Among all the adulations and hyperbole that will surround Anthony Joshua after he reclaimed his world titles against Andy Ruiz Jr, what will surprise many are the simple foundations on which the success was built. As soon as he accepted the defeat, Joshua made the commitment to win the return at any cost, an approach his opponent apparently refused to do.
It was instructive that two days after his loss, Anthony Joshua was back in the gym. While the intensity wasn’t high, it set a tone that would last for the next six months – he would show up to every session and make every sacrifice in facing his demons.
We now understand that he was going through, presently undefined, health issues and these had an impact in that defeat. In a previous article in the aftermath of the fight, we suggested that conquering the demons of defeat would prove his toughest challenge. As it turned out, the health issues provided a buffer to those demons and actually offered a ray of hope that, if he can maximise his potential over the following months, it would take a special version of Andy Ruiz Jr to defeat him.
Joshua zeroed in on a path to excellence where no expense was spared and no corner was cut. Into the fold came Angel Fernandez, unknown to many, but respected by those that appreciate a focused and progressive coach. He was able to provide new techniques and the tactics to box from the perimeter of the ring with well-timed and accurate punching.
Considering the bond Joshua has with his trainer, Robert McCracken, this was not a small step, but made a massive statement that he was ready for redemption. Hunkered down between London Sheffield and Sutton, the path was meticulously plotted while Andy Ruiz was celebrating his new-found, and maybe fleeting, celebrity status. Sparring partners were identified, tactics and techniques agreed, training scheduled, holidays and rests were locked in while fight negotiations were underway.
In amongst all of this, Joshua remained in shape, remained committed and more importantly, he remained disciplined.
It was this period from June to September that defined the outcome of the fight. Where Joshua remained focused, structured and disciplined, Ruiz was the exact opposite. This is important because boxing history is littered with examples of boxers reaching the pinnacle and immediately regressing, forgetting the sacrifices that got them to the top.
From Roberto Duran to Mike Tyson, many greats have succumbed to the ‘demons of success.’
It takes a purpose higher than simply being a world champion to remain a world champion. Once to reach that summit, a whole new level of work and dedication is required. There are new sacrifices to make, new temptations to resist. There are moments where you need the courage to say, ‘no’, even when the temptation is strong.
Joshua made the solemn commitment to show up to every session and set the highest standards of execution
In the key summer months, Joshua embraced the sacrifice and Ruiz failed to do so. It is worth remembering that Ruiz was thrust into this elevated position while Joshua was progressively prepared and primed for this from his earliest days as an amateur.
It meant that, as the leaves browned and the autumnal chill set in, Joshua moved into his formal training camp with at least 60 training sessions in him, the equivalent of five weeks training. The transition was seamless and the focus was only on how to win the fight.
In the United States, Andy Ruiz was everywhere that offered him an invite. The disconnect between boxer and trainer was obvious with his trainer, many Robles clueless on when training camp would start and what weight Andy Ruiz would return to camp at.
We now know that, by September, Ruiz was horribly overweight and had done no training through the summer. It then meant a 12 week camp was mainly focused on reducing his weight and increasing his mobility, all the while trying to find ways to find a way to beat an Anthony Joshua that would be more cautious and focused.
At this point in September, Ruiz essentially gifted all the advantages to Antony Joshua.
In camp, Joshua looked happy and relaxed, comfortably in surroundings that had delivered his greatest triumphs as an athlete. Into this inner sanctum, new friends were welcomed, the trainer Fernandez, the sparring partners, Timothy Moten, Andrew Tabiti and Tom Little and various others who would add the marginal gains needed for success.
Through all of this, Joshua made the solemn commitment to show up to every session and set the highest standards of execution. Even more impressive was his commitment to listen and act upon the words of those he had pain to support his road to redemption.
Camp Joshua looked a happy and ordered place while camp Ruiz looked like the rules were subject to change any time Ruiz decided. In fact, it remains unclear as to how many training sessions he missed. The rumours are that many were missed with his trainer helpless to influence him.
By fight night, we were able to see the sum total of the decisions both men had made in the previous six months. The resounding victory for Joshua was confirmation that nothing in sport, and maybe life, will beat the ability to remain committed, remain consistent and listening to those that can help you.