Anthony Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn has announced that AJ and fellow heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury have agreed to a two-fight deal, providing Fury comes through his final fight against Deontay Wilder unscathed. According to Hearn, the first fight could take place as early as summer 2021. “I’ve just got to smash Deontay Wilder’s face right in, in the next fight, and then we go into the Joshua fight,” said Fury. "Both guys are in agreement. The structure of the deal has been put forward, and agreed to by both parties,” Hearn said to Sky Sports. "It's the biggest fight ever in British boxing. It doesn't get bigger, and there will never be a bigger fight in our generation.”
Ahead of the announcement, Men's Health UK spoke to two-time unified heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua to steal his advice, his mindset tips, his nutrition wisdom and much more besides. You'll find the full feature in our July/August XL issue, out now.
Men's Health: Last December, you went into your second fight with Andy Ruiz with a noticeably different game plan to when you lost your titles – WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO – to him earlier in 2019. Was that the key to winning your belts back?
Anthony Joshua: I think it’s all about adapting. Different circumstances require different preparation. It was the same war, but I had learned a lot from the first battle. Ruiz isn’t the type of fighter that you go head to head with. For the first fight, I was planning on going in there and trading with him. But there’s an old boxing saying: “You don’t hook with a hooker!” So, what did I do? I went in there and hooked with a hooker and the actual hooker came out on top.
In the second fight, I went in there and he tried to box with a boxer. And I came out on top. I had to learn what my strengths were and what his weaknesses were, and then I just boxed to those. That’s your basic foundation: never play to someone else’s strengths. In anything you do, everyone has their own strengths. If you play to theirs rather than yours, they are always going to come off better than you in the long run.
MH: You weighed in almost 5kg lighter for the second fight and were under 108kg for the first time since 2014. How did you adapt your training to come in so visibly leaner?
AJ: Ha, ha! You want me to give away my secrets? You’ve just got to be specific. Training is all about what you’re trying to achieve. To prepare for 12 rounds of boxing, it sounds obvious, but you’ve got to box, box, box. And that’s what we did.
There’s not much point boxing and then spending time in the swimming pool to build endurance, because all you’re doing is building swimming endurance. The same goes for boxing a little bit and then spending hours lifting weights, because that’s for weightlifters. The best boxing stamina work you can do is to hit the heavy bag or shadow box. Everything that involves boxing without getting injured is the best form of training.
It’s a simple thing that’s easy to overlook. If you want to get good at something, do that thing. Focus on it. We try to add this and that, strip it back. But you need to box more if you want to be in shape for boxing.
MH: In what way did you change your nutrition? Is it true that Wladimir Klitschko advised you to reduce your salt intake?
AJ: I did cut out salt leading up to that fight. But the food was so bland! You don’t realise how much we depend on salts and sugars. When you remove them, you realise what the true taste of food is like. It had a real benefit, though, because it stripped my body of all the excess sugar and salt I didn’t need, and I managed to lose a shedload of weight.
Chicken and broccoli are tough when you can’t put any spice on them. Someone said to me that it’s not the chicken we like – it’s the spice and the sauces. That’s why I think vegetarians and vegans are onto something. We’re not meant to like chicken. They put the same sauces and spices on vegetables and get that taste and texture.
MH: What’s your diet like coming up to a weigh-in for a fight?
AJ: It’s pretty spot on. Weigh-in is usually about 2pm, so I will have had breakfast and lunch by then. Luckily, I don’t have to “make” weight, so I just continue my preparations like it’s another day. I don’t prepare for the scales; I just use it as an opportunity to showcase my work ethic and how hard I’ve been training.
MH: All boxers come in for criticism on social media. How do you handle negative comments or haters?
AJ: I think that it’s hard to ignore it. I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t pay attention to any of that, because it’s impossible not to see it. I started my social media on my own and, even though it has turned into a business page, I still handle a lot of it myself.
I think that it’s fine to have doubters, as long as you don’t believe what they’re saying the whole time. You have to prove your doubters wrong. When they don’t believe, you should always believe.
The doubters aren’t always bad, either. You just have to try to find something positive out of it. They might say, “You’re shit, and you’re going to get knocked out because your hands are too low” – and I would think, “That’s a good indication I’ve got to keep my left hand up.” I use the doubters as a positive factor, not as a negative one.
MH: You’ve occasionally been called out for being more of an aesthete than an athlete. What do you think is the most underrated part of a boxer’s physique?
AJ: Their head! That’s where you take the most punishment. Everyone says it’s all about a good chin, but it’s actually your whole head. You get battered: left and right temples, forehead, nose, mouth, ears. The ears always hurt. Everyone looks at my biceps and the abs. But it’s your head that gets forgotten.
MH: What’s the best piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is trying to make it in boxing?
AJ: I would tell them to talk to themselves and mentally prepare themselves. You can always try to see a meditation specialist or a psychologiSt, but I think that the only way to test your greatness is to truly be in a position of adversity. You’re never going to find out how great you are by sitting on a beach. Boxers should talk to themselves more in the
gym – build up those mental callouses. You’ve got to know that you are tough enough to get through this.
For the full interview with Joe Wicks, pick up the July/August 2020 XL issue of Men's Health, out now!
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