Anthony Joshua says he "would be bothered" if his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr was used to distract people from Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

Saturday's fight is being staged near the Saudi capital of Riyadh in a decision which has attracted controversy.

Briton Joshua has been encouraged to take a stand but, while he acknowledged some discomfort, his immediate focus is on reclaiming his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles.

"In the future maybe I can bear a different kind of flag," he told BBC Sport. 

"But at the minute it's a world championship flag. I just want to do a job."

When asked how he would respond if the bout was used to 'sportswash' any improper conduct from the host country, he added: "If that was the case, I would definitely have to say I would be bothered - but my only focus is the boxing.

"I feel like taking boxing global is what a world champion should be doing. You fight around the world."

Joshua was stunned by Ruiz, a late replacement for Jarrell Miller, at Madison Square Garden in the initial fight that saw him knocked down four times.

Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua's rematch in Saudi Arabia takes place at the end of a year in the heavyweight division that has not taken off quite as anticipated.

Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury fought to a gripping majority draw in Los Angeles 12 months ago and both remain undefeated with their eagerly anticipated return slated for next February.

WBC champion Wilder has since knocked out Dominic Breazeale and Luis Ortiz, while Fury beat Tom Schwarz and Otto Wallin before trying his hand at WWE.

It was hoped Joshua versus either man would be on the agenda, but Fury's fellow Briton stunningly lost the IBF, WBA and WBO belts inside seven rounds to the unfancied Ruiz in June.

The second edition of that unlikely rivalry should help make the picture of what lies in store in 2020 a little clearer, while a high-calibre list of potential challengers lends weight to the feeling boxing's blue riband division could be in the midst of a new golden era.

THE ELITE

There remains a reluctance to place Ruiz in this bracket, as he and trainer Manny Robles have noted during this week's build-up, but Mexico's first ever heavyweight champion is the man who beat the man.

Ruiz might be a long way from the body-beautiful Adonis many casual fans would expect to see atop the heavyweight landscape, but the rotund puncher's unlikely hand speed and intelligent tactics saw him eviscerate Joshua and his undefeated record.

A late replacement for drugs cheat Jarrell Miller, the underdog floored Joshua four times and hurt him repeatedly to the body. This was not simply the result of a "punch from the gods", as Joshua dubbed the short left hook to the temple that robbed him of his equilibrium as he moved in to finish a hurt Ruiz in round three.

There was much mirth to be had on the part of Wilder and Fury, who are widely considered numbers one and two in the division, despite Ruiz's recently acquired hardware.

Wilder obliterated fellow American Breazeale inside a round in May – a spectacle that perhaps inspired Joshua's foolhardy endeavour to match him with an explosive finish against Ruiz – before arguably losing every completed round in his second encounter with Ortiz.

The problem for the Cuban veteran was the thundering right hand that left him befuddled on the canvas and for the count in the seventh.

Fury managed to rouse himself twice having similarly outboxed Wilder last year. The 34-year-old's technical deficiencies are not the cause for concern they should be because of his unfathomable, fight-altering power.

Joshua is rarely in anything other than entertaining bouts but whether or not he can continue to operate at the very highest level hinges upon victory at the weekend. If Ruiz wins again before the Wilder-Fury return, he will be on the outside looking in and without some of the mystique attached to the men below.

THE CONTENDERS

Dillian Whyte is on a 10-fight winning streak since losing to Joshua four years ago, getting off the floor to outpoint the dangerous Oscar Rivas in July.

However, the fact he was cleared to fight Rivas after returning an anomalous drugs test led to the WBC stripping him of his mandatory status to face Wilder. The governing body will not consider him for the position again until February 2021.

Whyte returns to action against former world-title challenger Mariusz Wach on the Ruiz-Joshua II undercard, where Alexander Povetkin takes on Michael Hunter in an intriguing crossroads fight.

Povetkin's only defeats have come against Wladimir Klitschko and Joshua, but the 40-year-old's advancing age means victory is a must against Hunter, who made it six out six wins since stepping up from cruiserweight by beating another Russian in Sergey Kuzmin last time out.

