Anthony Joshua’s stunning knockout loss to Andy Ruiz Jr. ultimately helped him develop professionally and personally.
In fact, the rebuilt British superstar doesn’t think anything about that then-devastating defeat changed him for the worse. Joshua discussed his transformation since Ruiz upset him and he regained his four heavyweight titles during a press conference Thursday for his obligatory bout against Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev on Saturday night at Wembley Arena in London.
“I’ve been fighting at top level ever since I went into the gym,” Joshua said. “Had a three-year amateur career, and I went from walking into a gym to competing at the European Championships … world championships, Olympic championship. I’ve been punched by the strongest people many times, and I’m still here today. So, that never changed me. So, because I took a little loss to Ruiz, I don’t think that’s enough to change someone like me.
“I’ve got a lot of character. Every fighter trains hard, but it’s character that separates us. And I feel like I’ve got a lot of character, and I’ll be keen to stand there. I’m gonna go into the fight, I’m definitely gonna get hit, and he’s gonna get hit as well. So, it’ll be the last man standing.”
Joshua was more than a 20-1 favorite versus Ruiz, who dropped him four times and stopped him in the seventh round of their June 2019 bout at Madison Square Garden in New York. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist regained his IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO belts in their immediate rematch, a 12-rounder he won by unanimous decision a year ago in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
The 31-year-old Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) drew some criticism for his tactical approach against Ruiz in their second bout, but he beat Ruiz (33-2, 22 KOs) soundly on all three scorecards (119-109, 118-110, 118-110). The buildup toward their rematch might’ve been more difficult for Joshua than the fight itself because there was so much pressure on him to avenge that loss.
“The pressure that I went through last year was tough, but made me stronger, mentally, grew a thicker skin,” Joshua said. “And I’ve always been tough, always wanted to fight the best. That’s never been an issue. What have I got to lose? I’ve got everything to gain. So, I wanna be successful in boxing, and the only way to be successful is taking on good challenges. And [Pulev] is just another one I’m looking forward to competing with.”
DAZN will stream the Joshua-Pulev show in the United States, starting at 1 p.m. EST and 10 a.m. PST. Joshua’s mandatory defense of his IBF belt versus the 39-year-old Pulev (28-1, 14 KOs) will headline a Sky Sports Box Office pay-per-view show in the United Kingdom (£24.95; 6 p.m. GMT).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.