Boxing

Anthony Joshua says he is confident Ruiz will fall, as Mexican says rematch won’t be easy

Anthony Joshua says he chose to “reinvent” himself after defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr and feels “different” going into Saturday’s rematch.

Andy Ruiz Jr is ready for a tough rematch when he takes on Anthony Joshua on Saturday Photo Getty Images

Joshua, who lost his three world heavyweight titles to Ruiz on 1 June, says he has decided to “check” his approach after a first defeat.

“There is fire in the belly,” the Briton told BBC Sport in Saudi Arabia before the fight at the Diriyah Arena.

“There are things I have had to do to take me to the next level.

“I am confident I can be victorious and when I am I will tell everyone of how I went wrong.”

Rumours circulated about Joshua’s condition in the wake of his shock defeat by Ruiz at Madison Square Garden.

Word from his camp is that he has delivered some of the most impressive sparring of his career in recent days.

There is also a feeling that the additional sparring partners he has used – including Mexican Elvis Garcia to offer some stylistic similarities to Ruiz – have raised his level.

Anthony Joshua ready to battle Andy Ruiz
Photo Getty Images

All of the pressure is on him, not on me as I followed my dream and made it come true.

After speaking to BBC Sport a short drive from the hotel complex where both he and Ruiz are staying, the former champion was scheduled to work out for the second time on Monday at his training base, the British Embassy in Riyadh.

“I do feel different,” Joshua, 30, added. “I feel confident, I believe. I have been boxing since 2008. It’s almost like it’s been given to me. Now I am back to the days of being younger, striving.

“The question I have to ask myself is, ‘after the fight am I going to keep that same attitude?’ I have to stick to it and that is what will take me on to the next level.

“I am a challenger. This is my chance at the heavyweight championship of the world. The event starts when I am victorious. Then I will tell you about my story, what I have come through, the obstacles.”

Joshua revealed he has sought advice from former world champion Wladimir Klitschko and wishes he had done so sooner, adding: “For someone who is going through success now, who is winning, definitely check yourself.

“I have had to check myself and reinvent myself not physically, mentally.”

Both fighters met Saudi royalty and a vast number dignitaries after media commitments on Monday.

It was striking how demand for Ruiz was far higher than before their first bout, where he stunned the sport by stopping Joshua inside seven rounds to take the IBF, WBA and WBO world titles.

Ruiz, 30, appeared relaxed despite countless media requests. The Mexican is training at a custom-made gym set up underneath the hotel in which he is staying.

Many have questioned if he has remained driven given the rewards of his success, which have included a lavish new home, a Rolls Royce and high-end jewellery.

“I have been enjoying life. This is just the beginning,” Ruiz told BBC Sport.

“I sure haven’t stopped smiling. I have been so happy how my life has changed for my wife, my kids, my whole family. I am blessed with all that came my way.

“All of the pressure is on him, not on me as I followed my dream and made it come true.”

Holding the contest in Saudi Arabia has prompted criticism because of the conservative country’s human rights record.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has said the fight is being staged against a “backdrop of worsening oppression” in the country.

On Monday, promoter Eddie Hearn said the move “wasn’t just about money” and that the local organisers are on course to deliver an event that “could change everything” when decisions are being made on where future fights are staged.

Signage and visible promotion in the country’s capital city is so far minimal but Diriyah Arena – which has been built in just two months – is expected to be full to its 15,000 capacity when Joshua and Ruiz walk to the ring at around 20:45 GMT on Saturday for a bout that will be broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing says tickets have been purchased by fans from 65 different countries and he emphasised how much is on the line given there is no rematch agreement in the contract this time around.

“No-one is tied in,” Hearn said. “I can’t sleep at night worrying about this fight.

“It’s all the questions that need answering. Was it a fluke first time? Was AJ prepared? Was it a lucky shot in the perfect spot from Ruiz?

“Joshua is a legacy guy, a historian. He is motivated by that term of being a two-time heavyweight champion. I really believe victory on Saturday will give him the respect that he is maybe secretly searching for.”

