Joshua v Ruiz II: British fighter fears another shock loss will tarnish his legacy

By Luke ReddyBBC Sport
'I won't be content if I don't win titles back' - Joshua

Anthony Joshua says he will not be happy with his legacy in boxing if he fails to become a world champion again.

The 30-year-old Briton lost three of the four heavyweight belts to Andy Ruiz Jr in June and the pair will fight again on 7 December in Saudi Arabia.

Joshua told the BBC that he knows the "issues" that led to the shock loss and explained how he has crucially funded better sparring for the rematch.

"I don't think I would be content if I don't win the titles," said Joshua.

"For me as a man it means more than anything."

Asked if his legacy hinges on this bout, Joshua said: "When it's all said and done and I hang up my gloves, that's when we can have the debate about legacy."

But asked if he would be content with a legacy as a one-time world heavyweight champion he simply replied "no".

"I'll beat Andy next time," he added. "You'll be asking me a whole heap of different questions on December 8th."

Paying for reflex improvement

Joshua flies to Saudi Arabia on Saturday and some of his team arrive before the weekend to ensure facilities are in place for his training to continue.

The former IBF, WBA and WBO champion says in the aftermath of his seventh-round stoppage loss at Madison Square Garden - the first of his career - he quickly returned to training to work on "trial and error" aspects of his craft and things he "wanted to try" without impinging on his defined 12-week training camp.

He also focused on being conditioned to begin sparring instantly in his camp rather than wait until six or seven weeks out from the Diriyah fight and says refining his boxing skills has now become a major focus in his training mix.

Anthony Joshua
Anthony Joshua won the IBF World Heavyweight Championship in only his 16th fight as a professional

Former cruiserweight world-title challenger Andrew Tabiti is in Sheffield sparring with Joshua, as is Bryant Jennings, who lost his own world heavyweight title shot to Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.

"I feel like sparring has added a different element of preparation for this fight," Joshua added. "Last time let's say I didn't invest in the sparring I need.

"Fighters don't want to invest what they earn. You earn £100, you pay £43 to the taxman, you pay a percentage to your management and before you know it you have 30%.

"So this time around we have really invested in the right sparring partners, championship sparring partners. That's the kind of thing that gets your muscle memory firing."

Joshua has also brought in two additional pad men for his training, allowing trainer Robert McCracken the chance to observe rather than be the man taking punches on the pads.

His hope is with more focus on reflexes, he can evade the type of heavy shot that floored him for the first time in New York, seconds after he had put Ruiz down in round three.

Many pundits said Joshua rushed to find a finish after knocking the Mexican-American down and calls for him to maximise his chances by boxing rather than pursuing a knockout this time around are widespread.

But asked what he would do if he gets Ruiz in trouble in the rematch he replied: "Nail him again. The rhythm, your fluidity - boxing is milliseconds. That split second timing to evade that punch, the next time I am in there, that's why I am prepared, the co-ordination, the muscle memory, I should be fine-tuned."

'Ruiz should not beat AJ twice'

The stunning nature of Joshua's first defeat prompted conspiracy theories that even included accusations he had suffered a fit before his ring walk.

Each has been dismissed as fiction but asked if he knew exactly what was lacking for what was his US debut, Joshua replied: "Yes, but I am not going to say what it was. It was me, nothing like partying or anything like that.

"It wasn't burnout. The issues I faced in the last camp, it's just down to lack of experience. Even though it was at a high level we were still finding experience."

In comparing his performance to that of when he beat Wladimir Klitschko despite being knocked down in 2017, Joshua said he felt "drained" against Ruiz.

"Andy Ruiz is good but I don't think he should beat me twice," added Joshua.

"I used to hear guys say you have to take a loss and I would think 'why?'

"Now I can understand it and know what it takes. I have more understanding now and my ears are open to new information so that is making me smarter as a fighter. Anyone can be hungrier, I am smarter.

"The blessing is I have a second chance and here we are."

Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz
Joshua knocked Ruiz down in the third round of their first fight, before the Mexican-American fought back and won via a seventh-round stoppage

Ruiz took his chance to fight in New York at six weeks' notice and Joshua expects his rival to "grow" given his champion status.

Eddie Hearn, who promotes Joshua, added: "What you are seeing now is the result of a rebuilding process.

"AJ has dedicated himself more than anything he has ever done to getting victory in Saudi Arabia. The truth is, if AJ is the best heavyweight in the world, he should be beating Andy Ruiz.

"But now you have all the demons coming to play, the whole world watching and this is high-level, high-pressure stuff."