Anthony Joshua and his team embarked on a whirlwind press tour that covered three different countries last week as promotional duties for his huge rematch with WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champ Andy Ruiz Jr kicked off in emphatic style. A three leg media tour covered Saudi Arabia (which will host the fight), New York and finally London as many an air mile was used in the space of under three days. A huge logistical event which matched what in reality is the ‘biggest fight in boxing’ as Joshua looks to put right what was one the biggest shock defeats in the recent history of the sport.
If trying to plan Joshua’s ascent back to the top of the heavyweight division wasn’t complex enough, the choice of venue has thrown more controversy and intrigue into the ring. As it’s common knowledge that Saudi Arabia has, to put it kindly, an extremely poor human rights record and is a place that a significant amount of the western public feel should not be allowed to host any type of event that will be televised to the world. However for whatever reason, be it financial or not, the fight is in Saudi and Joshua will have try his best to ensure that the location of the fight is not a distraction for his build up to a bout he arguably cannot afford to lose.
The Saudi leg of the tour predictably was more of an positive advertisement for Saudi Arabia than anything else however New York and London were more of a cross examination of why Joshua felt he had lost the first fight. When reading through the still somewhat political answers from Joshua and those around him, it’s fairly evident that Joshua overlooked Ruiz back at MSG in June after original opponent Jarrell Miller was caught doing no good with an array of banned substances. Even when looking back at the first fight, Joshua’s hands down approach in the first couple of rounds seemed to match the lackadaisical mindset that he took into the ring. Which fights with Wilder and Fury ready to be signed after he skittled over the replacement opponent before him.
Now though after being concussed by a huge left hook and then embarrassed in what was supposed to his break out fight in America, Joshua has it all to prove to a world which is unsure whether he has the mental strength to jump straight back in with a man who completely derailed a career that was essentially perfect up until a few months ago. In truth the warning signs were there in Joshua’s previous fight with Alexander Povetkin, however when lazily looking at Ruiz’s shape it was just hard to envisage him being the man to topple a fighter who until the early summer was the heavyweight king of world.
Joshua, speaking clearly and calmly at the three venues, referred to the ‘championship mindset’ he has in life and he feels that is a winner whatever happens in early December. Though it’s clear for the first time in his career he has it all to prove to the world including the three rooms of media he had to face on the first promotional tour for Ruiz/Joshua II. A slimmed down Joshua did seem more relaxed back at home in London (though maybe that was from the lack of sleep) and many media outlets felt they saw a difference in him when comparing to previous interviews. Whether this is just a rose tinted view or not remains to be seen however one thing is certain. For the first since his epic fight with Klitchsko in 2016, Joshua has one focus, beating the man in front of him. There was little mention of the Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury at the three press conferences, instead of how he plans to get his belts back. And this singular focus for a superstar like AJ could be key ingredient needed as he goes into the unknown of both Saudi Arabia and having to take back what was once his.
If you enjoyed this article or any others on thesixyardring feel free to like/share/RT them or alternatively mention them to friends as you all role play everyone’s reaction when Eddie Hearn pitched Saudi as a potential venue to the boardroom.