Anthony Joshua hints at brutal plan for Andy Ruiz Jr

Anthony Joshua hinted that Andy Ruiz Jr will simply become a face from his heavyweight past as he bristled with brutal intentions at the final press conference.

Ruiz Jr’s world titles arrived before him, knocking over a name tag on the press conference in a loud reminder of the huge reward at stake in Saturday’s rematch with Joshua.

Joshua quietly entered the room with an unshaven face, perhaps a sign of relentless training in a private gym in the British embassy, rather than hours in front of the assembled media in Saudi Arabia.

Ruiz Jr, the beaming unified champion, was dripping in glistening jewellery, the spoils of that stunning victory at New York’s Madison Square Garden in June. Wrapped around his relaxed shoulders was a New York Knicks jersey, which he had worn to his victorious post-fight press conference. Purely a coincidence, or a pointed reminder of Joshua’s darkest night?

The Mexican had hoodwinked the boxing world with his charm offensive before the first fight and grinned his way through the customary introductions at the rematch presser.

Trainer Manny Robles insisted he has been “tough” on the baby-faced champion, but his fighter had received the “perfect” sparring and now was the “perfect” time. Ruiz Jr even announced that it was the “perfect place” to make history. Everything seemed perfect.

The fallen king was quick to point out a huge image of all the heavyweights on Saturday’s bill. Previous opponents such as Dillian Whyte, Alexander Povetkin and Eric Molina stared back at him from a shining billboard. Men who had grinned menacingly before the opening bell, but AJ had ended the evening with a world title held aloft.

In the aftermath of defeat, Joshua finally had time to reflect after a breathless ascent from debutant to the world-title challenger. “Back to 16”, was the mantra he repeated. These words had possibly been ringing around his head for weeks and were a reference to his 16th fight, a ruthless destruction of IBF champion Charles Martin. The American had strode to the ring with a gigantic crown, only to be dethroned in a crushing defeat. A similar demolition will leave Ruiz Jr on the who’s who of Joshua’s heavyweight wins.

Even an explosive victory will do little to lift the darkening mood of Joshua, who insisted he would not celebrate wildly this weekend. He will simply regain his role as the division’s dominant champion with three major titles, which is the esteemed status that he had targeted since turning professional.

The final words were left to Ruiz Jr, who shouted “and still” when they shared a parting face-off.

Joshua remained silent, with victory already in his mind.

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