Anthony Joshua (22-1) is looking leaner, fitter and faster in his training camp for the rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr (33-1) on December 7 in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
The problem is, so is his opponent, who equally looks slimmer and speedier than their first fight on July 1 in Madison Square Garden, New York, which ended in AJ getting floored four times before being stopped in the seventh in one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history.
AJ’s new plan to be leaner and lighter clearly shows he is need of a new strategy to defeat his sole conqueror in the pros. Does that encourage confidence or evoke concern?
Promoter Eddie Hearn believes the whole world will stand still when this pair collide for the second time in the Middle East. The betting odds are considerably closer than before, the predictions far less one-sided.
If he wins the rematch, the Watford man gets back on top of the world with the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO belts back around his waist and lucrative fights stateside with WBC holder Deontay Wilder and domestic rival Tyson Fury back on track once again.
But what if he loses again? Boxing fans are a fickle bunch, they would mostly write him off for good. Strategically, from a promoter’s point of view, the comeback road could be a difficult one to plot. And, financially, the next fight on from back-to-back defeats would surely consequence in a smaller purse for AJ with a reduced number of viewers and fanbase readily tuning in.
AJ answers the question himself, “If you know me from the amateurs when I’ve lost from certain fights, you get back up and keep going.
“If I did lose to Andy Ruiz or I lost my next 10 fights, then maybe the next 10 fights weren’t for me but the 11th one might be.
“That’s all we’re saying, in some people’s eyes it may be more than that but, in my eyes, as long as I’m consistent I will prevail and get where I want to. Consistency is important.”
During his short six-year amateur career, Joshua lost three times – the infamous tussle with nemesis Dillian Whyte; to Mihai Nistor in Turkey in 2011, who has just signed with Golden Boy Promotions and his pro debut this December; and to Mahammadrasul Majidov in Azerbaijan, who only just turned pro with Eddie Hearn this year and won his debut in September.
A loss isn't the end of the road, despite what capricious casuals conjecture.
Bernard Hopkins lost his pro debut by mixed decision and went on to become an undisputed middleweight champion, as well as the lineal light-heavyweight champ. He also made history as the first boxer ever to simultaneously hold world titles by all four major sanctioning bodies. That debut loss to Clinton Mitchell in 1988 didn't deter him from persevering, nor did his defeat to Roy Jones Jr in his first ever attempt at a world title in 1993. He continued to defend his national middleweight title after defeat and tried again to win the IBF world middleweight strap, but failed again in 1994, reaching a draw with Segundo Mercado, edging ever closer to glory. A rematch four months later in 1995 finally saw Hopkins claim the IBF strap, which he defended 20 times over 10 years.
Remarkably, Alexis Arguello and Juan Manuel Marquez also both lost debut fights, and the biggest name of all, regarded by many as a top-10 great in boxing history, Henry Armstrong – he was KO’d by a long overhand left that slumped him face down on the canvas in his pro bow.
Armstrong lost four of his first five fights. Imagine if he hadn’t decided to keep going. He would never have gone to win 151 fights, 101 by KO, and become a three-weight world champion that defended his welterweight world title a record 19 times.
AJ lost during his amateur career but went on to be crowned Olympic champion in 2012. His winning mindset hasn’t changed and he can come back from defeat again – whether that’s one loss or more – to regain his world titles.
When asked about his game plan for the return fight, he revealed, “I’m going to go in there and do the same thing.
“I was 50 per cent of the way to getting the win. When I said it was a punch from the gods, it wasn’t to say it was a lucky punch because he trains for them and I train to defend a hook but it was just a shot that I couldn’t recover from. It was pitch perfect.
“For me, I can go in there and do the same thing and maybe take a bit more time.”
Despite the defeat, the 30-year-old doesn’t feel that it has affected his position amongst the world’s best too dramatically.
“In terms of crashing down, I don’t feel like I’ve fallen so far down the tree that I’ve got to wait two years to have the rematch again, it’s happening in three months.
“I know how to fight, so if I was to change everything now, I think it would be too risky. We haven’t got time to change and amend, we’ll just add little things and differences.”
The eagerly anticipated rematch takes place in a newly-constructed 16,000-capacity outdoor arena on December 7, live and exclusive on Sky Sports Box Office.