Anthony Joshua reclaimed his heavyweight world titles last Saturday with a points win over Andy Ruiz Jr that’s been labeled as a boxing masterclass.
The Briton had lost his belts in New York last June when his Mexican opponent pulled off one of the biggest shocks in boxing history.
But it was a different story this time around, with Joshua cutting down his weight to below 17st for the first time in a world title fight and out maneuvering his opponent.
He had admitted before the fight that he’d had to re-examine his approach to the sport and take a completely different attitude into his training camp.
This time the focus was firmly on sparring, with AJ telling Sky Sports: “Up the sparring, that's the best way to prepare for a fight.
'That's the closest thing to a fight - we've been sparring for a long period of time and it gets you battle-hardened. I feel tough. Aches and pains, but for the right reasons. The punches get you battle-ready.'
'Any sparring partner, big or small, is doing me a favour by throwing punches. It's important to get punches thrown at you because it teaches you how to defend under pressure. What they're there for is to replicate his style - a good fighter can fight in many styles. They are bringing the heat, and that's what Ruiz Jr does.”
The quality of Joshua’s sparring partners was formidable. The likes of Carlos Takam, who gave the 30-year-old a tough examination when the pair fought in Cardiff, and Derek Chisora were both used in the camp.
Other shorter fighters like Timothy Moten and Andrew Tabiti, a cruiserweight who Joshua’s trainer Robert McCracken described as “as quick as they get”, attempted to mimic the style and aggressive tactics of Ruiz. After getting himself physically right for the fight, AJ then focused on his mental preparation in the final few days.
He talked with confidence about his skillset and ability, saying he was putting aside the “humble” persona, and after arriving in Saudi Arabia even trained at midnight during fight week to make sure he wouldn’t feel the effects of any jet lag come Saturday night.
The preparation clearly paid off as the former Olympic champion displayed concentration skills and discipline few thought he was capable of. There’s no rest for Joshua though as he’s already stepped back in the gym. A third fight with Ruiz Jr will most likely be his next outing and it will be fascinating to see if he can repeat his performance when the Mexican inevitably comes back fitter and more