I thought we saw a different Joshua here than what we saw at the same event ahead of the first fight.

Yes, he was still laughing and joking at both ends of our interview but it was the content in-between that really struck me as him being a man who desperately wants that title attached to his name.

Eddie Hearn referred to that ‘two-time heavyweight champion status’.

Joshua is a man so engrossed in heavyweight boxing history and his place within it, he knows that Saturday night will make a colossal difference to how he is remembered.

Anthony Joshua has reportedly been rocked and hurt in sparring ahead of his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr.

The heavyweight will bid to win back his three heavyweight world titles against the Mexican-American in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

Joshua was dropped four times in the rivals’ first fight in June before being stopped in the seventh round in one of the biggest shocks in boxing history.

Immediately after the final bell conspiracy theories circulated suggesting Joshua had been hurt in sparring and had suffered the consequences in the fight.

Heavyweight champion, Andy Ruiz Jr, said Monday that all the pressure will be on dethroned champion Anthony Joshua in their contentious showdown in Saudi Arabia.

Ruiz, who was born in the United States but fights as a Mexican, caused one of boxing’s biggest upsets in New York in June when he handed Joshua a first defeat to win the WBA, IBF and WBO crowns in New York.

The pair will fight the rematch on Saturday in Diriyah, close to the Saudi capital Riyadh, in a hotly-anticipated contest dubbed “Clash on the Dunes”.

“We’ve got to see where he’s at because all the pressure is on him. The pressure isn’t on me because I followed my dream, made my dreams come true,” Ruiz said in Riyadh.

“Of course I want more though –- I want the legacy of Andy Ruiz Jr.”

Joshua said he was “comfortable” and “very relaxed” ahead of the rematch.

“I am just going to win. I know I can do it,” Joshua said.

“I was this close last time, so next time I won’t mess up.”

Saturday’s bout is mired in controversy. The Saudis have faced intense diplomatic fallout over last year’s murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the conservative kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Ruiz, however, said he was “happy to be here in Saudi Arabia”.

“It feels really good. I feel at home you know. Everybody has been treating me with love and especially enjoying the really good food that they have in this country,” he said.

Activists accuse Saudi rulers of using sport as a tool to try and soften their international image.

In February, they hosted a first European Tour golf event while the world’s most gruelling motor sports race, the Dakar Rally, will be held in the country in 2020.

Andy Ruiz Jr believes his rematch with Anthony Joshua will be a harder fight than his stunning victory in June but says all the pressure is on the Briton ahead of their showdown in Saudi Arabia this weekend.

Mexican-American Ruiz produced one of boxing’s biggest upsets when he dethroned the previously undefeated world champion Joshua with a seventh-round stoppage at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

‘We’ve got to see where he’s at because all the pressure is on him. The pressure isn’t on me because I followed my dream, made my dreams come true,’ Ruiz said ahead of the so-called ‘Clash on the Dunes’.

‘Of course I want more though — I want the legacy of Andy Ruiz Jr.’

Ruiz knocked down Joshua four times in their bout in June but says the 30-year-old will adopt a more cautious approach in the Diriyah Arena.

‘I’m expecting that,’ he said. ‘But if he wants to bang, it’s better for me. I love to bang because that’s the fighter that I am. We have to pressure, work the body, break him down. Especially his mentality.

‘One punch can change the fight. That’s what happened on June 1. It might be a little harder than the first time. I’ve got to show my skills, my talent.’

Ruiz Jr has suffered only one defeat in 34 fights, losing a majority decision to Joseph Parker in 2016.

He said it will be a clash of styles when he faces Joshua again and believes the former Olympic champion will struggle to fathom an effective strategy.

‘I don’t think he’s ever fought a short guy that pressures, and is pretty slick,’ the 30-year-old Ruiz Jr said. ‘I felt like I was boxing him around even though I was the shorter guy.

‘He saw something that he’s never seen before. Styles make fights. His style was perfect for me to become the unified heavyweight champion.’

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