Anthony Joshua is adopting “a gladiator mentality” as he prepares to put his world heavyweight titles on the line.
The Briton defends his IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO belts at Wembley Arena against Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev on Saturday.
It is the 31-year-old’s first fight since winning a rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr on a unanimous points decision 12 months ago.
“I’ve become tougher, more relentless over the last year,” Joshua told the BBC 5 Live Boxing podcast.
In an interview with the BBC’s Mike Costello and Steve Bunce, Joshua says he is:
- Learning to become “uncivilised” in the ring;
- Biding his time before any clash with Tyson Fury;
- Wary of the threat posed by “tricky customer” Pulev.
Joshua on ‘building a tougher mentality’
Joshua has also offered his support to fellow British heavyweight Daniel Dubois, who was criticised for “quitting” in his defeat by Joe Joyce.
Dubois was stopped by Joyce on 28 November when an eye injury forced him to kneel on the canvas and he failed to make the count.
Fighters past and present said Dubois had “quit” although it later emerged he had broken his orbital bone.
“I’m reaching an extended arm out to him. If he needs any support, just give me a shout,” said Joshua, who won Olympic gold at London 2012.
“I might need that type of guidance one day from Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno, the guys that have been before me.”
Joshua said watching that fight cemented his view that he needed a rounded outlook.
“This isn’t just a case of knocking everyone over, relying on punch power. You have to rely on work-rate, heart, good chin, skills, determination,” he said.
“If I look on my last YouTube feed of what I’ve been searching, you can see ‘gladiator mentality’.
“Now, looking from a distance, I’ve learned I’ve got to build a tougher mentality if I’m going to go further in this business.
“I’d love to go back and fight Ruiz again because I’d knock him out. I’ve become tougher, more relentless over the last year.”
I’m just going to bide my time on Fury - Joshua
Joshua admits he was taken by surprise when his promoter, Eddie Hearn, announced in June that a two-fight deal had been agreed with fellow Briton Tyson Fury.
“Nobody told me about that. My phone started ringing,” said Joshua.
“Fury [the fight] has got massive potential. Management-wise, promotion-wise, it’s up and down. Two fights announced, nothing happens.”
Fury is contracted for a third bout against the American Deontay Wilder, from whom he won the WBC title in February - although the Briton has said Wilder “will never get” a rematch.
“It’s awkward and hard for me to know exactly what I’m doing when it comes to him,” added Joshua.
“Imagine I am set to fight Fury three months away, and two weeks before the fight he pulls out. This is the type of character I’m dealing with.
“I’m just going to bide my time. When he’s ready, he knows where I am. I’m keen, I’m a straight shooter. I don’t want to mess around.
“If he wants to fight, he knows I’ll fight. The longer he leaves it, the worse it is.”
‘Pulev is a tricky customer’
Joshua had been scheduled to fight Pulev, 39, on 20 June but the contest was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pulev, who is the IBF’s mandatory challenger, has been waiting for a chance to face Joshua for almost three years after a shoulder injury forced him out of their planned world title bout in October 2017.
“I have to get it out of the way, it’s a mandatory,” he said.
“Pulev is a tricky customer. He’s not going to be an easy fight, it’s a banana skin,” said Joshua.
“I’m at a level now where I can’t take easy fights or warm-up fights. I’ve got to roll with the punches. It’s not the fight I want. I’d rather have a nice warm-up fight before because I’ve been out of the game for a year.
“It’s about staying cold-minded under immense pressure. When your heart rate wants to get to 180 beats per minute because I’m under immense pressure, it’s just keeping cool.”
Up to 1,000 fans are expected after months of boxing fights behind closed doors because of lockdown restrictions.
“I hope the fight lives up to expectation. I pray I’m victorious because I want to give those 1,000 people a night to remember,” he said.