"With what's ahead, we can't afford to lose. AJ is doing everything to put an unbelievable performance together"
Wednesday 11 March 2020 06:25, UK
Anthony Joshua's "shackles" will be off against Kubrat Pulev and will deliver a more "destructive" display, promises promoter Eddie Hearn.
Joshua's IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles are on the line in a mandatory defence at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on June 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office, with a view to eventually facing Tyson Fury for every major divisional belt.
Joshua outpointed Andy Ruiz Jr to regain his titles in their December rematch but he will fight more aggressively in his upcoming fight, Hearn insists.
"You will see one of the best AJ performances - the shackles are off from the Ruiz Jr 2 fight in terms of being disciplined and following a game-plan," Hearn told Sky Sports.
"He can be more destructive in a better stand-up fight.
"The mind-set is the same and has been the same since day one, with a couple of tweaks. The Ruiz Jr defeat taught him not to be influenced by outside noise. Stay focused, look after yourself, be selfish.
"He gave time to everybody but this is an unforgiving sport and you've got to look after No 1. He did that for the Ruiz Jr rematch and he will do it again.
"He's been working since the Ruiz Jr rematch. There hasn't been a week where he hasn't been in the gym working on tactics, ability and technique. He's absolutely driven to be the best.
"This isn't a guy who fights then goes on holiday to have a few pints and a couple of pizzas, taking three months off with the kids. He is working day-in day-out. He's an absolute role model to any athlete and any individual in sport.
"The Pulev fight is the focus. He has said: 'You make plans, for me it's only about Pulev'.
"I sent him [Pulev and Fury's promoter] Bob Arum's interview where he said 'there will be no AJ after June 20 when Pulev knocks him out'.
"I did that to spark the flames in AJ.
"We need that. You've got to be up for this. Against Ruiz Jr the first time, maybe one of the problems was that the spark wasn't there. If you take your eye off the ball you will get beaten. With what's ahead, we can't afford to lose. He's doing everything to put an unbelievable performance together on June 20."
Hearn had previously admitted they struggled to find suitable sparring partners for Joshua before his first fight to Ruiz Jr, which he lost.
"It's a lot easier for Pulev than it was for Ruiz Jr, who was an unorthodox style," Hearn explained as plans come together for Joshua's next training camp.
"Ruiz Jr is 6ft 19st and very fast. His hand speed and technique is almost unheard of. Pulev? More straight up and down. Great right hand, technically good from an amateur perspective. He's been around, has boxed Wladimir Klitschko and been unbeaten for a long time.
"It will be easier to determine sparring partners."
Joshua's faith in trainer Rob McCracken was vindicated by reclaiming the titles from Ruiz Jr. They brought in Angel Fernandez and Joby Clayton as pad-men for the rematch and they are likely to play a part in preparations to fight Pulev.
"I believe so, I leave that to Rob and AJ," Hearn said. "They are a team and they put the team in place with a view to perfection. Last time they got it spot on with Joby and Angel, great additions. It's a process of improvement - adding things to the team that will get you to the top.
"AJ is really tough to beat whether it be against Pulev, Fury or Wilder. He is going to take all these big fights."
Joshua spoke publicly in front of the Queen this week as part of the Commonwealth celebrations at Westminster - Hearn called it an "incredible day for him".
Joshua's promoter added: "It's crazy to think of the journey he's been on, when you see him shaking the Queen's hand. It's amazing for the sport. Amazing that a fighter is in those situations, being seen by the whole."
It was confirmed that Joshua vs Pulev would not be staged behind closed doors like many other sports during the Coronvirus outbreak.
"I cannot see how we can stage a fight behind closed doors with no crowd," Hearn said.