Hunter's only professional loss came at the irresistibly skilled hands of Oleksandr Usyk, the former undisputed champion at 200lbs. Already number one at heavyweight by the WBO, the lavishly gifted Ukrainian seems certain to become a major factor among the big men.

Joseph Parker is, for now, the only man to beat Ruiz, but losses to Joshua and Whyte checked the popular New Zealander. Restorative stoppage wins over Alexander Flores and Alex Leapai leave the former WBO king primed for another tilt at the top in 2020.

THE NEXT GENERATION

Whether or not this comes to be viewed as a golden generation globally, the evidence in that regard for the British heavyweight scene is starting to look irrefutable.

Behind Fury, Joshua and Whyte, Daniel Dubois' destructive power has cut a swathe through the domestic scene, with 12 of the 22-year-old's 13 wins coming inside the distance.

Rio 2016 silver medallist Joe Joyce does not have time on his side to the same extent as countryman Dubois – a showdown between the two feels inevitable – but the 34-year-old is 10-0 having mixed with higher-calibre opposition.

Tony Yoka pipped Joyce to Olympic gold and is 7-0, although a one-year suspension from the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) for three missing three tests means he is playing catch-up having placed himself under the cloud that continues to darken the sport.

Filip Hrgovic will take his place on a stacked heavyweight bill in Saudi Arabia and is expected to defeat Eric Molina. A week in the spotlight has allowed the Croatian former amateur standout to talk up his chances of success against Wilder and Joshua, both of whom count Molina among their scalps.

Anthony Joshua has been given pointers by old foe Wladimir Klitschko as he looks to regain the unified world heavyweight title against Andy Ruiz Jr.

The previously undefeated Joshua was stunningly floored four times as he ceded the IBF, WBA and WBO belts to Ruiz inside seven rounds at New York's Madison Square Garden in June.

Where his thrilling 2017 win over former long-reigning heavyweight king Klitschko in front of 90,000 people at Wembley represented a career high, his upset loss was a punishing low.

The former foes are now friends and Klitschko has urged Joshua to avoid distractions after undertaking a more-boxing focused training camp for Saturday's rematch in Saudi Arabia.

"Klitschko is a G. He doesn't get enough credit, I think, for everything he's achieved and done," the 30-year-old Briton told his fighter meeting in Diriyah.

"When I fought him, he called me a cross-fit champion. I thought, 'Who's this geezer talking to?'.

"But he just knew that when it came to boxing he was more conditioned because he spent a lot more time in the ring. So we spent a lot more time in the ring this time, understanding ring generalship and the science of boxing.

"He told me to stay off my phone this week, don't listen to too much outside influences because your own belief is what's important this week; not what someone's trying to tell you from the outside."

The result of Joshua leaving the weights room behind is a leaner-looking fighter, who believes he could weigh in below 17 stone for the first time since 2014.

This does not mean he plans to box exclusively on the back foot to avoid Ruiz's blurring fists.

"For me, take centre ring," he replied when asked what the best tactics would be.

"If I'm six inches in front of Ruiz… all it takes for a man to miss a punch is six inches, so sometimes you haven't got to be running around the ring."

Indeed, Joshua mischievously suggested Ruiz would like him to box and move after a brief conversation at Wednesday's news conference.

"I asked him upstairs, 'How do I beat you then?'," he chuckled. "Man, you should move around a little…'.

"I'm 6ft 6, so it would be wrong for me to sit in front of Ruiz and go toe-to-toe hooking.

"I have to box on my attributes, which is range and movement. My boxing style is not what a scared fighter does, it's what a smart fighter would do.

"I'm going to be the smarter fighter on the night. We have to engage to win but I'm going to engage to my benefit."

Another piece of Klitschko advice was for Joshua to take an active role in the direction of his training under Rob McCracken and fighter and trainer are certainly speaking in unison.

"You can't jab and move against Ruiz. It's for the birds," said McCracken – Carl Froch's former cornerman, who has welcomed assistants Angel Fernandez and Joby Clayton into Joshua's camp this time around.

"He's going to come over the top at some point, close the gap and hit you with a right hand to the body.

"You've got to control him. You can't control yourself and him. He's going to pressure you too much.

"If you can move two inches, why move 10 inches? It doesn't make any sense."

