Anthony Joshua 24-2 (22) says he never wanted to hurt Oleksandr Usyk 19-0 (13) in their first fight, but that mentality has changed going into their rematch.
Joshua will attempt to regain the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles he lost to Usyk by unanimous decision last September.
Shortly before flying out to Saudi Arabia, Joshua addressed a group of reporters.
“I try not to focus on criticism,” he said. “There are a lot of positive vibes out there as well. Especially inside the four walls of my home and the environment I shape around me. Should I shape that environment around having a couple of defeats?
“Records matter now because people forget quickly these days. But I study the win-loss records of the famous endlessly – and boxers who consistently fight the best rarely go undefeated through their career. Annoying as it is, I know I have to cope with losing. I fight the best.”
Responding to the speculation that he would avoid a rematch with Usyk or hang up the gloves permanently, the 32-year-old Brit says those were thoughts that never entered his mind.
“Right after, in the changing room, I knew I would fight again,” Joshua said. “I was telling everyone: ‘Come on, what the fuck? We are warriors. We lost a fight but not the war. This is an ongoing battle. It’s not over ‘til it’s over.’
“That’s how I remotivated my team. Nothing should dishearten you. I have to keep that mentality for the rest of my life. Even if I stumble privately or publicly.
“But it has been a nightmare just sitting on this loss for so many months. The time frame does change every day. I have dedicated a lot of my life to a very tough sport. I will do this for as long as I can but I think I’m quite smart at business now. I will be 33 shortly and a lot will come down to how long my body can hang on.”
As far as his game plan for the first fight goes, Joshua admitted he got it wrong.
“It sounds crazy but I’m not going to lie,” he said. “My objective was never to hurt him, to land damaging punches. My aim was to go the 12 rounds and prove I could box as well as he does, to land scoring punches.
“But I didn’t work hard enough to prepare for a 12-round fight at that pace. I wasn’t in the right mindset, that of wanting to go in there and smash him. Using my size and power this time is evident, isn’t it? But to work on it is easier aid than done.
“Training camps are so challenging, so draining. So brain-fatiguing. I need to be better conditioned. I need adjustments to deal with a southpaw because to me these lefties are a nightmare. I swear that if Oleksandr wasn’t a lefty, I would have smoked him. One hundred per cent.”