As the unified heavyweight champion of the world, Anthony Joshua has had to deal with highs and lows over the last thirteen-plus months.
In June 2019, he shockingly was stopped by Andy Ruiz in the biggest heavyweight upset since Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson.
A focused, determined and leaner Joshua returned in December to face Ruiz in a rematch and ended up scoring a calculated unanimous decision victory to win back his WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO titles.
Since suffering his only career loss, Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs) has had to deal with a lot of negative comments and criticism from fans across the globe.
“I think that it’s hard to ignore it. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t pay attention to any of that, because it’s impossible not to see [the criticism],” Joshua told Men’s Health. “I started my social media on my own and, even though it has turned into a business page, I still handle a lot of it myself.
“I think that it’s fine to have doubters, as long as you don’t believe what they’re saying the whole time. You have to prove your doubters wrong. When they don’t believe, you should always believe. The doubters aren’t always bad, either. You just have to try to find something positive out of it. They might say, ‘You’re s--t, and you’re going to get knocked out because your hands are too low’ – and I would think, ‘That’s a good indication I’ve got to keep my left hand up.’ I use the doubters as a positive factor, not as a negative one.
Joshua also commented on his grace-saving performance against Ruiz in Saudi Arabia, as he reinserted himself back atop the heavyweight food chain.
“I think it’s all about adapting. Different circumstances require different preparation. It was the same war, but I had learned a lot from the first battle,” said Joshua. “Ruiz isn’t the type of fighter that you go head to head with. For the first fight, I was planning on going in there and trading with him. But there’s an old boxing saying: ‘You don’t hook with a hooker!’ So, what did I do? I went in there and hooked with a hooker and the actual hooker came out on top.
“In the second fight, I went in there and he tried to box with a boxer. And I came out on top. I had to learn what my strengths were and what his weaknesses were, and then I just boxed to those. That’s your basic foundation: never play to someone else’s strengths. In anything you do, everyone has their own strengths. If you play to theirs rather than yours, they are always going to come off better than you in the long run.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.