Nathan Ferrari and Dudley O'Shaughnessy will comprise a two-member boxing team from St Lucia set to contest the 2019 Caribbean Boxing Championships, which begins on Monday, December 9, in Trinidad and Tobago.

Anthony Joshua has revealed he could weigh under 17 stone after shedding the pounds for his fight against Andy Ruiz Jr on Saturday.

The former WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight champion will look to win back the belts he lost in stunning fashion against Ruiz earlier this year when the pair do battle in Saudi Arabia.

Joshua weighed 17st 9lbs for the June fight in New York, where he was knocked down on four occasions before suffering his first career defeat in a result that shocked boxing.

The Briton will come in dramatically lighter for the rematch after a training camp inspired by the methods of Muhammad Ali, though he insists his punching power has actually improved.

Joshua (22-1) has not weighed in at under 17st for a fight since 2014.

"I may be less than 17 stone," the 30-year-old said to BBC Sport. "I'm punching loose and heavy - rhythm and flow. 

"Before I was trying to bench press a house. I used my body to get where I needed but then I started realising the sweet science of the sport. I am punching like a horse kicking backwards right now.

"When Muhammad Ali was training, he said he would build a shack to train in. There are clues to success and you have to go back to what it takes to be a great heavyweight champion. 

"We had to bring in hard, rough sparring partners. I brought in the toughest and roughest."

But Ruiz (33-1) engaged in mind games by turning up to Wednesday's press conference in a New York Knicks jersey and insisted he has no concerns over Joshua's power, despite being knocked down himself in the third round of their first fight.

"Not really," Ruiz, also 30, said of the threat of AJ's power. "I was the one who had the strength, the one backing him up. When I jabbed, I pushed him away.

"I know he lost weight and that he will try and box me around, so it's my job to prevent that.

"I have been doing this since I was six and it is finally paying off. There is no way I am going to let these belts go, I will die trying. It has been a rollercoaster and now that I made the dreams come true there is no way I will let these go."

The development with Joshua's weight drop has led Hasim Rahman, the former world champion who stunned Lennox Lewis before losing a rematch in 2001, to back Ruiz for victory.

"I am leaning at the moment to Ruiz by knockout," he said. 

"I just think Joshua has lost weight. I didn't see him with much fat to lose. I feel he may have lost muscle and that can be detrimental.

"He could win a decision if he executes perfectly and uses his distance. But if Andy hits him, Andy will finish him."

When Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua clash in their rematch for the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles, the tactical battle should prove to be intriguing.

Ruiz shocked the world when he decked Joshua four times on the way to a huge upset win in New York in June.

The Briton will be out to prove that setback was just a bump in the road and bring his superior physical attributes to bear, while Ruiz will aim to show that stunning result was no fluke.

The men calling the shots from the corners will have had their plans in place for some time now. But will Joshua's coach Rob McCracken or Ruiz's cornerman Manny Robles be celebrating?

Here, we look at the two steadying influences behind the big men.

ROB McCRACKEN

Record

A former British light-middleweight champion and middleweight world-title challenger, McCracken rose to global prominence as Carl Froch's trainer – a calm and astute voice in the corner as 'The Cobra' enjoyed a thrilling run at the top of the 168lb division. He also oversaw Great Britain's amateur squad in the build-up to a triumphant 2012 Olympic Games, bringing him into contact with Joshua, the gold medallist he guided to world honours in 16 professional fights.

Career highlight

When London 2012 arrived on the heels of Froch's underdog shellacking of Lucian Bute, there was a strong case to be made that McCracken was the finest British coach operating across any sport at that time. Three-time world champion Froch enjoyed many memorable nights, but his dismantling of feared southpaw Bute at a fervent Nottingham Arena marked a thrilling high for both boxer and trainer.

Career low

The ever-laconic McCracken appears to have taken most of the noise in his stride since Joshua's world came crashing down. Nevertheless, luminaries such as Lennox Lewis openly questioned his credentials, while McCracken's subsequently retracted claim that he let his fighter box on while "concussed" drew widespread criticism. Joshua insists he never considered parting company with his head trainer but has brought additional help into his camp, adding Angel Fernandez and Joby Clayton to the team.

