Anthony Joshua has addressed the ‘stigma’ of fear that has been attached to him throughout the latest chapter of his storied career.
The 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist turned pro one year on from that success, blasting through his first 20 opponents including Dillian Whyte for the British Heavyweight title, Charles Martin for the IBF World belt and Wladimir Klitschko to add the WBO to his collection.
The Whyte bout saw him wobbled, and Klitschko knocked him down for the first time during a heavyweight thriller. On both occasions, ‘AJ’ overcame and proved the stronger, more devastating finisher.
Two years on from that career-defining moment, Joshua would drop Andy Ruiz Jr in Madison Square Garden, but his instincts betrayed him and, when he rushed in for the stoppage, Ruiz hurt him back.
It would end in stoppage loss for the Brit, although he won his unified titles back in a rematch six months later via decision.
Many fans and pundits highlight both the Klitschko and Ruiz bouts as potential moments when Joshua’s style changed. In the time since, he has been called gun-shy, tentative and even damaged.
Speaking to BBC Sport in an interview with Louis Theroux, the 34-year-old said it was a calculated approach with his future in mind.
“There’s this stigma that ‘AJ can’t take a punch, AJ’s afraid of getting hit.’
“My goal is to not get knocked out. My goal is to knock out my opponents. Because I’ll never shut my brain down for the love of the sport. No way, because I know the sport won’t love you back.”
Since the second Ruiz fight, Joshua has been beaten over the distance twice by Oleksandr Usyk, putting him firmly out of the title picture for the time being.
He has switched his camp up to involve trainer Derrick James and built two wins – Jermaine Franklin UD and Robert Helenius KO – within that partnership.
The two-time champion now looks to move into a fight with Deontay Wilder – a true acid test of his development and will to win.