By: Sean Crose
“I don’t always want to be the best in the gym,” WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua has told Sky Sports. “Every time I spar, I spar like I’m performing. I have had tough spars. I am doubting myself.” These are not the sort of things you hear from a towering, impressive, dominant fighter with a single avenged loss on his resume. Joshua, however, would clearly rather work out his doubts in the gym than he would during a high profile fight, which is exactly what he’s about to have this Saturday in Britain when he faces former cruiserweight kingpin Oleksandr Usyk for all his belts.
“All boxers can move up in weight,” he said. “Some feel better at the higher weight, they carry more power and feel fresher.” Although Usyk hasn’t looked overly impressive since turning heavyweight, the man remains a walking, talking skill set – one who hasn’t lost a fight and may well be comfortable at heavyweight when he steps into the ring on Saturday. “In my mind, I have removed the conversation that he is a cruiserweight,” Joshua said of Usyk. A huge Joshua fight against Tyson Fury or Deontay Wilder may be in the future, but Usyk is no light touch. That’s something Joshua appears to be fine with.
“Since I came into boxing in 2008 I had a rapid rise, maybe due to sheer strength, size, heart. I took on massive challenges early on,” said Joshua. “Usyk is another great champion, great fighter. But I don’t really fold under pressure.” Joshua also claimed he relies on faith to help him get through the challenges of being a top competitor. “I asked God for strength and he gave me battles,” stated Joshua. “When I pray for strength, I want to fight the Usyks and the champions because that’s how you find out how strong you really are.”
The work of being a heavyweight titlist is undoubtedly difficult, but Joshua doesn’t think it’s all grind and toil. “This is fun. This is deep practice,” he said. “When I get into the ring it’s time to practice everything I know.” Although he suffered a stunning loss to Andy Ruiz, Joshua was able to learn from his mistakes and came back to best Ruiz successfully six months later. “I’m rather experienced now,” he told Sky. You have to go through trials and tribulations.”
“You have to go through certain experiences to have wisdom,” claimed Joshua, adding that “you’ve got to go through turbulent times.”