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As Anthony Joshua enters the next – and crucial – phase of his career, he focuses on one thing: his condition. On Saturday the British heavyweights will defend his WBA, IBF and WBO titles against Kubrat Pulev, his first fight in 2020.
Joshua (23-1, 21 KO), 31, played these belts against Andy Ruiz Jr. on points last December after being arrested in June 2019 in the shock of the Americans. He took advantage of the delay in the fight caused by the coronavirus pandemic to improve endurance and training sessions. Fans can follow his success live at DAZN in the US and in more than 200 countries and territories around the world.
When I lost to Ruiz, I thought, just like that little big chewing gum threw me a flood of punches right away, and I threw a combination of two punches and suffocated, Yeshua ESPN told me. I really had to think about my strategy. I wanted to be better prepared to talk intensively. So I worked on a strike statement, recovered less, got into more difficult situations, was able to lick a heavy bag for ten minutes and fought with a very stiff and horrible body during a lockdown.
I really felt I was better prepared because I could work during the confinement, I didn’t work until the deadline, I was tired of being an outdoor activity, it was just focused on boxing.
Joshua also gave priority to the gym with another group of fighters. His team hadn’t paid much attention to it yet.
We have moved to an open battle, and specific combat partners are very important, Yeshua said. For the first fight at Ruiz, we had guys who were about five feet tall when we fought, and I fought someone who was about five feet tall. Preparation must be conscientious and you cannot rely on heart and strength alone. They need to be well prepared and this is the next phase of my career in which I need to be more specific and focus on my opponents.
Fault! The file name is not specified. Anthony Yeshua prepares to defend his titles in his first fight, a year after the coronavirus pandemic prevented him from participating. Photo by Valeria SharifulinTass from Getty Images
Second, it’s about hitting, you have to be ready to ring the last bell, there’s no fatigue, it’s about controlling your opponent when you’re not hitting, with pints, head movements, combinations of control and throwing when you’re within range. I’ve learned how to play sports and what it means to be a boxer.
If Joshua wins the Bulgarian Pulev (28-1, 14 KO), 39, in front of an audience limited to 1000 spectators due to coronavirus restrictions in the SSE Arena in Wembley, London, he will start bigger battles against one of his opponents next year, World champion Tyson Foury (30-0-1, 21 KOs), also WBC titleholder in England, former WBC champion Deontey Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) or Alexander Usik (18-0, 13 KOs), former world champion crossweight in Ukraine.
2021 could be the biggest year of Joshua’s career. He became professional after winning gold at the 2012 Olympics, became world champion in 2016 and a year later eliminated former champion Wladimir Klitschko.
As humiliating and embarrassing as it was for Yeshua when Ruiz arrested him in the seventh round at Madison Square Garden in New York, Yeshua now sees a turning point in his development. The loss of Ruiz changed the British and encouraged him to be better and better prepared for the opponents in front of him.
I got to know the industry in which I lose [to Ruiz], Joshua said. It’s a difficult man’s sport, you have to keep retreating, there’s no room for layoffs or signs of weakness, you have to be strong.
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