Anthony Joshua has said that he is “punching like a horse kicking backwards” and holds “no fear” going into his highly anticipated rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr.
At a charged news conference next to the Diriyah Arena where the two fight in Saudi Arabia tomorrow, Ruiz, 30, warned there is “no way” he will lose.
Joshua added he will weigh in lighter than the 17st 9lbs he posted before his New York defeat as part of a new plan.
“I may be less than 17 stone,” he told Tidesports source.
“I’m punching loose and heavy, rhythm and flow,” the 30-year-old added. “Before I was trying to bench-press a house. I used my body to get where I needed but then I started realising the sweet science of the sport.
“I am punching like a horse kicking backwards right now.”
Joshua has not weighed less than 17st since 2014 and an analyst, Steve Bunce said his projected weight was a “stunning revelation”.
Ruiz, perhaps playing mind games, arrived at the news conference sporting a New York Knicks jersey. Joshua was housed in the changing room of the NBA franchise for the first bout, where he suffered one of the most shocking defeats in heavyweight history and lost the IBF, WBA and WBO world titles.
As the pair faced off, Joshua’s team shouted “two times” behind him in reference of his chance to win the world titles for a second time. Ruiz’s team responded, shouting “and still” as the camera flashes lit up both men.
Joshua, who had his final six-round spar on Tuesday, was asked if winning the belts back would be a career high and replied: “I was asked if it will be a special moment and said ‘no’ as I know I belong there.
“When I got back from New York, I didn’t lose any heart or fire in my belly and started punching the heavy bag preparing for this day. There is no fear in my heart, my eyes or mind, I am confident.”
The venue for the news conference and fight, on the outskirts of Riyadh in Diriyah, are flanked by a fairground and a stage that will host US artist Usher and Chris Brown today.
The world’s best-paid fighter Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson are expected to attend a fight that has been widely criticised as a result of the host country’s human rights record.
Those involved have made no secret of the financial motivation to come here, with Joshua set to earn upwards of £50m and promoter Eddie Hearn defiantly told reporters it was “a wonderful, wonderful decision”.
Ruiz described Saudi Arabia as “the perfect place to make history” and his stunning stoppage win six months ago ranked high in the sport’s archive of upsets.
Asked if he held any fear over the kind of power that saw Joshua knock him down in New York, he said. “Not really. I was the one who had the strength, the one backing him up. When I jabbed I pushed him away.
“I know he lost weight and that he will try and box me around, so it’s my job to prevent that.
“I have been doing this since I was six and it is finally paying off. There is no way I am going to let these belts go, I will die trying. It has been a rollercoaster and now that I made the dreams come true there is no way I will let these go.”
Joshua’s back-to-basics approach for the bout has been well documented and he again said he had no interest in delivering a “show” but was just “here to win”.
His promoter Hearn has expressed how nervous he is given his marquee fighter would slip down the heavyweight pecking order with a second defeat.
Joshua’s trainer Rob McCracken, who faced criticism after the first loss, said his fighter was “in a much better place” this time around.
And Joshua also said that defeat made him use his “time wisely” in prioritising his skills over other aspects of training.
“When Muhammad Ali was training he said he would build a shack to train in,” added Joshua.
“There are clues to success and you have to go back to what it takes to be a great heavyweight champion. We had to bring in hard, rough sparring partners. I brought in the toughest and roughest.”
Coach Henry Converts Nigerian Winger To Striker
Following Nigerian winger, Orji Okwonkwo’s move from Bologna back to Montreal Impact, Coach Thierry Henry has plans to convert the player into a striker.
The Nigerian U-23 international has returned to the Major League Soccer (MLS) club on loan from Italian side Bologna, with an option for a permanent deal from next January.
Okwonkwo has mostly been deployed as a wide attacker during his career, but he could be in for a different role in the future – in much the same way that Henry himself was converted to a prolific striker by former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
“Henry was the main reason Orji returned to Montreal Impact, Henry wants him to play as a top striker in the new season,” Okwonkwo’s agent Femi Olaniran of Quintessence Sports Management told Tidesports source.
“Henry is going to teach him how to play as a striker, he told me he sees himself as a young Orji. Orji has the pace too.
“Henry wants to train Orji exactly how Wenger trained him to become a deadly striker. This is a good move for Orji and he’s going to learn at Montreal Impact.
“In his playing days Henry was one of the best strikers in the world and it will help Orji in his future career.”
We Were Better Than TP Mazembe – Zamalek’s Coach
Zamalek coach Patrice Carteron insists his side was “better” than TP Mazembe in their CAF Champions League clash at the weekend and they were disappointed to be held to a goalless draw.
Zamalek and Mazembe played out a 0-0 in their Group A clash at the Al Salaam Stadium in Cairo on Friday night, with the White Knights unable to avenge the 3-0 loss they suffered at the hands of the Ravens when the teams first met in Lubumbashi back in late November.
The result means the DR Congo side will advance as group winners, while Carteron was left to rue a major disruption right before the match which saw Achraf Bencharki injured during the warm-up and replaced by Ahmed Sayed ‘Zizo’.
“I’m very disappointed with the draw, we were better and reached their goal on several occasions but we were unable to score,” Carteron said during the post match press conference, as quoted by Tidesports source.
“Bencharki is a great player and is very influential as he’s the team’s top goalscorer but Zizo performed really well throughout the whole game.
“The team is in very good physical condition and we were able to achieve great results lately. If we would’ve scored in the first-half no one would’ve talked about the players’ physical condition or the absence of a fitness coach,” he added.
The Frenchman praised his side for their recent performances, especially goalkeeper Mohamed Abo Gabal.
“Abo Gabal was slightly injured lately and he appeared today after fully recovering,” explained the coach. “Our players’ ability allows to play with just one striker instead of two, I rely mostly on the crosses.”
Zamalek will wrap up their Group A campaign with a clash away to Primeiro de Agosto in Luanda next Saturday, 1 February.
Golf: Rahm Shoots Seven To Take Lead
Spaniard Jon Rahm shot a seven-under 65 to take lead going into the final round in the Farmers Insurance Open.
The 25-year-old world number three holed for an eagle from 111 yards at the second and finished on 12 under.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, needing a win to return to world number one, is nine under after a fine 67, with Tiger Woods two further back.
Ryan Palmer, two ahead overnight after a 62 on the North course, was 10 under with a handful of holes to complete.
The final two rounds are played at the more challenging South course at Torrey Pines but round three was delayed by two hours on Saturday because of dense sea fog along the Californian coastline.
Rahm quickly made up for lost time and played the first nine in five under, adding another birdie at the 13th after playing from the bunker to within inches of the cup.
A sparkling tee shot to inside three feet at the 16th gave him a fifth birdie.
McIlroy began the round six shots off the lead but compiled six birdies with some typically spectacular shots, to match his opening day score.
He pitched onto the 607-yard 13th with his second shot, although three putts from there only gave him a par.
However his birdie putt at the 470-yard 15th was a lot easier as his magnificent approach from 155 yards finished a foot from the pin, while two more majestic hits at the closing par five saw him pick up another shot.
Woods, winner of eight titles at Torrey Pines, made a superb start, playing the first nine in four under, which included a chip-in from off the green to par the fourth.
He three-putted to bogey the 11th but then holed from 15 feet to par the last and ensure only one dropped shot in his round of 69.
“It was important because I felt like I was going to get left behind if I’d dropped another shot,” said the world number six, seeking to move ahead of Sam Snead as the PGA Tour’s outright leading title winner.
“It was a positive move today, I got off to a nice start early but I am still going to have to post a low one tomorrow – a lot of guys are ahead of me.”
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