Anthony Joshua: 'I can’t chase the Cristiano Ronaldo dream’

World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua defends his belts on Saturday night against Ukraine’s Oleksandar Usyk at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The British fighter has been out of competitive action since December of last year following a comprehensive knockout defeat of Kubrat Pulev and can expect an awkward night against the former cruiserweight king.

Metro spent time with the former Olympic champion ahead of the biggest boxing event in this country since the start of the pandemic…

You’re 31 now and have said before how much you admire Cristiano Ronaldo. Now he is back in the Premier League at 36, does that give you motivation to continue fighting well into your 30s?

He’s only kicking a football, isn’t he? What a man. We always compare ourselves to the one in a billion: he’s one in a billion and we always seem to compare ourselves to that guy. I can’t chase the Cristiano Ronaldo dream. Cristiano is one of the people I see asking for strength and courage. It comes with hardship but at the end of it is self-satisfaction.

So, you don’t see yourself as one in a billion as well?

I want to be known as a throwback fighter, that I took on challenges. That’s what my legacy should be. It would be good for my son as well when he’s older. ‘Yeah, my dad fought everyone…’ I want him to realise I was a man respected for fighting everyone in my division.

How long do you think you can go on for in the sport?

I think you’ve got between 36 and 40. So at 36 it’s kind of like, how many more years do you go beyond that? Do you do the full yard to 40? Forty seems like the age where it’s like, ‘okay, you’ve done this for a long time now’. So yeah, 36 to 40 is when I look at my career.

Did you have to pick yourself up after the much-anticipated unification fight against Tyson Fury fell through in May?

I had to cancel all my bids on that mansion. Backing out, Tyson! No, I’m joking. It’s part of the game. It would have been brilliant for boxing. It’s the fight everyone wants.

Fury says he will fight you twice next year. Do you believe him?

Finally. Finally. Let’s get it on! What an honour it would be to fight Tyson, get another good fighter on the record, beat him, we move forward. So yeah, Fury, I’d love that opportunity. We’ll get it on at some stage, I’m sure.

Do you think he is trying to get under your skin?

I watched ten fights that happened years ago from the 1950s and stuff and I was thinking the differences with those guys [was] that [they] actually fought each other. That made them great. In this day and age it’s who speaks the most, who generates most interest from speaking. It’s a different area of boxing — speaking is just as important as fighting these days. For me, I just fight these guys, no problem. And they get a lot out of it as well.

You look leaner. Is that a plan for former cruiserweight Usyk?

I’m going to run around the ring. I don’t want to get hit, you know, I’m going to be on my bike all night. I’m as solid as a rock. I’m really skinny! I’m strong, I’m good at the weight.

Do you think you’ll surprise some with your boxing ability?

If it was just about being big, I should go there in the ring and knock him out in the space of 20 seconds. First punch I land, every opponent should drop. But what I’ve realised over the years is it’s not about that. It’s about timing, angles, setting punches up, concentration.

Fury says he has a five-fight plan. Do you?

I can’t say who my top five will be but I know they’ll be of value and will be entertaining. I’m sure Fury will be on the list. [Deontay] Wilder will be on the list. Dillian [Whyte],all of them. Anyone’s welcome on this resume.

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