Alan Hubbard ©ITGAnthony Joshua, who is fast becoming the most personable pugilist in the business, celebrated his first full year as a pro last weekend by roughing up a Russian. The 2012 Olympic super-heavyweight champion, who has impressively slam-bammed his way through his first nine fights now seems to be accelerating towards the world title in record time for a British boxer.

By coincidence the week also registered another first anniversary. It is a year since Helen Grant became David Cameron's surprise selection as Sports Minister and like 24-year-old Joshua she has used the past 12 months to as a learning curve, flexing her muscles in readiness for bigger fights ahead.

Like heavyweight champions, Sports Ministers come and go. Since Harold Wilson first created the role for Denis Howell exactly 50 years ago there has been a steady procession of the good, the bad and the utterly hopeless. And there have been quite a few of the latter, mostly some of the dismal tail-enders sent into bat in the Thatcher/Major years.

The jury may still be out on the latest Tory incumbent as Grant continues to steadily play the bowling following the outstanding Hugh Robertson's elevation to the Foreign Ministry. But the indications are that having survived a few opening bouncers - like Richard Caborn, she was caught off guard when subjected to an impromptu  pub-type quiz on the minutiae of sport - she is digging herself in for a respectable innings - at least until next year's election.

Helen Grant is celebrating a year since she was appointed as Britain's first-ever black and only second-ever female Sports Minister ©DCMSHelen Grant is celebrating a year since she was appointed as Britain's first-ever black and only second-ever female Sports Minister ©DCMS

"A dream come true" is how the first black  - and only second woman -  Sports Minister described her new job to me when I introduced her to a predominantly macho world, including Joshua, at a the Boxing Writers' Clubn annual dinner the night she she took office..

Since then the 53-year-old former lawyer's profile has been somewhat lower than Joshua's, and those of her more recent predecessors, but a measure of the different way she has decided to do things comes in a rare testimony of approval from the Opposition benches.  

"I like her very much," says Labour's Kate Hoey, the first female Sports Minister. "We were in Geneva together recently when Wembley won the right to host the final stages of the Euro 2020 Championships. She is obviously enjoying the job and getting to grips with the intricacies of sport. It is a hugely complicated business and it takes time. It is not just being there as a cheerleader.

"She has clearly leaned a lot from Hugh [Robertson] and I am pleased we have someone  who knows the importance of supporting and nourishing the grass roots. Too many Sports Ministers have been totally obsessed with football."

Sentiments echoed by Robertson - now Sir Hugh: "Helen has quietly done a fantastic job of rolling up her sleeves and getting on with supporting and encouraging grassroots sport. This sort of work rarely attracts the headlines but it makes a huge difference to all the volunteers and participants on the ground."

While Grant certainly has been beavering away at the grass roots there are those who would like to have seen the ex-teenage judo champion publicly throwing her weight around a bit more at the elite end and putting the stranglehold on those lingering chauvinistic elements in sport.

"Throwing my weight around?" she queried in an exclusive interview with insidethegames. "That has never been my style. I prefer to try and get things moving in an organised, constructive  way and I believe it is working."

Encouraging grassroots sport is an important aspect of the British Sports Minister's role, claims Helen Grant ©Getty ImagesEncouraging grassroots sport is an important aspect of the British Sports Minister's role, claims Helen Grant ©Getty Images

Not that it has been easy. As a black female, football's corridors of power are not a natural habitat, as Heather Rabbatts, the former executive chair of Millwall, has discovered.

Rabbatts was chosen to sit on Greg Dyke's Football Association Commission but was soon deriding it for having "absolutely no representation from the black and ethnic minority communities".

Dyke has finally delivered his verdict but one of the hottest topics in football right now, the lack of black managers in the League - and the possible introduction of American Football's Rooney Rule, whereby ethnic minority candidate must be included in the interview process for such posts - is surely likely to rise to the top of Grant's agenda soon.

The Minister says she is an ardent advocate of meritocracy. But she does acknowledge that more needs to be done to widen the talent pool and get black coaches to the top.

She tells us: "The lack of black and ethnic minority managers in the game is a concern. I want to see more from football in getting black coaches through the ranks. The FA are making some progress but there is still more to do. I want a talent pool of people from all walks of life qualified and knocking on the door for the top jobs."

But she insists:" I don't have any problems doing business with those I deal with in football. I have a very good working relationship with both the Premier League and the FA. I get on well with Richard Scudamore, Greg Dyke and Alex Horne.

"We have honest exchanges about ways in which we can work together to improve the national game, as our successful bid for the European Championships demonstrated.

"I meet them regularly with recent discussions focusing on what more can be done to improve the general governance of the game.

"Having been a lawyer for 23 years prior to becoming an MP I know the value of governance in creating solid foundations, which are of course essential for any structure of national importance.