What he said

"I think my reputation should speak for itself and my first concern is always for the fighters. That should never be questioned," McCracken told reporters this week, before expressing unexpected solidarity with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. "At this level, you're going to take stick. It comes with the territory and I've got a thick skin. The Manchester United manager is going to take stick if they lose and this is the equivalent in boxing."

What they said

"I feel like where we come from, loyalty means everything," Joshua told BBC Sport when discussing his coach's position. "I'm not perfect, Rob's not perfect but we're definitely trying. If I have the attitude to change Rob, then I might as well have the attitude to stop boxing after I've lost."

MANNY ROBLES

Record

Robles followed in his father's footsteps by stepping into a boxing gym and picking up the pads. Like McCracken, he honed his pedigree among elite amateurs, coaching the United States’ national team. In 2016, he led Oscar Valdez and Jessie Magdaleno to world titles on the same bill in Las Vegas – serving notice of a burgeoning world-class stable.

Career highlight

Allowing for his previous successes, masterminding one of the biggest world-title shocks in the history of the sport stands alone. Ruiz did not simply beat Joshua because of the discombobulating "punch from the gods" in round three, but systematically took a befuddled champion apart – bringing intelligent footwork and under-rated hand speed to bear, while also attacking clinically to the body.

Career low

Ruiz's toppling of Joshua chimed so satisfyingly because of what came before. Valdez, Magdaleno, Dominic Breazeale and Michael Conlan all left his stable in relatively quick succession for differing reasons. Former WBO featherweight king Valdez remains undefeated, with Robles saying their split was down to the fighter's manager, Frank Espinoza.

What he said

"Andy's the world champion, so we have to make sure he stays disciplined and grounded. My job is to keep him in line and remind him what got him here," Robles told the Guardian after he and his pupil enjoyed their night of all nights. "I know Andy will listen. We've been through too much to give it all up."

What they said

"Manny, you’ve been by my side since day one," Ruiz told Robles at a recent workout, as reported by The Athletic. "Only you understand where I am and what I've been going through."

Anthony Joshua insists there is no fear in his heart, eyes or mind but says it will not rank as a "special moment" if he can reclaim his heavyweight titles from Andy Ruiz Jr.

The Briton is out to reclaim the IBF, WBA and WBO straps he shockingly lost to Ruiz in New York in June, with Joshua falling to a seventh-round stoppage.

'AJ' has his chance at redemption in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and the 30-year-old insists the experience he has gained throughout his career will stand him in good stead.

"It's interesting this side of the table," Joshua told a news conference. "In my 16th fight I challenged [for a world title], then I challenged again with [Wladimir] Klitschko, then with [Joseph] Parker. So, this is my fourth time challenging.

"I've been boxing for a while now and when I came into boxing I didn't come to take part, I came to take over, with full force, fully committed.

"The focus was always there but I have had a chance to reflect. Olympics, British title, world title, boom, boom boom.

"Looking at the board, I've fought [Eric] Molina, [Alexander] Povetkin, [Dillian] Whyte, [Magomedrasul] Majidov and sparred with [Tom] Little and [Mariusz] Wach.

"I've been around the block in this game in a short space of time, I'm experienced.

"I didn't lose heart or fire in my belly. There is no fear in my heart, my eyes or my mind. I want to put on a show, I'm confident."

Regaining the belts is the target, but Joshua said: "I was asked, 'Would this be a special moment?'. I said no, because I belong there, it's not special.

"When I regain the belts I'll remain cool, remain focused. It's not a time to celebrate. I will keep cool and keep a challenger's mindset and move on to the next target."

Champion Ruiz acknowledges a refocused and energised Joshua poses a different threat this time around, but he has no intention of letting the belts go.

"AJ will come with a different game-plan and I know he is prepared, so I will be more cautious," Ruiz said.

"He lost weight and will try to box me around. I don't want to let these beautiful belts go.

"Now that I finally made my dreams come true, there is no way I will let them go."

David Haye does not believe Anthony Joshua was fully "switched on" when he suffered his stunning defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in June - but has backed the former champion to change that in Saturday's rematch.

Joshua and Ruiz will do battle for the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles in Saudi Arabia after the Briton suffered his first defeat at Madison Square Garden in their previous meeting.

