By James Crook

150215203July 24 - Following months of speculation, Britain's Olympic super-heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has signed a deal with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing which will see him make his professional debut this October at London's O2 Arena. 

The British Amateur Boxing Association (BABA) confirmed the departure of Joshua from their World Class Performance Programme (WCPP) this morning, indicating his intentions to sign a professional deal. 

The departure of the Watford-born fighter to the professional ranks will deliver a huge blow to the plans of the International Boxing Association (AIBA), who hoped to lure the man that sits at the top of the AIBA Rankings into joining the AIBA Pro Boxing competition, which will allow boxers to compete professionally yet still be eligible to compete at the Olympic Games.

BABA performance director Rob McCracken said this morning: "Anthony is a very talented sportsman who has enjoyed a meteoric rise to become Olympic champion, less than four years after he first began boxing.

"Naturally, it is a disappointment for us that Anthony has decided his future lies away from the GB Boxing programme but he departs with our very best regards and we wish him every success in his future career.

"As we enter the Rio [2016] cycle, six of the ten of the boxers that competed in London remain part of our squad and we have some excellent talents coming through so the programme has a strong nucleus to work with and a good opportunity to add to the success we have enjoyed in recent years."

150213116Anthony Joshua has turned his back on AIBA Pro Boxing and the chance to defend his Olympic crown in order to sign professional terms with Matchroom

BABA chief executive Matthew Holt added: "Whilst we would have liked Anthony to stay for Rio 2016, his achievement in winning the gold at London 2012 was something very special and we recognise his wish to pursue other opportunities and challenges.

"Like other boxers that have represented their country superbly in recent years, Anthony will remain part of the GB Boxing family and will always receive a warm welcome at our training facility in Sheffield."

Joshua joined the GB Boxing squad in the summer of 2010, and after reaching the last-eight of the 2011 European Championships in Turkey, he truly announced himself on the world stage in October of that year when he defeated the Olympic and two-time world champion Roberto Cammarelle of Italy in the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Baku, at which he eventually took silver.

167263322Hearn (right) adds Joshua to an impressive roster of fighters which includes Olympic bantamweight champion Luke Campbell (left)

In August 2012, he went one better when he won gold at the Olympics, again beating Cammarelle in the final, as he overturned a three point deficit going into the last round to secure the gold medal on countback after the scores finished 18-18.

Choosing to sign a deal with Matchroom means he will join-up with two of his fellow Olympians, bantamweight gold medallist Luke Campbell and 2010 Commonwealth lightweight champion Tom Stalker.

Matchroom, the agency founded by Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) chairman and promoter Barry Hearn, which is now run by his son Eddie, have previously promoted shows featuring Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno, Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Steve Collins and Naseem Hamed.

carpediemEddie Hearn tweeted this promo poster for Joshua's first fight at the O2 Arena today

Interest in the Englishman's signature was thought to be high, with legendary former Olympic and world champion Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions - who secured the signature of Team GB's London 2012 middleweight bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo earlier this year - also believed to be in the running before Matchroom sealed the deal. 

Joshua's first professional bout is due to take place at London's O2 Arena on October 5, and will be shown live on Sky Sports. 

Joshua and his new promoter Eddie Hearn will reveal more details and address the media at a press conference in London tomorrow. 

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