Dubai: British champion boxer Anthony Joshua has made some bizarre comments following his stunning seventh knockout by Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr.
First he shocked many by admitting that he was disillusioned about the sport that gifted him win a coveted gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and that he could feel his passion ebbing.
Now, after having had the chinks in his armour, which boasted an ironclad defence that saw him unbeaten in 22 fights, 21 of which came by way of knockout, he has acknowledged that Ruiz is the ‘best’ heavyweight on the planet.
This, less than three months ahead of his much-anticipated rematch in Saudi Arabia on December 7.
Joshua has suggested that his defeat to Ruiz at Madison Square Garden was ‘a minor setback’ and that he will be a different fighter when he gets into the ring at Riyadh, while the whole world will be holding their collective breaths to discover if lightning does strike twice.
“I am looking at myself in the mirror and saying I know I’m better than that,” he told The Guardian. “Andy is still the same person. He will come game and I’ve got to change some of my bibs and bobs.”
“I was 50% of the way towards getting a win, just got caught,” he added. “It was a punch from the gods. It wasn’t a lucky punch from him, it just caught me on the head and I couldn’t recover. It was pitch perfect.
“Getting to the top is one thing, but staying at the top for an amount of years, that’s a whole other story. I’ve got to up my game to get my title back.”
And what after that?
Eddie Hearn, the British boxer’s manager has hinted that it could by Joshua farewell fight, although there is talk of a unification fight against the unbeaten Deontay Wilder, who has held the WBC heavyweight title since 2015.
“If AJ was to win, who knows what he’s going to do, he might retire,” Hearn said in the Metro, “Who knows? But all our heads, all the focus, is just on beating Andy, It’s the biggest fight of the year. If Joshua beats Ruiz, he’s bigger than before he lost to Ruiz.”
In an interview with Sky Sports, Hearn played emphasis on Joshua’s strategic sparring in the build-up to the rematch.
“Sparring is key. This time we have identified more sparring partners,” he said. “This time we are bringing in half-a-dozen fresh guys who should suit the style of Ruiz Jr. better.
“It’s so difficult to replicate the style of Andy Ruiz. The guy is six feet, two inches, he’s [267 pounds], and he’s got speed like a middleweight.”
Meanwhile, Ruiz himself has been very much in demand on the social media scene. Speaking to boxing legend Mike Tyson on his HotBoxin’ Podcast earlier this month, Ruiz said: “From making history to becoming the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world, it’s a big blessing.
“I did something big for Mexico and it’s great that my name’s always going to be there. ‘Andy Ruiz Jr. — the first Mexican heavyweight champion,’ nothing can take that away from me. I’ve been waiting for this all my life.
“I’m just trying to show people that everything’s possible just working hard, believing in yourself and just training for what you want in life. It’s possible.”
— With inputs from World Boxing News