Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will defend his titles against Kubrat Pulev at the SSE Arena, Wembley today. In this exclusive interview with our correspondent ’TOSIN OLUWALOWO, Joshua spoke on his expectations from the fight, his favourite Nigerian delicacies and his Nigerian heritage
How are you looking forward to your fight against Kubrat Pulev on Saturday (today)?
It’s another chance for me to show the world who I am, show my skill, show my passion for the sports and just show how lucky I am to compete at a high level.
In an interview with DAZN, you rated Pulev as a talented boxer who has been around great boxers. Do you see him as a formidable opponent?
I think he can give me challenges, he definitely can, but why I’m going to do well is that I’m going to adapt to the situation. So, even if it takes one round, two rounds, three rounds or even four rounds, the minute I find out his algorithm, I’m going to break him down.
So, he will show some type of challenge, but I overcome challenges and once I find out his style and his pattern, I’m going to break him down and the limelight will shine back on me.
After Pulev, is Tyson Fury on the cards. How great is that fight going to be, seeing two British heavyweights come against each other?
I think the whole of Britain are so glued and tuned into this fight with Pulev right now because they know how serious this guy is and they know that if I don’t get past him, then there is no future. So, that’s why for me, I’m just focusing on this guy in front of me now – Pulev – and that’s where my mind is.
Many thought it was over for you after your loss to Andy Ruiz – which was the first in your professional career. How did you recover from that loss and come back to defeat him?
Losing shows character some times. When you are winning, people say life isn’t all about sunshine. For me, life is good because I’m winning and then you lose and you realise what dropped your head and how tough it is and how lonely it is and the decisions you have to make, the ones that will benefit you.
So, it made me do a lot of reflections and in the short space of time, in four months, five months, I had to go back to training and I had to really improve my style because I knew I had to face the same guy who had just beaten me, so, I just went and I spoke to my team that this was about me because when they announce the fighter’s name at the start, they don’t mention anyone else, so, I had to express that. Losing
made me realise how serious this struggle is, it doesn’t matter what this looks like, I had to be sure I was 100 per cent ready and made sure with my training, I really went back to training, I was pushing myself hard, trained properly and I went back the second time to box with style, to box and move and not get hit and I won the title back.
You were also into athletics and football while in school, why boxing?
I feel like boxing was really challenging and everything is about timing, so, at the right time, boxing came into my life. In those other sports, I was not competing physically with another person, but boxing, I can see when they get tired, I can see when their energy or soul is now fainting and they can’t compete with me anymore and they start getting soft, they are not as strong as they were, so I can see my own potential and I really enjoyed the passion about progression in boxing.
Does it mean that you enjoy beating people?
Yes. When I am boxing, I can see my opponent wanting to cry and give up, and even me, when I get beaten up, I say, ‘This can’t happen again.’ So, it made me want to train, get stronger and face my opponent again, so I can beat them up. So, I can see progression, so I just keep on working hard.
Why didn’t you try kickboxing instead then?
My cousin at that time was a boxer, so he was the one who lured me into boxing. He took me to the boxing gym and honestly, if he was into kickboxing, I would have been into kickboxing now, if he took me to wrestling, I would have been a wrestler, but he took me to boxing and boxing was the sports luckily that I was introduced to and I fell in love with it.
What were some of the things that caught your attention when you visited Nigeria earlier in the year that would make you want to come back again?
I love my time at the shrine (New Afrika Shrine), I love going to Makoko as well, I really enjoyed the people, they hosted me nicely. I am a people’s person, so I love being around so many people, so, the people of Nigeria really hosted me well, they were welcoming and besides, I am a son of the soil. So, I just put my foot back on the soil, I got to embrace the land where my heritage is from. It was a really good experience, the traffic wasn’t too bad, the sunshine was nice above and I like the reality of Nigeria where there are people suffering and I got to this place as well as I mixed with the people and found out what they need, I sent food back there. There is an element in Nigeria where there are people having big businesses, so there was so much balance. The country has so much potential, that’s what I love about Nigeria.
You recently spoke about the legacy you love to build outside boxing – building schools and boxing gyms. Do you have any of such projects coming up in Nigeria?
Not at the minute. Right now, I am just making sure I keep my connection there, I speak to the people of Makoko, I speak to the people of Ijebu Ode, I speak to the people of Sagamu and I speak to the people of the Shrine and just make sure we keep a good relationship with these people. At the minute, because of the coronavirus, the main thing was food supplies which we kept going there and one day definitely when I finish with boxing I want to go there and maybe build a school because education will be better.
What is your favourite Nigerian food and Nigerian music?
My most favourite Nigeria food is pounded yam with red stew and okra, with some meat. I just like eating it nice and easy, if I see ponmo as well, I am happy. And then I love the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, I love Seun, I love Femi, I love their music, I love Fela’s music, that’s my favourite.
Do you have plans to develop Nigerian boxers?
In the UK right now, we are working with Lawrence Okoli, he is a talented cruiserweight boxer. He was fighting for the world title but his opponent contracted COVID-19, so, he won’t be out to compete with him on Saturday (today), but in the next fight after Saturday if he wins, he will fight for the world title. And in Nigeria, nothing just yet, but if there is anyone that wants to get in touch, they have all of our contact details; they can go to my website and put their names forward. With my experience, if I can help the next generation, I will be glad to 100 per cent.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
Source: [email protected]