Conspiracy theories raged after the fight about why Joshua had underperformed and whether he had gone into the fight fully fit.

Former WBA heavyweight champion Haye has offered his best guess on what went wrong and thinks a different Joshua will be on show for the second bout.

"No fighter is ever 100 per cent going into a fight, you always have niggles," Haye said to the Mirror.

"When you're sparring - physically fighting - a week before you’re always going to get strains and aches, torn muscles, issues with tendons and ligaments.

"You just have to get into the ring as close to 100 per cent as you can. From the outside, it didn’t seem that Joshua was switched on 100 per cent - but that's an uneducated guess.

"I don't know that; I'm guessing because his performance wasn't that of someone who was 100 per cent, or as close to 100 per cent, as he usually is.

"But I believe he will be switched on significantly more on Saturday night compared to how he was in Madison Square Garden."

Haye feels Joshua tried to finish the fight too early having dropped him in the third round before going down a total of four times himself in a defeat that shocked the boxing world.

"What he was surprised about was when Ruiz went down heavily and Joshua went in for the kill, but he hadn't cooked him enough," added Haye.

"He hadn't broken him down before he put on the final onslaught that should have closed the show.

"Then he walked on to a mighty left hook which changed the direction of the fight."

Anthony Joshua believes he will meet Andy Ruiz Jr for a third time, with the Briton confident he can avenge his stunning June defeat in Saturday's rematch.

Joshua lost his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles when he was shocked by Ruiz - a late replacement for Jarrell Miller - at Madison Square Garden in a fight that saw him knocked down four times.

He will attempt to win back those belts in Saudi Arabia this weekend but expects to have to deal with the considerable test of the Mexican-American once more before his career is over.

Speaking after an open workout in Riyadh, Joshua told Sky Sports: "He's going to be on my mind forever because all of these boys, we're all going to fight anyway. Me and Andy Ruiz, if he's dedicated to the game, we'll definitely see each other a third time down the line.

"This ain't going to be the last time I see Andy Ruiz in the ring. I think we make for good fights, I think there's definitely going to be a knockout in that fight as well and I think that's what the people want to see - bloodshed and knockouts. I think we'll definitely see each other a third time."

Joshua was unable to deal with the speed of Ruiz's hands in his seventh-round loss in New York but has not been strictly focusing on his own quickness in preparation for the rematch.

"I'm confident and I believe in myself that I'm going to be victorious," said Joshua.

"I'm quick anyway, I'm not really looking for anything except for the win. It's not about speed, it's not about nothing else, the objective is just to win, win, win."

Six months have passed since Andy Ruiz Jr sent seismic shockwaves through the world of boxing to dethrone heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.

The 11-1 underdog, a late replacement for Jarrell Miller, rose from the canvas to send 'AJ' to the floor and score a seventh-round knockout.

Joshua seeks to gain revenge in Riyadh on Saturday and reclaim the IBF, WBA and WBO belts he relinquished to the Mexican at Madison Square Garden on that fateful June evening.

But with the Briton's aura and reputation left in tatters in New York, can Joshua make amends for the first blot on a previously unblemished record? Or will Ruiz reign supreme once again.

Below, two Omnisport writers go head-to-head to discuss what will happen in Saudi Arabia.


All the greats had blips, Joshua will be hungrier now – Liam Blackburn

Muhammad Ali, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Wladimir Klitschko. Great heavyweight champions who all had to suffer the ignominy of a shock loss to an underdog. All four came back and won a world title again. 

Joshua insisted he did not underestimate Ruiz back in June but with unrelenting chatter about Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, was his eye really on the immediate danger? Would he really have handed his belts to his replacement opponent for a photo opportunity at a pre-fight face-off had he genuinely thought he might lose?

The golden boy of British boxing has had six months to stew over that night at Madison Square Garden, half a year to meticulously prepare for an opponent who was previously parachuted in at the last moment and almost 200 days of listening to the doubters saying he is just a hyped-up fraud.

