Anthony Joshua grateful for Saudi welcome ahead of Clash on the Dunes fight

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Anthony Joshua-Andy face media at Dec. 4 press conference. (Supplied)
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Anthony Joshua-Andy face off in front of finished Diriyah Arena. (Supplied)
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Anthony Joshua-Andy Face off at Dec. 4 press conference. (Supplied)
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Anthony Joshua poses with Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdulaziz (L) after the press conference in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Anthony Joshua-Andy face media at Dec. 4 press conference. (Supplied)
Updated 05 December 2019

Anthony Joshua grateful for Saudi welcome ahead of Clash on the Dunes fight

  • Joshua and Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn praised the welcome they had received in the Kingdom
  • The British fighter admitted he has felt “different” since losing to Ruiz in New York in June

RIYADH: World heavyweight challenger Anthony Joshua was full of praise for Saudi Arabia as he said he was fully prepared for his bout with reigning champion Andy Ruiz Jr. in Diriyah on Saturday.
The British fighter admitted he has felt “different” since losing to Ruiz in New York in June, but sent a powerful message to the Mexican-American during the intense first face off of the week in Saudi Arabia.
“I didn’t lose heart or fire in my belly,” Joshua said about losing to Ruiz Jr earlier this year. “There is no fear in my heart, my eyes or my mind.
“I didn’t lose any commitment. There was a big change and a big shift in the division so it definitely feels different. I turn this stuff into a positive otherwise it will eat you up, and will fold into a way that I don’t want it to go.
“I had to own the situation and make it work for me,” he said during Wednesday’s press conference.
Ruiz Jr. entered the Riyadh conference wearing the same New York Knicks jersey he wore in the press conference ahead of their first fight six months ago, during which Joshua let Ruiz hold the championship belts.
Having taken them permanently in a victory that shocked the boxing world, Ruiz Jr. did not extend the courtesy to his challenger.
“You always need a challenger’s mind-set. I said that with the belts around my waist,” Joshua said.
“Hungry, determined, focused on the goal.
“Will it be a special moment (if Ruiz wins)? No because I know I belong there. When I regain the belts I will keep cool, and keep a challenger’s mind-set and move onto the next target.”

IBF, WBA and WBO champion Ruiz Jr. replied: “AJ will come with a different game-plan and I know he is prepared, so I will be more cautious.
“He lost weight and will try to box me around.
“I don’t want to let these beautiful belts go. Now that I finally made my dreams come true, there is no way I will let them go.”
Joshua and Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn praised the welcome they had received in the Kingdom and the quality of the facilities for their preparation.
“It’s a complete change and a new dawn for the sport of boxing and we cannot thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Skills Challenge Entertainment and the General Sports Authority enough for everything they have done,” Hearn said.
“They have kept their word on everything they said they would do.”
Anthony Joshua told Arab News being in the Kingdom has helped him feel relaxed ahead of his do-or-die clash in Diriyah.
“I feel relaxed, I’m a frequent traveler to the Middle East, especially with my family here, the food’s been good and I love the sun.

 We’ve got a big event on Saturday, I’ll be competing for the world heavyweight title and this will be the time I’ll become two-time heavyweight champion of the world.”
When asked what his favorite part of being in Saudi Arabia was, he added: “I would say the weather, I just love the sun — I’m a sun baby — I need that sunshine and energy so I’m happy to be here. You could put me anywhere, but Saudi sun is good sun.”
The former world heavyweight champion has even been picking up some Arabic during his trip to the Kingdom.
“The main one (Arabic word) is ‘Inshallah’ — this is what I’m saying, ‘Inshallah’ we will be seeing a win from me on Saturday.”
And Joshua was grateful for the opportunity to learn about a new part of the world while trying to reclaim his belts and become a two-time world heavyweight champion.
“I made sure when I came here, you have to claim the land and you have to take part in the land, I’ve learned about old Diriyah, I went to a local school and I’ve mixed with the local people — I think it’s important to do so, rather than just tucking yourself away as I love to learn about new cultures,” he told Arab News.
“Thank you for hosting me Saudi, for being so welcoming, it’s good to be here and I don’t think it will be my last time.”


Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

Updated 18 February 2020

Man United beats Chelsea 2-0, throws open race for Champions League spots

  • Headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire ensured the win

LONDON: Manchester United threw open the race for the final Champions League qualification spots in the Premier League by beating fourth-place Chelsea 2-0 thanks to headers by Anthony Martial and Harry Maguire on Monday.
With 12 games remaining, seven points separate Chelsea and 11th-place Burnley, with the team finishing fifth also set to earn a place in next season’s Champions League following UEFA’s decision to punish Man City for serious breaches of financial regulations by handing the English champions a two-year European ban.
Martial glanced in a header off a right-wing cross by Aaron Wan-Bissaka to give United the lead in the 45th minute at Stamford Bridge, before Maguire planted home a corner from January signing Bruno Fernandes in the 66th.
Maguire, United’s captain, was perhaps fortunate to still be on the field, with the match officials opting not to punish the England defender for appearing to kick out at Michy Batshuayi after tumbling off the playing surface in front of the dugouts.
“I know I caught him but I felt like he was going to fall on me and the natural reaction was to straighten my leg so that if he was to fall on me, to hold him up,” Maguire said. “It probably looks worse than it was.
“I did catch him ... but I knew at the time I had no intent to hurt him or kick him.”
Chelsea was on the wrong end of two other decisions by VAR, firstly disallowing a volleyed goal by Kurt Zouma in the 56th because of a push by Cesar Azpilicueta on United left back Brandon Williams. Azpilicueta seemed to have been pushed a split-second earlier by Fred.
Then, with 13 minutes to go, substitute Olivier Giroud had a goal ruled out by VAR for a tight offside, leaving Chelsea manager Frank Lampard looking thoroughly glum as he sat in his technical area.
Chelsea has long been in fourth place, but has only won three of its last 11 games in the league to give a slew of rivals clubs hope of catching up.
One of them is United, which climbed to seventh place with this win — three points behind Chelsea and two adrift of fifth-place Tottenham.
“This season, we have been far too inconsistent,” Maguire said. “We have won at Manchester City, beat Chelsea at home, got a point against Liverpool, but we have let ourselves down against the teams where the pressure is on to break them down.”
Injury problems are starting to bite at Chelsea, too. Top scorer Tammy Abraham and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi missed the game because of injury, while central midfielder N’Golo Kante lasted 11 minutes before hobbling off. Center back Andreas Christensen didn’t come out for the second half after sustaining a knock to the head late in the first period, just before Martial beat the Denmark defender to a header for the first goal.
Lampard’s main gripe, though, was his team’s failure to finish off chances once again. Batshuayi was the biggest culprit, spurning two great chances in the first half in his first start in the league this season.
“We are fourth because of some of the good stuff we’ve done and because of the nature of the league, everyone taking points off each other,” Lampard said. “But there’s a lot of work to do because you can see the problem — that’s putting the ball in the back of the net.
“I feel like a broken record. We have to put things to bed by scoring goals.”
Chelsea hosts Tottenham on Saturday and would finally get overtaken with another loss.
“The season starts here,” Lampard said.
Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo, who signed for United on deadline day in the January transfer window, came on in second-half stoppage time for his debut and had a late chance saved by Willy Caballero, who again started in goal ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Two players struck the post from free kicks in the second half, Fernandes for United and Mason Mount for Chelsea.