"My current role as a Minister for Sport and Tourism [her  portfolio for equalities has been transferred to the Education Department] and my many commitments in my constituency of Maidstone and the Weald, present a similar type of challenge. It's all about being organised and knowing how to delegate and prioritise."

Controversial she isn't, and certainly no Tony Banks when it comes to expressing forthright views (when I once asked the late leftie, as Sports Minister, for his on-the-record comment on a particular issue he responded:"On the record? It's effing bollocks!")

Helen Grant may be lower profile than some of her predecessors but she has not afraid to show off her skills as a sportswoman when given the opportunity ©British CouncilHelen Grant may be lower profile than some of her predecessors but she has not afraid to show off her skills as a sportswoman when given the opportunity ©British Council

Grant is far more circumspect. "Like the rest of the country I was disappointed that we didn't progress further at the World Cup in Brazil. It was always going to be a tough group to get out of. But the experience gained by our younger players will surely be a benefit for the future and now it's about working towards a good showing at the [2016] European Championships in France."

Never mind Banksie. Robertson was always going to be a hard act to follow. "I've picked up the baton from Hugh and am working hard to ensure that the legacy from the Olympic Games continues," she says. "Hugh did a fantastic job. He'd shadowed the brief for such a long time before he was Minister and the London 2012 Games gave the whole nation memories that will last a lifetime. Hugh deserves a lot of credit for his excellent work on the Games.

"But there is still more to do. I am looking to do more on sports facilities, specifically 3G pitches, working with the football authorities. We are also close to finalising an expert group of people from across football that will look at what more can be done to represent fans' interests in the way their clubs are run.

"Sports participation in this country is at an all-time high and I am pleased with the success that we have had in raising the profile of women's sport, which is one of my top priorities.

"There are now more young women, aged 16-25, playing sport than ever before. The broadcasters like BBC and Sky Sports have certainly upped their game too and we're seeing more coverage in the press as well. But there is still more to do.

"It's now about keeping up the momentum. I am hosting a major conference at the end of the month at Lord's on the subject as we look to galvanise the sports world and businesses to do more to support women's sport."

Perhaps her most signigficant breakthrough so far has been in banging heads together at UK Sport and Sport England to effect a re-think over basketball's shameful loss of funding. "I strongly believe basketball is a sport with huge growth potential in this country. It is popular in our inner cities and can reach young people from all sorts of backgrounds, particularly BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) groups.

"We need a national team competing rather than facing extinction and that is why I personally stepped in and asked Sport England and UK Sport to put their heads together and come up with a solution. We're not there yet but are close and I am keeping up the pressure to get the right deal done to benefit the sport."

"It is essential we give the kids that are competing and learning the sport at the grassroots something to aim for and a pinnacle to aspire to.

"From all the hours I spent on the judo mat, on the hockey pitch, on the tennis court, I know what it takes for sports people, their coaches and their clubs to achieve a high standard. It was unpaid volunteers - all unsung heroes - working at the grassroots that ignited my passion for sport at a young age and boosted my confidence and self-esteem at a time in my life when I really needed it.  That tacit understanding has enabled me to connect directly with the athletes and other stakeholders in the world of sport."

Helen Grant has attended this year's big sporting events, including the FIFA World Cup in Brazil Helen Grant may be lower profile than some of her predecessors but she has not afraid to show off her skills as a sportswoman when given the opportunity ©Getty ImagesHelen Grant has attended this year's big sporting events, including the FIFA World Cup in Brazil Helen Grant may be lower profile than some of her predecessors but she has not afraid to show off her skills as a sportswoman when given the opportunity ©Getty Images

This has been a big year for British sport and among her most pleasurable moments, she says, was watcthing Team GB's successes at the Winter Olympics in Sochi earlier this year. "I think the performances of our athletes in both the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games were fantastic. To see the likes of Lizzy Yarnold, Jenny Jones, Jade Etherington and Katie Gallagher do so well and our men's and women's curling teams' was a thrill.

"Their success and the home nation performances at the Commonwealth Games is testament to the strength of our ongoing Olympic legacy and to how well our elite sport programme is working.

"Glasgow put on a fantastic Games and the hard work we put in to deliver the first three stages of the Tour De France also paid off handsomely.

"I also had a great time up in Sheffield meeting Nicola Adams and the rest of the British boxing team. Nicola is such an infectious person to be around - always smiling, bubbly and full of energy - and an incredible role model for young women.  I got in the ring and put the pads on for a short sparring session and believe me that girl certainly packs a punch."

So does Big Josh of course. Unlike him, Hurricane Helen may not yet be a  heavyweight contender but she has turned out to be no lightweight when it comes to fighting sport's corner.

Alan Hubbard is an award-winning sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Games, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title fights from Atlanta to Zaire