By Jake Donovan
Anthony Joshua doesn’t need to hear any motivational speeches to overcome his first professional defeat. In fact, he has a brilliant career in the field should he ever choose to go that route.
The 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and former unified heavyweight titlist was all business at Thursday’s press conference in downtown New York City to discuss his Dec. 7 rematch with lone pro conqueror Andy Ruiz. The event was staged less than three city miles from Madison Square Garden, the site of Joshua’s first fight in the United States—and his first loss, as Ruiz stopped him in seven rounds this past June.
While the most-oft asked questions have centered around whatever adjustments he plans to make in the rematch—which will air live on DAZN-USA and Sky Sports Box Office from Diriyah, Saudi Arabia—the fighting pride of Watford, England took the opportunity to remind the boxing world of the struggles he’s already overcome throughout his boxing lifetime—and life in general.
“It’s been a short 11-year career from my first day to an amateur to where I’m at in my pro career, but I’ve seen a lot,” Joshua (22-1, 21KOs) commented during his time behind the mic. “I haven’t seen it all but I’ve definitely seen a lot. Imagine what would have happened if I stopped (boxing) the first time I lost. In 2011, I lost at the European quarterfinals; imagine if I stopped there. Later that year, I lost in the World Amateur Championships finals; imagine if I stopped there.
“I’ve always wanted to carry the sport as an ambassador. I feel like that’s where I belong. Ever since I’ve been in boxing, I’ve always wanted to rise to the top. I’ve never felt mediocre.”
Joshua enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom, developing as a major attraction well before his first title fight. By the time he challenged then-unbeaten titlist Charles Martin in April 2016, Joshua was already among the sport’s top draws with his box office appeal exploding from that point onward. From his knockout win over Martin at London’s O2 Arena through his final successful title defense in front of 80,000 at Wembley Stadium, the hulking Brit emerged as the bank in the heavyweight division.
It threatened to come to a crashing halt in June, when Ruiz ruined the Garden party by recovering from a knockdown to score four of his own in pulling off one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight title fight history. The losses ended Joshua’s title reign but didn’t strip him of his championship mentality or the ability to learn from others—even in the strangest of places. Among his current support group is former lineal champion Shannon Briggs, whose infamous “Let’s Go, Champ!” has become a way of life for both heavyweights.
“Shannon talks about the times he was down and out,” Joshua notes in drawing inspiration. “I think everyone in the (press conference) room has been through things where nobody believed in them. Nobody would be in this room if they gave up.
“That’s where ‘Let’s Go Champ’ came into my life.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox