Ahead of his upcoming world heavyweight title defence against Alexander Povetkin, Anthony Joshua has said he’s become the ‘hunted’ in the heavyweight division.
The British fighter believes fighters want to knock him cold during matches, unlike before now when they were ready to give him rounds.
“People aren’t coming to give me rounds anymore,” Joshua told Sky Sports.
“They don’t say: ‘what do you want me to do?’ “No. They’re coming to take my head off because I’m the hunted. I’ve become the hunted and I’m well aware of that, and it’s made me up my game. This is the reality I live in.”
Knowing this, Joshua has a plan. He’s been putting in the rounds with sparring partners who he has no doubt have the tools and the hunger not only to give him a workout, but to knock him out.
His recent sparring partners include Agit Kabayel, who has previously defeated heavyweight title contender and Joshua’s compatriot Dereck Chisora and undefeated prospect Martin Bakole, who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but currently fights out of Scotland.
“Tough sparring, we do a lot of rounds,” ever eager to up his game, Joshua demanded the extra pressure: “I called it on – I asked for more rounds. I’ll never do that again!
“We’ve been sparring the Turks, Germans, Africans, English. Different countries, physicality, mentalities.
“I’m world champion right now but I’m still learning from all these guys because they’re really talented fighters. I take in what they tell me.
“Remember, Povetkin isn’t getting out after four or five rounds. He’s staying in there with me. Everything I have learned, I will do.
“We’ve been trading heavy leather in these sparring sessions so, if I can do that with Povetkin and he stays in, all credit to him. Because in sparring, after four or five rounds, it gets tough and physical.
“I know my sparring partners have the opportunity to get out but he has to stay in, so it will be interesting to see how he survives.”
After having been taken all the way in his last title defence, against Joseph Parker, AJ is pulling out all the stops in his training and expects to have to be at his best to defeat Povetkin, whose only previous defeat was a points loss to arguably Joshua’s biggest scalp, heavyweight legend Wladimir Klitschko.
He continued: “In the Parker fight, there was an air around my name: ‘he’s tough, he can fight, he can bang, but he’ll probably gas out after nine rounds’.
“Naturally as a young fighter coming through, you listen to that nonsense.
“Parker was a champion as well – ‘he’s the fastest heavyweight in the division, he’s fit, Samoan power’.
“I acknowledged that, didn’t go in over-confident, was clever and went the rounds to prove it to myself. They know I can fight – I proved it with Wladimir Klitschko and Dillian Whyte – but in the Parker fight, I proved I could box. I can sustain energy. I can go 12 rounds.”
While Joshua is clearly as confident as ever, he knows that he can leave no stone unturned in his preparation as he looks to defend his unbeaten record and IBF, WBA and WBO world belts against Povetkin, on September 22nd.