SINCE being dropped and almost stopped by Wladimir Klitschko in 2017, the world has seen a more measured Anthony Joshua. The WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion promises to be more aggressive against Andy Ruiz Jr on Saturday night but do not expect the Englishman to ever return to the seek-and-destroy slugger of old.
Since that titanic 11th round stoppage win over Klitschko at Wembley Stadium, Anthony Joshua went into the 10th with Carlos Takam, the full 12 with Joseph Parker and overcame some sticky moments against Alexander Povetkin before halting him in the seventh.
Ruiz is officially four inches shorter than the champion, and much has been made of his portly frame, but the height deficit appeared even greater when the two went head-to-head for the first time this week. Even so, Joshua is not expecting an easy night with Ruiz, who has exuded a delighted-to-be-here vibe throughout the week.
The challenger went through some dark days as he tried to break free from a promotional deal with Top Rank and Bob Arum – who has recently made his feelings about Ruiz clear – yet landing this shot at Joshua has turned his life around. That carefree attitude coupled with his aggressive, crouching style might pose problems for the favourite.
“I think I do better against taller fighters, I like taller fighters,” Joshua assessed. “Short fighters are a nightmare, you lose power because you’re punching down and you only skim them so you waste a lot of energy. Ruiz is smiling all the time, too. And fighters that smile all the time can be the most dangerous – I know I have to be at my best.
“I am more about fluidity now, if he slips one punch I have to be able to come back with another and you cannot do that if you’re stiff. It’s really hard to hit a three-punch combo if you’re stiff so I am loosening up my shoulders and my back so I can land combinations. I was around 116kgs for Klitschko and that was maybe a little too heavy.
“When the bell rings Ruiz will jab to my body and my head, probably feint a left-hook but I will not be as cautious as I was against Povetkin. I was more cautious with Povetkin because he is a counter-puncher while Ruiz throws a lot of punches.
“I know what Ruiz is about, I have watched a lot of his fights and I don’t think he counter-punches, he punches in bunches, comes forward in a tight guard, bouncing, and then jab, and then then bouncing and a combination. I notice that he says he wants a war and he is good on the inside, he never lets you rest.”
This marks Joshua’s first fight in New York and his first as a professional in America but he has fond memories of appearing in Las Vegas during his amateur days. The trip was organised by his former coaches, Sean Murphy and Robert (Johnny) Oliver, yet Joshua – long before he was famous – was caught out when he tried to enjoy what Sin City had to offer.
“I went to Las Vegas in 2010,” he chuckled, “and my old coach Sean caught me and my cousin Ben gambling the night before my fight and sent us up to our room.
“We thought the coaches had gone up to their rooms for the night so we thought ‘f**k it, let’s get down there and play some roulette’. I must have been down a few quid, that must have been why I went back, but I am not really a gambler.
“That was a good trip, I stopped the guy. In November 2008 I had my first fight, 2009 I boxed the Haringey Cup and the Novices, in 2010 I went to Las Vegas and had the Team GB championships and the ABAs and Europeans, in 2011 I had the World championships when , then 2012 was the Olympics and 2013 I turned pro. It’s just been ongoing but I have never boxed in New York.”
The journey has been relentless with his success bringing fame that has transcended his trade. With such exposure comes great sacrifice yet Anthony Joshua insists he is coping with being away from his family, like his young son, JJ, and his niece.
“I Facetime JJ a lot, as well as my niece, but JJ is so young and so loved by the big family that is around him around that he is happy,” Joshua said. “I have been going away from home from such a young age so I don’t really feel the pain of missing people, I prefer to remember the people I have to get back to and I know when I get back I will dedicate myself to making up for the time away.
“This is the time of my life where I need to travel and get out for work and it’s the time of his life where he just needs attention and love and he has that.
“My niece is in school, so she needs guidance, reminders to stay focused. I only really need to say ‘hello’ to JJ because he doesn’t really want to talk to me, he just wants to play games. He is fine and healthy and good.”