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.”
#WATCH: #ClashOnTheDunes challenger @anthonyfjoshua with a message to Arab News and his fans in #SaudiArabia after today's press conference in Riyadh #DiriyahSeason (@MatchroomBoxing)https://t.co/ECHu0zLrKh pic.twitter.com/VKer4vLYrJ
— Arab News (@arabnews) December 4, 2019
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.”