IT’S difficult to always say the right things when you’re as famous as Anthony Joshua. Whatever he says is all over Twitter and being psychoanalysed before he’s even had time to shut his mouth.
In his first big interview after losing to Andy Ruiz Jr, Joshua mentioned that ‘it was a punch from the gods’ that beat him. Everyone jumped to the conclusion that he hadn’t truly accepted defeat, that he was merely writing it off as a fluke without truly investigating the cause of his downfall.
In truth, Joshua has done nothing but investigate where it all went wrong since the first defeat of his professional career. He was back in the gym within days of his return from New York, eager for education on how to improve. That education is set to culminate on Saturday night when he takes on Ruiz in a bout that he hopes will see him regain his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles.
Joshua admits it would be “catastrophic” if he were to lose again and, as the interview below proves, he’s far from in denial about what went wrong in the first fight.
Relaxed yet undeniably focused, here is Anthony Joshua, completely uncut.
What it been like since you’ve been here in Saudi?
It’s been like a training camp, it’s still kept that vibe. When I went to Miami last time, before I went to New York, I went for seven weeks. But this time I’m here two weeks prior to the fight which means that I have kept the training routine. I just come here, and I focus on business, I’m not trying get comfortable and settle in, I’m just here to get the job done.
How much can you take from the way Lennox Lewis bounced back from defeat?
Lennox Lewis changed his team, which worked for him. I’ve just added, I stuck with what I know. He rematch Oliver McCall years afterwards.
The Hasim Rahman rematch was an immediate one
Was [Hasim] Rahman straight away? Was it? So I’m doing the same thing. It shows character because a lot of people would be like, ‘Nah, take your time, don’t rush it,’ but I don’t think I need any warm-up fights. I don’t think I’m mentally weak in that sense, I’m just ready. The way I look at it is, it is a rematch, but I’m fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world. I’m more than ready.
Does it encourage you that Lennox enhanced his legacy after losing?
He managed to go through and do what he’s done. I’m still going through it so I can’t worry too much about legacy yet because I’m going through the whole process of learning about the sport. This is my fourth world title challenge [after Charles Martin – IBF, Wladimir Klitschko – vacant WBA and Joseph Parker – WBO] so I’m learning at a quick pace. I’m still going through it so it will be interesting.
Despite the words that have been exchanged
between the two of you, do you respect Lennox?
Definitely. He’s a very talented and driven person who’s got a lot of love for the sport now. You have to respect that.
Even when he makes judgements about you?
If it’s personal, it could be anyone. I don’t really take to that stuff. I don’t really care what you do. We should have respect for each other.
You trained for Jarrell Miller, then ended up with Andy Ruiz Jr. How much more prepared are you for him this time?
It’s like an exam. You go through it once, you fail. Most people fail their first driving test. I think I did [laughs]. I’m better prepared this time. I’m well prepared. You may see that the energy in this fight will be different to last time. I think I’ll be able to talk more after [about what went wrong last time]. I don’t want it to sound like excuses and stuff like that but I think there’s a reason why people lose.
I give Andy Ruiz credit. He was the better man on the night. But I look at myself and I look at what I could have done better as well. Providing I tick all the things on my list, I should be victorious.
How different do you feel on this fight week compared
to the fight week before the first fight in New York?
Ever since I walked into boxing I have been dominating. Amateur championships, bosh! Turn pro, bosh! World champion, bosh! And then you never really understand what it is until it’s taken. I had time to think. That’s when I really started studying boxing again [after June 1] and what it means. What I’m doing, where I’m going and what I want out of it. There’s no doubt I can fight and fight the top fighters. I’ve never really had an introduction level, I’ve always been straight on it.
Now I’ve had time to reflect and get my head back in the game and boost myself again. I’ve come to take over, to do what I did 10 years ago, and take over this division now.
Were you taking it all for granted?
It just becomes a show. We took boxing to the world and, in a way, it takes the focus away from the sport. June 20 was when I started my training camp [for the rematch] and I stayed in the gym whereas normally I would be doing all sorts of stuff. I started sparring 12 weeks from the fight, where normally I’ll spar five, six or seven weeks out. I have put more emphasis on boxing.
Have you been watching videos of boxing?
