Former world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has admitted that he has smashed the books just as hard as he has the gym in his six-month build-up to this weekend’s Clash On The Dunes, presented by Public Investment Fund bout in Riyadh.
The 30-year-old has revealed that as well as sparring with up to five fighters at a time, he committed to learning everything behind the science of boxing in his preparation to right the wrong of his June defeat to Mexican American rival, Andy Ruiz.
The pair meet again this Saturday night in the jewel in the crown of Saudi Arabia’s Diriyah Season festival – with tickets selling fast in the face of phenomenal demand.
To Joshua, the fight is his only chance for redemption following Ruiz’s shock win in New York’s Madison Square Garden – so he has left no stone unturned in his quest to produce the perfect performance under the lights and with the eyes of the world watching.
He said: “After that fight, I knew my mistakes. That’s why I said: ‘You were the better man that day. I give you it. First-ever Mexican champion. Hats off to you.’
“I wasn’t low because I know I’m better than that and know I’ve got a lot more I needed to give. So I went back to my list and started training in June. I just knew that me and Andy are different in every aspect, but the only thing we have in common is time. So I made sure I used my time. I had to use my time wisely because I knew I was going to get it right. I knew what I needed to work on. It was more strategic planning.
Anthony Joshua shadow boxing at the public training session in Riyadh. (Supplied)
“I’ve now had the time to reflect, get my head right, get my head back in the game, and boost myself again and come to takeover. Do what I did 10 years ago and do it again now: takeover this division.”
When asked what his studying entailed, Joshua – who won heavyweight gold at the 2012 London Olympics – explained: “Loads of videos. Sometimes you can put fighters side-by-side – both 6ft 6in, both weighing roughly the same amount – but you can see one is more disciplined with technique than the other, you can then see why they became more successful in their field and you learn about the discipline of following through your tactics. Stuff like that.
“You learn about when you move to the left against an orthodox fighter: is that a dangerous move or is that a smart move to control a fighter? What does it mean to move to the right? How to move forward. What’s the first art of defensive boxing? It’s your feet – get out the way. It’s stuff like that and loads of different things. You start to indulge yourself into the sweet science.
Before I was more: ‘I’ve just come to fight’. Now I’ve learned about the sweet science of the sport, which is important as well.”
In line with his learnings, Joshua has ensured his trip 3,000 miles from London to the outskirts of Riyadh does not impact his training and fight preparation.
In the lead-up to June’s defeat, he spent seven weeks away from home in Miami. On this occasion, he has arrived only two weeks prior – allowing him to maintain a “training camp vibe” to his build-up.
He believes he is now in the perfect place ahead of Saturday’s blockbuster bout, admitting he actually finds the fight-part of the whole experience the least nerve-wracking.
“I just kept a training routine and focus on business. Keep my focus and get the job done,” he said.
“I’m not nervous at all. I’m confident. I don’t ever think I’ve been nervous for a fight. I’ve probably been more nervous sparring. I trap myself in a dungeon, so I feel like I’m an experiment in a lab. I then come and present my efforts to you.
“That’s why I feel I’ve got so much pressure on myself because behind closed doors I work so hard mentally and physically to try and stay at the top. I spar like five guys in a row who come to take my head off, and I’ve got to be sharp in every second of that round which will ultimately revert into what I do on fight night. Training is the hardest part I think. That’s why I’m never nervous about a fight, because I put so much work in the gym.
“I know I’m going to perform. That’s why I’m not nervous, because I’m confident I’ll perform. I’m going to punish him – but that will come naturally, I think. I’m going to box a good fight.”
Ruiz’s win over Joshua in June sent reverberations across all divisions of the sport, with many considering it one of boxing’s biggest ever upsets.
Could lightning strike twice?
“I think it’s kind of like an exam, isn’t it?” said Joshua. “You go through it once, you fail. Most people fail their first driving test, then they go again and prepare better, so I think I’m better prepared if I’m honest with you.
“I just think I’m well prepared. You may see the energy in the fight a bit different this time if I’m honest with you. I don’t ‘think’ actually: you definitely will.
“I think I’ll be able to talk more after. I think there’s always a reason people lose. I give Andy his credit – he was the better man that night. But I have to look at myself and understand what I could have done better as well. Providing I corrected those things on my list, then I should be victorious on Saturday.”
Asked what the outcome would be if he were to fall to a second defeat to Ruiz in seven months, Joshua said: “Definitely catastrophic. But I’m not even thinking about losing. It’ll be big business when I win. I just got to keep focusing on the win.” He then added, “everyone fails their first driving test, I think I got mine in the second one.”
Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua face off during the press conference in Riyadh on December 4, 2019. (Supplied)