Deontay Wilder dominated Anthony Joshua’s thoughts just three days before his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight title defence against Andy Ruiz jnr in New York.
The WBC champion announced this week – midway through the build-up to Joshua-Ruiz jnr and aware that Joshua had hoped to fight him next – that he is to have a rematch with Luis Ortiz.
Those plans further delay what would perhaps be the biggest fight that could be made anywhere on the planet, and for all four world heavyweight titles, potentially also undermining interest in Joshua’s US debut at Madison Square Garden.
The 29-year-old Joshua remains a heavy favourite against Ruiz jnr, from Mexico, and he unusually revealed that he is already focusing on the wider picture that could follow tomorrow night’s fight when he said: “I was looking to win so we could have our sit-down [to negotiate with Wilder].
“If it was me, and I rematched [Alexander] Povetkin next, I’d have had more pressure [from the public]. He makes a decision that I am not able to make, but I try not to. How would people have dealt with me?
“Ortiz will be quicker to fight me [if he wins] than Wilder, so it’s not a bad thing. It’s coming close to a time when that WBC belt should change hands.
“Wilder is a good name in general. If he loses he doesn’t go down the start line again. But the undisputed [fight] is not about Joshua v Wilder, it’s about the undisputed. This build-up hasn’t been flat; it’s been interesting. The speculation of what’s next, [Tyson] Fury, Wilder, me in the middle.
“I don’t mind where I fight. The UK is my home base and raised me. So there is loyalty there. But more recently I’ve been told as world champion you fight around the world.”
Ruiz jnr, also 29, was bullied as he struggled with obesity as both a child and teenager, and he revealed that he has used those memories to drive him towards his second fight for the world heavyweight title.
“I was always a big kid,” he said. “My first amateur fight I was seven and there were no kids at my weight so I fought older guys.
“It took a little bit to get used to but it kind of gave me extra motivation. It would get me down but I would kind of block out the negative. I have been an underdog my whole life. The shape I have, the way I look. People will tell you though that I am hard to get to.”
Joshua plans to watch footage of heavyweight greats fighting at Madison Square Garden before the bout.
He makes his debut at boxing’s most revered venue tomorrow evening, and is relishing the fact Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Joe Frazier have fought there before him.
Joshua’s deep respect for his sport’s decorated history means he has often studied those who came before him, which might even mean watching The Fight of the Century between Ali and Frazier in 1971 from the changing room inside the venue where that memorable night took place.
“I’ll definitely use it as inspiration,” he said. “I’ll watch their videos on the day; maybe in the changing room, just to feel like I’m not the only one doing this. Others have done it before me, so that’s the inspiration I’ll take.
“I’ve got to get the win. The people who lose and don’t perform don’t go down in history, so I’ve got to go out there and get the job done.
“Ruiz is a good fighter. He’s not worried about the feelings and emotions. He’ll get in there, do what he does best, and try and beat me.
“That’s the main thing he’s going to try. I’m going to be in his way so it’s training and going to war.”