After the boxing world watched Deontay Wilder deliver a scintillating first-round knockout of Dominic Breazeale less than two weeks ago, one would think that Anthony Joshua feels pressure to register a dazzling KO in his U.S. debut against Andy Ruiz Jr. on June 1.
But Joshua says he doesn’t feel like that at all.
“Definitely not, no pressure,” Joshua told Sporting News as part of a conference call with the media late last Friday.
“I’ve lived up to expectations already,” he continued. “I’m the unified champion of the world, so whether I knock Ruiz out or not is irrelevant. I’ll go in there and get the win.”
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That being said, his Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn spoke a different tune during the Devin Haney-Antonio Moran fight card Saturday night.
“The pressure’s on Joshua,” Hearn told DAZN. “We saw a great performance from Wilder two weeks ago. Now, Joshua has got to return the fire. He’s got to put in a dominating performance against Ruiz and he’s got to knock him out.”
It took Wilder 137 seconds to dispose of Breazeale on May 18.
Meanwhile, Joshua needed seven rounds, before earning a TKO of Breazeale back in June 2016.
That would seemingly pile more pressure onto Joshua to record a quick KO against Ruiz.
When analyzing a common opponent — like Breazeale is to both Joshua and Wilder — you’ll either wind up with something telling or it won’t pan out to anything of substance at all when the two heavyweights finally fight.
When asked by a reporter during his post-fight press conference if his destruction of Breazeale compared to Joshua’s seventh-round TKO of the same opponent means anything toward an imminent heavyweight clash between the champions, Wilder didn’t seem to think it’s an accurate gauge.
“We could compare all we want, but at the end of the day, when both of us get in the ring, you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Wilder said during the wee hours of May 19 about how a fight between he and Joshua would translate now that they have a common opponent in Breazeale to use as a comparison.
“I can’t say I’m gonna knock him out, I can’t say he’s gonna knock me out,” he continued. “We’ll just have to see what’s gonna happen when that time comes and see what happens.”
Wilder didn’t show too much of his hand there, but he did offer up some compelling comments earlier in the press conference that day.
“Any guy that gets in the ring and can’t move their head and are not flexible,” Wilder said, “it’s perfect for me because I’m gonna set you up and I’m faster than what people think.”
While there’s no comparing Breazeale to the caliber of fighter Joshua is, the unified WBA/WBO/IBF heavyweight champion of the world isn’t exactly known for his head movement nor defense — although he seems to be improving on all areas of his boxing with each bout.
Whether Joshua’s head movement makes him ripe for a Wilder knockout remains to be seen, but of course, any talk about their mega clash is premature for now.
Joshua’s first line of order will be to defeat Ruiz convincingly Saturday night.
“The Bronze Bomber” has already vowed to not be in attendance at Madison Square Garden in New York City to watch Joshua-Ruiz, but rest assured he and the boxing world are waiting to see if Joshua can “return the fire” — as Hearn mentioned — and deliver a knockout as swift and memorable as Wilder’s most recent highlight.
Feature by Mark Lelinwalla
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