Anthony Joshua: ‘I’m better than ever ahead of title defence’


nthony Joshua has warned that lockdown has made him a better boxer than ever ahead of his heavyweight title defence against Kubrat Pulev in London on Saturday night.

He said: “Lockdown’s helped me to become a true athlete. It’s enabled me to strip down everything, let me focus on the simplicity of it all. And I feel I’ve come out of it a better boxer.”

Joshua had previously lost his claim to being the world’s best heavyweight when he suffered a surprise knock-out to Ruiz in New York in June last year before bouncing back to win back his WBA, IBF and WBO belts in Saudi Arabia six months later.

And the 31-year-old warned that Pulev provided another potential blip in his career this weekend.

“People are talking about it being a potential banana skin for me,” he said. “I agree, it’s exactly that. Because of what happened the first time with Ruiz, people ask if there’s a danger of lightning striking twice. In heavyweight boxing, there’s always that danger – it only takes one punch.”

The fight against Pulev is a stepping stone to a highly lucrative double header against Tyson Fury, with the first fight likely to take place in the Middle East at the end of May.

( Getty Images )

Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said he was “as close to 100% as I can be that the Fury fight will happen if AJ wins on Saturday”.

Without a full house at Wembley, the preferred venue for their heavyweight reunification fight, Hearn has said London is likely to be out of the reckoning for the first fight. However, he said the capital was the frontrunner to host a rematch at the end of 2021 when crowd numbers are expected to return to capacity.

Before that, Joshua has to come through unscathed against his 39-year-old Bulgarian opponent. And while the Briton said he had erased the scars of his only other professional defeat, he would still use that to good effect in the ring in two days’ time.

But Pulev said he was confident of springing a second career shock on Joshua. “We are going to win,” he said. “It will not be an easy fight but we will win it. He is a very good fighter that I respect but I will show I am the better boxer. Two good fighters means it is a dangerous fight. I like that.” 

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