I’ve watched loads of videos, old fights. Sometimes you can put fights side by side and you can see things. Say, if they’re both six-foot-six, they both weigh the same, and they have the same attributes. But if one is more disciplined with a certain technique, you can see why that person is more disciplined in their field. You learn about tactics, about when to move to the left against an orthodox fighter. Is that dangerous? Is it a smart move? When to move to the right, when to move forward. What is the first art of defensive boxing? It’s your feet. Get out of the way. There’s loads of stuff and you can really start to indulge yourself in the sweet science.
But it got to the point where I didn’t give a fuck about the science, I just came to fight. Now I’m learning about the sweet science again.
How nervous are you? So much is riding on this fight.
I’m not nervous at all, I’m confident. I definitely wasn’t nervous for the first Ruiz fight either. I wasn’t nervous before the [Erislandy] Savon [at the Olympics] fight either because I didn’t know who he was, I’d only been boxing for two years at that time. I don’t ever think I’ve been nervous you know, I’ve probably been more nervous before sparring. It’s about the pressure of performing.
When I come and sit in front of everyone, I trap myself in a dungeon so I feel like I’m an experiment in a lab. Then I come and present my effort to you and that’s why I feel like I put so much pressure on myself.
Behind closed doors I swear I work so hard mentally and physically to try and stay at the top. It’s nice to sit here and talk about it, but I spend hours perfecting my craft. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I’m listening to stuff that has relevance to mental strength. The minute before I go to sleep I’m just thinking boxing.
Isn’t sparring just part of that though? Why does that make you nervous?
Because I spar like five guys in a row who are coming to take my head off so I’ve got to be sharp for every second of that round which will ultimately revert into what I do on fight night. There is so much pressure on performing in sparring, how many rounds. Training is the hardest part I think, and that’s why I’m never nervous before a fight because I put in so much work in the gym.
Now I just know I’m going to perform, I’m confident of that.
Did it upset you when Andy Ruiz recently claimed that you quit in the first fight because you spat the gumshield out?
I think he’s entitled to his opinion but I kept on getting up ready to fight. I was looking for an opportunity to get more time, like when my mouthguard went in my mouth. Do you know what I mean? He’s got his opinion, I’ve got mine. We go again Saturday. I wasn’t upset at all that he said that, it’s his opinion.
So it doesn’t anger you?
It doesn’t make me angry but I’m still going to punish him. That will come naturally I think. I’m going to box a good fight.
You lost on June 1st and started training camp on the 20th. How low did you get inbetween?
After that fight, I knew my mistakes and that’s why I congratulated him, well done, hats off to you. I wasn’t low because I know I’m better than that and I knew I had a lot more to give. I went back to my list and started training in June.
I knew that me and Andy are different in many aspects but the thing we have in common is time. All of us, we all do different things but we have that same thing in common – time. I made sure I had to use my time wisely rather than moping. I knew I was going to get it right. There was no moping, I just knew what I had to work on.
But there must have been some moping?
I only mope because my brain is working at such a capacity where it’s just trying to make people understand my vision. In my training camp, I’m a teacher now as well because I study the game. I’ve become a teacher in my own right about the sport. It’s about having that relationship with your coach where there are things I want to do and there are things that he has to respect and things he wants to do. That’s the moping part, if I am trying to explain it to him and he’s not listening, that’s the moping part. We finally got to a stage where we got it in and pencilled it in. We’re working on the extra things tirelessly and I feel confident.
Ruiz has bought new cars, new jewellery, he seems like his mind may have been elsewhere. Do you see that as a sign of weakness?
No, it’s each to their own. He said he wanted those things since he was a kid. I can’t judge a man for what he desires. It’s up to him what he does but the main thing is he’s looking after his family and his community because I think that’s what matters as well. You have to show that kind of things too. It’s weird isn’t it, people don’t moan when you show off your cars but if you show yourself helping the car theyr’re like ‘you flashy cunt!’ Weird init?
What happens if you lose?
It will definitely be catastrophic if I lose but I’m not even thinking about losing anyway. It will be big business when I win.
In what sense?
As bad as it would be when I lost, is as great as it will be when I win. It’s just opposites. I need to keep focusing on the keys to win.
If you do win there will be mandatories to deal with. Does it feel like your chance to be undisputed champion has gone?
It felt like it was gone anyway, it never really was there. We wanted it, we had done everything. All you can do is get your titles and then defend them against whoever. I will fight all of those guys.