Such chatter can only sharpen Joshua's mind. This time, there are no questions about Wilder, Fury and what's next; only a focus on righting a perceived wrong. As Ali, Lewis, Tyson and Klitschko did, a hungrier Joshua will approach this fight with a completely different mindset. In the long run, the loss to Ruiz may prove a blessing in disguise for a fighter too big and too good not to reclaim his titles.


It was an upset waiting to happen, Ruiz will keep the belts – Peter Hanson

To say I predicted Ruiz would beat AJ in their first bout would be a lie so big it would make Pinocchio's nose grow to epic new lengths. But that's not to say there wasn't an upset waiting to happen.

Questions had long since been asked about Joshua's chin. As long ago as 2015, before he even had a world title on his arm, AJ had been wobbled by a stinger from domestic rival Dillian Whyte.

Some 18 months later, he was floored for the first time by Klitschko – though he valiantly rose off the canvas to score a fine win in a classic. An unconvincing win against Carlos Takam followed, while there were problems early doors against Alexander Povetkin.

Whatever the cause for his defeat to Ruiz the first time round (was he concussed? Was it nerves? Was he merely outclassed?) there can be no doubting that the aura and air of invincibility he previously carried has gone. It is a big ask to regain it and chase the big fights with Wilder and Fury he once looked certain to face.

Anthony Joshua claimed he has a new mindset ahead of his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr as the Briton seeks to regain his heavyweight world titles on Saturday.

The first meeting between the two in June saw Ruiz produce one of the greatest boxing upsets of all time when he defeated the previously unbeaten Joshua in New York to take the IBF, WBA and WBO belts.

Joshua will get a shot at redemption in Saudi Arabia this weekend and the 30-year-old Briton revealed he has been advised by former world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.

The Ukrainian, who Joshua beat in a classic Wembley bout two years ago, suffered his own shock loss to Corrie Sanders earlier in his career but bounced back to become a world champion again.

"For someone who is going through success now, who is winning, definitely check yourself," Joshua told BBC Sport about the advice he has received.

"I have had to check myself and reinvent myself not physically, mentally."

Joshua, whose record is at 22-1, suffered an off night at Madison Square Garden having been sent to the canvas four times.

"There is fire in the belly," Joshua added.

"There are things I had had to do to take me to the next level.

"I am confident I can be victorious and when I am I will tell everyone of how I went wrong."

Revenge or repeat? This week, Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua will become the latest men to answer one of heavyweight boxing's most historically captivating questions.

Joshua sensationally lost his IBF, WBA and WBO titles at Madison Square Garden, as well as his unbeaten record, to late replacement Ruiz back in June.

The flabby but quick-fisted Mexican climbed off the canvas to cause an almighty upset, stopping his opponent in the seventh round. It was a result few expected and one that sent shockwaves through the boxing world.

The pair will reconvene in the unfamiliar surroundings of the purpose-built Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and the stakes could not be higher.

Joshua has taken a risk in going straight back in with a man who shattered his aura and scuppered any short-term plans for a unification fight with Deontay Wilder – the WBC champion who recently tackled his own rematch against Luis Ortiz in emphatic style.

History suggests, however, that the Englishman is right to try and exorcise the demons. Here, Omnisport looks back at some other famous heavyweights who opted for an immediate rematch.

 

Joe Louis v Jersey Joe Walcott – Jun 25, 1948 (New York)

Louis was the longest-reigning heavyweight champion of the world at the time of his first meeting with Walcott, a former sparring partner for 'the Brown Bomber' who had started out at middleweight. What unfolded at Madison Square Garden was not the mismatch expected, though, as the huge underdog appeared to have pulled off the mother of all upsets. Having attempted to leave the ring before the verdict was announced, expecting to hear he had lost, Louis was apologetic after getting a generous decision victory.

'The Brown Bomber' gave Walcott an immediate rematch – but the judges had no need to get involved second time around. A tepid fight came to life in the 11th round when a big right hand paved the way for Louis to win by knockout. The champion initially retired after the bout, though he was back in the ring just over two years later.

 

Muhammad Ali v Leon Spinks - September 15, 1978 (New Orleans)

Olympic gold medallist Spinks was a 10-1 underdog when he came out on the right side of a split-decision in his first meeting with Ali in just his eighth pro fight. 'The Greatest' was anything but down the stretch, admitting afterwards that he had used the wrong tactics. Spinks, meanwhile, said: "I'm the latest, but he's the greatest" after becoming the new WBA and WBC champion.

