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Anthony Joshua: ‘It’s hard being a champion’

Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia
'I understand what happened to Ruiz but it won’t happen to me again.' Two-time heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in his own words

YOU can’t be one dimensional in professional boxing. It’s good to have a game plan and absorb the information given to by my coaches and execute what they expect from me.

The main people you want to please in boxing, before my parents, before anyone’s opinion, are my coaches because they spend so much time putting their knowledge into me. Whatever they want from me, I can produce because I am a student. There’s not just one dimension to me, I’ll always bring something new to the table.

Hitting without getting hit, the sweet science. If you’re a true boxing fan and love boxing as much as I do, you look to the great teachers and they will tell you that boxing is about hitting and not getting hit. I just adopted that to beat Andy Ruiz Jnr. I went back to the true love of the game. When I had my loss, I had to dig deep. It’s not just a brutal sport, there is a science to it and I wanted to adopt that in this fight. I think it was the perfect strategy.

To prepare, I watched Kirkland Laing against Roberto Duran. I watched a comparison of Riddick Bowe and Larry Holmes, comparing the jab.

I’m always going to have to prove myself, aren’t I? That’s the name of the game. Over the next three to six months, I’m going to have to do it again. It’s no good winning this time and losing next time. Even though I’ve proved it to myself, I’m going to have to prove it to you guys once again. I can’t get too comfortable.

I came in light for this one but that can change depending on the fight. What Rob [McCracken] and I have learned is that sparring determines the weight. If I’m in sparring and saying, ‘Rob, I’m fit, but I don’t feel strong enough,’ we might add a bit of weight to try to compete, to get a stronger grip on things. But if I’m flowing and I’m fluid and I’m feeling good, the weight will just find itself. Rather than adjusting the weight before I’ve even stepped in the ring, I think sparring will determine it. We will fluctuate up and down. You’ve seen that. My career has been like that. Sparring is a true recipe to find the right weight. If I’m sparring with big guys and thinking, “My speed isn’t keeping them off, I need to lean on them,” then we’ll adjust.

Anthony Joshua
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

I understood the temptations that Andy Ruiz must have experienced. The belts can be your best friend or your best enemy. It just depends on you as a person. It’s hard to say no. It’s hard being champion. Trust me. It’s not all fun. It’s not what it seems like, this life of dedication, it’s a headache. In New York I had no energy. I had so much to do as well as the boxing, it all became overwhelming. We had to re-energise and refocus.

This time I will be more low-key as champion. It’s not the show anymore. I’m here just to take over. We’ve promoted the hell out of boxing in a short space of time. Now I just want to focus on fighting and being a better fighter.

I love the sport, so we want to promote it, to bring through other athletes who are depending on my success. Putting that pressure on ourselves is difficult. We want to keep British boxing alive, but now I just want to keep myself alive in that ring. It’s dangerous, and I want to concentrate on the skill and the art.

So what’s next for me? London’s calling. We’ve been away for the whole year. But it’s nice to have a breather. It’s nice to have a bit of controversy, a bit of doubt. It just shows that British supporters do play a big part in my career. Any time I’m on home soil I can’t lose. Now it’s back home to Finchley, back home to Sheffield, back to the grind. Being back on home soil will make a big difference.

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