AHEAD of his US debut in New York this Saturday (June 1), Anthony Joshua sat down with the media at his Sheffield training base to discuss a variety of topics. His main rivals for heavyweight supremacy, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, were on the agenda, as was the man he is defending his WBA, IBF and WBO titles against at Madison Square Garden – Andy Ruiz Jnr.
How frustrated are you that you haven’t yet been able to secure fights with Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury?
It’s not even about me anymore. It’s about the fans being starved of it. It was all about me and Wilder when he started calling me out two years ago. It was all about us – it was great profile-building. Wilder looked like a crazy man calling me out. Fury came back. But then nothing’s happened. So now the fans are the ones who are getting the rough end of the stick.
I don’t know why it’s not happening. With all that talk of profile-building and figures being thrown around. Dates and venues. I feel sorry for the people who want to see it. It’s wasting a lot of time. I said it before I fought Alexander Povetkin [in September last year] – each fight is a potential banana skin. I’d rather have it now than later.
I don’t know what [Wilder and Fury] are waiting for. They’re coming towards the end of their careers – 10 years, 11 years as professionals. I’ve only been doing it for five, six years. They’re not going to get much better. The longer they leave it, the worse for them, because I’ve still got another five years to really hone my skills. I’m not the finished article yet – I’m still working. Imagine another 18 months in my bag of tricks. I’ll have a few more skills and a few more things I can do. The longer they leave it, the worse for them, so they should crack on.
It seemed at one point last year that the Wilder fight wasn’t far off. Why do you think it hasn’t happened yet?
I don’t think it’s Wilder. I think it’s the people around him. When it’s me, I feel like I get made an example of – ‘Joshua’s ducking and dodging.’ But it’s not the same if he does the same thing. There was a real offer from the broadcaster offering Wilder a chance to fight on DAZN. One warm-up fight and then fight me after. Or he could’ve fought me straightaway if he wanted – there was that option. It was a real deal. It’s baffling why he didn’t take it after all his talk.
I want to challenge myself against the best and have the opportunity to fight for all the belts. What more is there? I want that after 20-odd fights, whereas he’s already had 40-odd fights and five more years [longer]. What’s taking him so long? I don’t know where he’s going.
Broadcasters run boxing, but we’ve had this situation before in heavyweight history, where different fighters are with different broadcasters and they’ve managed to fight. So these things can still go ahead. Wilder made a hell of a lot of noise. That’s what baffles me.
Are you concerned that the Wilder fight may never happen?
No, it has to happen… it has to. Unless he retires, it has to happen because we’re the same era, same time, same division. It’s been spoken about for so long, so it has to happen.
What’s your opinion of Andy Ruiz Jnr as a fighter?
He works the body early with a stabbing jab. It slows you down when you get hit to the body early. I think he has a very good punch selection – doesn’t waste shots. I haven’t seen him get tired in a fight yet either, so I think he has a one-track mind when he’s fighting. He doesn’t waste too much energy in the ring. When you hop, it takes a lot of energy. He stalks you down and has a good guard. He’s got a one-track mind to pick that shot which will do some damage.
He’s still a bit unknown because he didn’t get the win over Joseph Parker [for the vacant WBO title in December 2016], so he’s still a challenger. But anyone who fights me will be 20 per cent better than we’ve seen before, so I expect the best Ruiz.
What do you make of him labelling you ‘a robot’?
I heard that! I’m going to smack him up now! [Laughs] It’s like in the Povetkin fight. When he hit me, I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to f**k you up now.’ Because he didn’t speak English, he didn’t trash-talk too much before the fight, so I respected him. But when you’re in there, you take the fight as it comes.[Previously scheduled opponent] Jarrell Miller was going to get peppered – straight up. If Ruiz wants to go down that route of talking s**t too, then I’m gonna want to break his jaw and hurt him really bad. But if he wants a good boxing match and he gets hit with a shot he didn’t see, and we shake hands after, then it’s best not to say anything.
How do you like your opponents to behave?
Like [Wladimir] Klitschko and Povetkin. I come from that amateur background where you fight the best and respect the best. Miller comes more from that gritty gym background where it’s all trash talk. You’ve got to talk and talk. In amateur boxing, it doesn’t really matter what you say. The medals, the accolades, the fights show what you’re about.
Look at [Vasyl] Lomachenko. He doesn’t have to say too much. You just respect him as a fighter and that’s the background I was introduced to. I like that. And Klitschko was the same – an Olympian. Povetkin is the same, too. I’m more down that route and those are the kind of fighters I respect.
Some people have criticised Ruiz as a choice of opponent for you. Does this criticism annoy you?
It’s his look. They’re just going by his look. Put a six-pack on Ruiz and some pecs, then they’ll say he’s OK. Then they’ll say he’s a future world champion. That’s how it goes. You could put 15 bodybuilders in the ring, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be champions just because they look good. It’s what’s inside you that matters.
So you think he has character and determination?
He has the mentality and the heart. If it’s all about aesthetics, you might as well go to a bodybuilding gym and pick one out and say, ‘We’ve got the next world champion on our hands.’ It’s not about that.
Ruiz works hard. He’s dedicated. He’s had 30-odd fights. He’s done it time and time again and this is his chance to prove to the world that he’s a force to be reckoned with.