Having lost in Las Vegas in February, Ali moved the venue to New Orleans for the return seven months later. Spinks had been stripped of one of the titles and his corner was chaos. He was outmanoeuvred by the old man, with Ali winning by a landslide on the scorecards to become the first man to be crowned heavyweight world champions on three separate occasions. It was meant to be his last fight, but instead only ended up being his final victory.

 

Evander Holyfield v Mike Tyson – June 28, 1997 (Las Vegas)

Holyfield v Tyson was a long time in the making. Finally, with Iron Mike holding the WBA belt, they met at the MGM Grand in 1997. They did not disappoint either, Tyson producing a fast start but unable to find a way to truly hurt his foe. As each round passed, Holyfield assumed control, eventually stopping his fellow American with a flurry of punches in the 11th to reign as a world champion in the division for a third time.

They signed up to do it all again seventh months later at the same venue, Tyson stunning the world by biting his rival not once but twice in the third round. The first offence was to Holyfield's right ear, resulting in an obvious injury for all to see. Following a two-point deduction for taking a piece of flesh, Tyson did it again – this time to the left ear – when the action eventually resumed. Referee Mills Lane, who had replaced Mitch Halpern following a complaint from Tyson's camp, disqualified the disgraced challenger.

 

Riddick Bowe v Andrew Golota - December 14, 1996 (Atlantic City)

The first clash between Bowe and Golota was eventful, to say the least. Golota was undoubtedly the better of the two in the ring but unwilling to abide by the rules. Already deducted points in the fourth and sixth rounds for low blows, two more in the seventh saw the bout called off by referee Wayne Kelly. That was not the end of the fighting, though, as things quickly turned ugly between the two different camps, while there were also scuffles among members of the crowd inside Madison Square Garden.

Bowe insisted afterwards he would not fight Golota again, yet the pair were back in opposite corners just five months later, this time in Atlantic City. The controversial Pole was once again disqualified for punches below the belt when ahead on the scorecards. "I can't defend him," said Lou Duva, Golota's co-trainer. "I wish I could. I can't explain it."

 

Lennox Lewis v Hasim Rahman - November 17, 2001 (Las Vegas)

Lewis can relate to Joshua's situation. He was the IBF and WBC champion who had Tyson in his sights - Rahman was nothing more than a stepping stone, a hurdle to clear before moving on to bigger and better (meaning more lucrative) things. Instead, the American caught out his rival in a fight held at altitude in Gauteng, South Africa, in April 2001. Lewis had come in heavier than usual having trained in Las Vegas to allow him to make a cameo appearance in Ocean's 11.

The less-than-perfect preparation saw him sunk by a right hand that laid Lewis out on the canvas. Second time around, however, he made sure not to make the same mistakes. The return later the same year was brutally swift, Lewis regaining his belts with a fourth-round stoppage that never looked in doubt from the opening bell. "I told you that punch was a lucky punch in South Africa. I had too many attributes for him," he said in the immediate aftermath.

Adam Lopez expressed desire for a rematch with Oscar Valdez after a debatable stoppage in his super-featherweight defeat on Saturday.

Lopez - son of the late Hector Lopez, a three-time challenger for world titles in the 1990s - stepped in as a last-minute replacement for Andres Gutierrez, who came in 11 pounds over 130lbs limit.

He produced a hugely creditable performance, dropping the undefeated Valdez in the second round.

However, a shuddering left hook followed by a big right hand from Valdez sent Lopez crashing into the ropes and down in round seven.

A subsequent flurry from the Mexican persuaded referee Russell Mora to step in with just seven seconds left in the session.

Lopez, who was up on one of the scorecards at the time of the stoppage, stepped up from featherweight to fill in for Gutierrez and, although the 23-year-old sees his future in the 126lbs division, he would be willing to make the jump again for a rematch.

"He hurt me but I was up, I was fine, I was blocking shots. I think he caught me one time and then the ref jumped in and stopped it," Lopez told ESPN. "I think I would have been fine if I would have finished the round.

