Early this morning, news broke that Anthony Joshua would be appearing on Sky Sports News for an interview. It’s now been 66 days since the British heavyweight was dethroned in the Big Apple by the unfancied Andy Ruiz Jr, with news of their imminent rematch expected to have dropped over the past few weeks.
11 a.m was the stated time that Joshua would give his exclusive interview, with anticipation building on Twitter that it would be the announcement we expected — a date and venue of Joshua vs. Ruiz II. Cardiff? New York? Nigeria? Saudi Arabia? These four seem to be the front-runners to date.
As the live feed cut to the Finchley ABC gym in North London — where the former heavyweight world champion cut his teeth as an amateur — it was clear that this wasn’t going to be the news we were expecting.
Joshua was joined by Sky Sports’ Head of Boxing, Adam Smith, for what was, for all intents and purposes, a reminder for the casual boxing audience that Anthony Joshua still existed.
”I feel strong enough and I feel I can correct my wrongs,” Joshua told Sky Sports.
”I need to be around as many boxing people as possible because right now I need to soak in the experience and knowledge - and get that passion back.”
Joshua would go on to allude to calling on the experience of former heavyweight king George Foreman, who has apparently offered his knowledge and experiences to the Briton.
Joshua spoke with his familiar eloquence and coherent manner, with Smith asking the right questions at the right times — the AJ-Machine is slowly beginning to tick again after months of ifs, buts and maybes surrounding his future.
Smith didn’t push on news of the rematch — a rematch he has stated for the sake of Sky Sports that he would love to land in the UK — but Joshua was keen to distance himself from the business side of the sport.
”I’ve taken a step back from the business, so the decisions are due when the decisions are due, and I leave that to the decision-makers,” he said. “What I need to focus on now is my training, so I know there’s a rematch, I know it’s going to be this year.”
With the fire clearly back, burning inside Joshua, his heart still seems to be ruling his head in a preference for a location for the rematch – a topic of conversation that has dominated the majority of the talk ahead of a fight which is still expected to land in November this year.
”You’ve got two ends of it. There’s one, I’d fight in Tijuana and Ruiz’s uncle could be the referee and I would still whoop him. It don’t matter to me where it is, there’s that aspect, but then there’s the other aspect of the British fans that have been riding with me from day one want to see me get them belts back.”
”I would love it to be in Cardiff but it’s going to be on neutral ground, Ruiz is the champ so he will make some calls in that situation but I’m going to battle for it to be in the UK because it’s my stomping ground.”
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist wasn’t shy in expressing the edge he feels he receives inside the ring when fighting in front of a British crowd.
”Walking out in Cardiff in front of 70, 80, 90,000 people screaming and rooting for you to win, that type of energy that goes through your body is unstoppable, and I think that could give me that little bit of edge I need to win those belts.”
It’s become clear that there was no chance ‘AJ’ would take a fight in the interim. Assessing alternatives to the Ruiz match stoked an unimpressed response. A response that emphasises his desire to climb the heavyweight mountain again as quickly as possible.
”Who is my warm-up fight going to be? [Oleksandr] Usyk, [Luis] Ortiz, Dillian Whyte? These are top-level boxers and I’ve got the chance to fight for the heavyweight championship right in front of me,” Joshua explained.
Rob McCracken, Joshua’s long-term coach, also received the backing that was deemed necessary by many avenues of the boxing media following June 1. Joshua sees the 51-year-old coach as more than a boxing trainer; the value that McCracken brings to Joshua’s all-round package appers priceless.
”To add to what we have, I feel like it can only make us a better and stronger team. Rob tells me what he wants as well, I tell Rob what I want. We’re still open.”
”After I lost, I said ‘man, am I good enough?’ But then I asked myself, if I lack in skill, I’m going to build up my fitness, if I lack in fitness, I’m going to build up my skill. Where I’m not so good in, I’m going to add in different aspects and that way I can become a full 360 fighter.”
The setting for this interview was telling. It wasn’t on a beach in Miami, inside a plush hotel in London or a hyper-manufactured sit down inside the Sky Sports studios. This was a message to Andy Ruiz Jr. A message that Joshua is going back to basics, and back to where it all started: inside the Finchley ABC.
Whether five months is enough for ‘AJ’ to strip back and improve on his basic boxing fundamentals is yet to be seen, however, the former world champion is under no illusions that big changes have to be made if it’s going to be revenge instead of repeat later this year.