”.
“We are aiming for some time in June so it gives us a window to assess the situation with the [Covid-19] pandemic here.
“I will do it any time and any place, but until that fight is reality and his signature is on the dotted line, I’m not really going to talk about it.”