"I think I was up on the scorecards, it's just a shame but this is boxing, I can't do nothing about it. I would love a rematch with Oscar, he's a true fighter. I'm not a 130-pounder but I'm a real fighter as well so I'll take on anybody, anywhere, let's get a rematch.

Despite Lopez's wishes for a return, Valdez is focused on a WBC title fight with Miguel Berchelt. The scheduled fight with Gutierrez had been a WBC title eliminator, and Valdez is still hopeful he can face his compatriot.

Asked about the knockdown he suffered, Valdez said: "I was very surprised. I take my hat off to Adam Lopez, he's a great fighter, great warrior just like his father was.

"I just got hit, this is boxing. I prepared myself for two or three months for Gutierrez, got a new opponent, but no excuses. This kid is a warrior."

On Berchelt, he added: "He's a true champion inside the ring and outside the ring, the fans love him. That's the one I want to fight. He has that WBC belt, let's try take it back home."

Carl Frampton wants to challenge Jamel Herring for the WBO super featherweight title after getting back to winning ways with a dominant points victory over Tyler McCreary on Saturday.

Frampton had not fought since failing to beat Josh Warrington for the IBF title in December last year. The former two-weight world champion had been due to face Emmanuel Dominguez in August but fractured his metacarpal after a large concrete ornament in a hotel lobby fell on his left hand.

The Northern Irishman confirmed he re-fractured the hand in training for his bout with McCreary, and believed he did so again during a fight in which he dropped the American twice with powerful body shots.

However, after claiming victory via a unanimous decision, Frampton has his sights set on a title fight with Herring, who was in attendance on Saturday in Las Vegas after winning his first defence of the strap against Lamont Roach last month.

Speaking to ESPN, Frampton said: "It's the first time I've met Jamel, my impression of him before I met him was that he's a nice guy and he's lived up to the impression I had of him.

"I know he's a champ, I just want to fight for a world title next, I want to be involved in big fights, and I would love the opportunity to fight Jamel.

"I'm not the champion, he's the champion. If it happens in Belfast, happy days. If it doesn't and I have to go New York I'm keen for that.

"My hand wasn't great coming into the camp so it's always a bit softer hitting a body than a head. I feel like I hurt it again in the second round, that's why it wasn't the most exciting fight in the world but I just cruised to a points win. I just wanted to be safe.

"I feel like it's probably re-fractured, I re-fractured it twice in the camp and I knew a lot of people was coming here to support me.

"There's absolutely no way I wasn't fighting. I've done like 26, 28 rounds of sparring because of the hand but I had to fight."

An incredulous Bob Arum labelled Andres Gutierrez a "disgrace" after the fighter was pulled out of his WBC super-featherweight world title eliminator against Oscar Valdez having weighed in a stunning 11 pounds over the limit.

Valdez's debut at 130lb will now come against late replacement Adam Lopez, who was previously scheduled to appear on the undercard, due to Gutierrez missing weight in spectacular fashion.

Veteran promoter Arum told FightHype.com: "I've seen a guy two or three pounds overweight, that's still unprofessional. To come in 11 pounds overweight is a f****** disgrace. We're throwing him out of the hotel."

Asked if there was any chance of Valdez still facing Gutierrez, Arum added: "I am not allowing and neither would the commission allow a fight to go ahead at 130 when a guy comes in 11 pounds over that. You're not allowed, there's rules."

Gutierrez was duly suspended by the WBC, who lamented his "embarrassing and extraordinary action" in a statement.

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said: "What just happened in Las Vegas is of extreme concern. Gutierrez is officially suspended by the WBC and we will initiate a thorough investigation of the facts."

Prior to Lopez's promotion to the main event being confirmed, a dejected Valdez made it clear he was still willing to face Gutierrez.

"My immediate reaction was 'I'll still fight him' because now there's even more anger," said the former WBO featherweight champion. "Now I really want to get in there and really kick your ass, because I'm mad now. But Bob and my father said no. 

"It's unbelievable. I had to hear it [Gutierrez's weight] twice because I wasn't sure if it was 131 or 141. When I saw it was 141, I couldn't believe that. It's very unprofessional. I'm very upset. I'm just very disappointed in him."

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