They say what doesn’t break you will make you, and Anthony Joshua believes he will be stronger than ever when he fights for the first time in 2020 on Saturday night.
AJ [now 23-1 as a professional] suffered the first defeat of his paid career in June 2019, being stopped in seven rounds by Andy Ruiz at Madison Square Garden.
The doubters circled like vultures, questioning whether the former Olympic champion would regain not only his world titles, but his aura of invincibility.
It would have been easy for Joshua to crumble, but instead he doubled down, forced an immediate rematch and regained his titles with a classy boxing display in Saudi Arabia.
Now it is a stronger and fully motivated AJ who will defend his IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight titles against 39-year-old Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev [28-1] on Saturday night.
Speaking about what lessons he took from his first professional defeat AJ said:
“The pressure that I went through last year was tough, but it made me mentally stronger. I grew a thicker skin.
“I’ve been punched by the strongest people many times but I’m still here today. That never changed me, just because I took a loss from Ruiz I don’t think that’s enough to change someone.
“Every fighter trains hard, but it’s character that separates us, and I’ve got a lot of character.”
Joshua has fought just about everybody at the elite level of the heavyweight division, and he says he will continue to take on the biggest of challenges. Avoiding nobody.
“I’ve always been tough and wanted to fight the best, that’s never been an issue. What have I got to lose? I’ve got everything to gain.
“I want to be successful in boxing and the only way to be successful is to take on big challenges. This is just another one I’m looking forward to competing with.”
Joshua’s head trainer Robert McCracken has great respect for Pulev. But he also says his man has had an excellent camp and is in prime shape to impress on Saturday night.
AJ himself meanwhile also knows plenty about the Bulgarian, and is taking the underdog very very seriously.