Eddie Hearn has pinpointed a key reason for Anthony Joshua’s stunning upset defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr, and says it will not happen again.
Joshua lost his IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight titles to the Mexican-American by a seventh-round TKO at Madison Square Garden in June 2019. Ruiz Jr had been a 30-1 underdog after standing in late for Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller following his failed drugs test.
But on the night the heavyweight boxing world was turned upside down as Ruiz Jr recovered from being down himself in the third round to stop Joshua four rounds later.
Sparring has since been given as one of the main reasons Joshua suffered what remains his only professional defeat. And six months after that loss at the spiritual home of boxing, Joshua proved he had learned the lessons by easily outpointing Ruiz Jr in their rematch in Saudi Arabia to regain his belts.
Now he is preparing to defend his titles against the IBF’s mandatory contender – the 39-year-old Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev (28-1) – and his promoter Hearn says this time the sparring will be spot on as no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of another successful defence.
He told Sky Sports: “Sparring wise? You need a tall, stand-up fighter who is technically sound. Looking around? The likes of Dominic Breazeale, as an example. A stand-up heavyweight.”
Pulev has lost only once in his professional career – a fifth-round knockout at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko in his previous world title challenge back in 2014. And Hearn said AJ will not take him lightly, explaining: “Pulev is very experienced, very good technically, punches a bit. You need to find a tall heavyweight that replicates that style. Against Ruiz Jr the second time, they got their sparring spot on. That is so important moving forwards.
“He won’t make that mistake again, of overlooking that element. His sparring for Pulev will be spot on.”
The showdown with Pulev – initially set for June 20 before COVID-19 intervened, is now likely to take place at London’s O2 Arena in early December, with “a strong chance” it is behind closed doors per Hearn.
But while the date, venue and crowd are still to be confirmed, Joshua is in great shape and with full focus on his next opponent.
Hearn explained: “He has kept super fit, doing plenty of rounds. I’ve never seen him so invested in improving, and I’ve never seen him so in love with the sport of boxing. That’s what gives me so much pleasure and hope. He is constantly evolving.
“Camp starts in a couple of weeks. Maybe move up to Sheffield in September.”