'The last decade was hell': Anthony Joshua on journey to becoming two-time world champion – and his next opponent (VIDEO)
If last June was an anomaly, December was anything but for Joshua. Faced with the sting of defeat for the first time in his professional career, the Brit was staring down the barrel of the biggest 'do or die' fight of his career earlier this month against Andy Ruiz Jr.
Just months prior, Ruiz felled the giant Joshua on no fewer than four occasions in Madison Square Garden en route to what was described as the biggest heavyweight boxing upset in a generation - and all on the occasion of what was intended to be Joshua's showcase introduction to the American boxing audience.Also on rt.com Forget the trilogy, Anthony Joshua simply has to face the winner of Wilder-Fury 2 next
But as he exclusively told RT, every little bit of experience he has gathered in the ring has made Joshua the fighter he is today. Both the good and the bad.
"The last 10 years I’d describe as hell and torture, but in a way that you walk through it in grace," Joshua said. "The first time you walk over the hot coal it burns your feet, but you get used to it. It’s a painful journey, it takes a lot of sacrifices but there are memorable times and memorable moments that come with it. Experience is the best teacher, so I’ve learnt a lot and it makes me the man I am today."
And the man that he is today is the holder of the majority of boxing's recognized heavyweight titles, as regained by a calculated performance in his rematch with Ruiz in Saudi Arabia earlier this month. The lessons he learned from the first fight were adapted into the second. The results? Joshua barely had a glove landed on him of note through 12 rounds of action.Also on rt.com Andy Ruiz Jr vs Anthony Joshua 2: 'AJ' jabs his way to landslide decision to reclaim WBO, IBF and WBA heavyweight titles
"It’s good to beat Ruiz and prove to myself I can do it, but I’ve always know it was in me," he explained. "I always said that when I win, or they asked me how do I feel when I lost, I said I belong at a top level so it’s normal to me.
"But the main benefit of it to me is my supporters, because they felt my loss. When I lost it echoed across different countries, like when I went back to Nigeria, they felt it. So to win was like a benefit for people around the world. For me, I know I can do it, I believe in myself, but no one knows what I feel inside. Some people were wondering am I going to quit, am I still going to box, there’s all these questions, was I concussed.
"I’m just happy that my supporters are now smiling and they can turn off the trash-talk button, and now they’re walking with their chests out and their heads high."
With that test passed, the focus now moves to his next. February's rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder will likely cement the identity of his next opponent, but with negotiations potentially complicated by differences between promoters and broadcasters, it could be easier said than done.
In Joshua's mind though, he just wants the one title belt not currently in his collection.
"It’s not so much stylistically or so much of a grudge, it’s just that I’ve got four of the belts and I want the last one, so Deontay Wilder would be my preference," Joshua said when asked about who he'd like to face next.
"Honestly, since I’ve been back it’s been two weeks and I haven’t even had a chance to think of let alone my New Year’s resolution, let alone who I’m going to be fighting next.
"Whoever’s the better opponent would be ideal for me, I’m not too fussed. If you look down the record we’ve fought champions, great fighters, so another one on that list would be an honor for me because I think it builds legacy. I don’t really shy away from a challenge so whoever steps up first will definitely get the opportunity to try and take my belts."
One of Joshua's rivals, Tyson Fury, has made clear in the recent weeks that he has a genuine ambition to compete one day in mixed martial arts and Joshua says that he understands this particular brand of motivation, because he too feels it.Also on rt.com 'What better trainer could I have?' Tyson Fury to spar ‘soon’ with UFC star McGregor ahead of potential MMA switch
"I think it’s easy for people to say you shouldn’t do it, but I believe life you shouldn’t set limits on yourself," Joshua said of one day transitioning to MMA. "If opportunities present themselves, I think that anyone should go out there and try and test their own limits and boundaries.
"So if MMA or acting or anything like that presented itself, I’d take that opportunity because I live once so I might as well experience all that has to offer."