Heavyweight Champion on Fighting a Bigger Man: ‘Just Beat Him Up’

Heavyweight Champion on Fighting a Bigger Man: ‘Just Beat Him Up’

February 20, 2019

In the fractured world of modern boxing, Anthony Joshua has become something of a rare bird: a heavyweight champion who holds three of the four major belts.

In Britain, his native country, he is a sporting hero. At 22-0 with 21 knockouts, including a marquee win over the longtime heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2017, Joshua seems poised to break through to stardom on a more international level.

He will fight professionally for the first time overseas on June 1 at Madison Square Garden, against Jarrell Miller, a brash Brooklyn native and a 5-1 underdog.

“People call me the underdog, but that’s all right,” Miller, 30, said Tuesday. “I want to be the underdog. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon.”

The only major belt Joshua doesn’t hold is the World Boxing Council’s, which remains the property of the unbeaten American Deontay Wilder. They each point fingers at the other to explain why a unification bout has not taken place, and Wilder has been distracted by the possibility of a rematch with Tyson Fury, whom he fought to a draw in December.

A Joshua-Wilder bout, should it happen, could set off a full revival of the heavyweight division.

Joshua, 29, talked with reporters and editors of The New York Times on Tuesday. Their conversation has been edited and condensed.

Your opponent. Jarrell Miller. He is a big guy.

They all are!

But he’s like 300-plus pounds. (Joshua is generally around 250.) Is there a strategy you need to use for someone that large?

Just beat him up. There’s no real complicated stuff when it come to boxing. Just. Beat. Him. Up.

You hit them hard, and you earn their respect. What happens is, their spirit is like 100 percent, then you’ve got to take them down to 80, to 60, to 40, to 20, until they got nothing left. And then — if he stays in there — it’s how much heart he has.

Yeah, he’s a big guy. It’s a bigger target. He’s obviously going to be firing back, so I have to be on my A game.

The other thing about Miller is that he’s got a mouth on him.

Yeah, but that’s just verbal. I do physical.

Does it bother you when he pops off?

June 2 he’ll be irrelevant. So he’s relevant for the next 14 weeks. And then when it’s all done, I’ll move on to looking at Wilder, Fury or Luis Ortiz.

Did you watch the Wilder-Fury fight?

They were on too late. In the U.K., it’s like 5 in the morning. I’m focused on my training, and staying up that late is not good.

Wilder-Joshua is on the top of the list for a lot of fight fans. You think we’ll see it soon?

Yeah. I don’t see why we don’t see it now. The ball is in his court. When he’s done freezing me out, he knows where to find me.

What’s your best punch?

I’ve knocked a few guys out with the uppercut. Dillian Whyte was a good one. Dominic Breazeale, in the second round I hit him with a good uppercut; I could have finished him off, but we took it easy. Klitschko, that was the end of the beginning for him.

What’s been your hardest fight so far?


In the fifth round, you put him down, he rallied …

Remember, I was knocking everyone out in like three or four rounds. I thought Klitschko was going to be knocked down as well, no doubt. So when I dropped him in the fifth, I assumed he was just like the rest of them. I learned that Klitschko is a little bit different.

He’s battle-hardened. He comes from the Soviet Union. Who you are is what comes out in the ring. Klitschko comes from having one bottle of water in the shop, one pen, one chocolate, one loaf of bread. So he’s quite a hard person.

It was a good, good scrap. A good dogfight.

Does fighting away from home for the first time affect you?

It does. There’s major historic fighters who fought away from home and took their first losses. I have to be aware of that. That’s why we’re doing five weeks, rather than a two- or three-week training camp here.

Your website lists your favorite boxers. Are there things you pick and choose from each of those?

Evander Holyfield was good; he bobs to the right. He kind of sets up the right hand. Sugar Ray Robinson, man, the footwork, the class. Jack Johnson, just dominance. Mike Tyson, just a machine. He wasn’t supposed to be a boxer. He went from jail to the Catskills, and they trained him to be the best fighter in the world.

What do you want your legacy to be?

To have no hatred in my heart for up-and-coming heavyweights. Watch them and not be bitter. I love the sport. I want that person to beat my record. I want them to do better than I did.

What’s your preference: To be in a war or to just dismantle somebody?

You don’t see the best of me until you put me in a sick situation. I’ll just take it easy. Just cruise control. If I box from a distance, less punishment for me, cool.

But if you cross that barrier where you make me go into that fight-or-flight mode, I’ll go fight. It’s blood for blood, I think. I don’t mind that.

Fury and Wilder, they’re tall.

They’re not that tall!

What would your game plan be?

Outbox them both. Fury, I’m just going to knock him out. No nonsense, none of this jab-for-jab nonsense. Just work him, work him, work him.

With Wilder, I can outbox Wilder. No problem. Fury’s a bit more elusive, so I have to just kind of pin him down a bit more, then do what I want to do.

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