Anthony Joshua has vowed he will not become an old man in the boxing ring, stating he has "five years left" in his career.

Britain's WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight world champion is set for a unification fight with WBC belt holder Tyson Fury this year.

Details have yet to be disclosed of exactly where and when that two-fight series will happen, but it is poised to be a major moment in the career of both men, given the stakes involved.

Joshua is at that stage of his career where he is already a global star but where such fights matter in defining his legacy.

That is what he will look to achieve before hanging up his gloves, with the 31-year-old having shaken off the disappointment of a first professional defeat in 2019, when he lost to Andy Ruiz Jr.

Speaking to Sky Sports News, Joshua said: "This isn't the start of my career. I'm coming towards the end of my career.

"I'm not someone who lives in the moment and thinks that everything is just like for now. I'm always planning ahead so I'm coming towards the end of my career.

"Five years left and that's basically an Olympic cycle. I've got an Olympic cycle and a little bit more left, so when you see the next Olympics happen is when I'll be coming to the end of my career and the next generation will be coming through."

Joshua beat Kubrat Pulev in December to keep a grip on his belts, allowing plans for the Fury bout to remain on track and progressing to a 24-1 career win-loss record.

A two-fight deal with Fury, who dismissed Joshua as a "chump" on social media on Thursday, was said to have been verbally agreed in the weeks after the Pulev fight.

Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn said the first instalment could happen in the Middle East unless stadiums are again allowed to be filled to capacity in the United Kingdom, currently a distant prospect amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Anthony Joshua would love his blockbuster bout with Tyson Fury to happen at Wembley Stadium but insisted he will face his domestic rival "wherever it is, whatever time it is".

IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua is finally set to face off against WBC champion Fury in 2021 after clearing the hurdle of Kubrat Pulev at England's national stadium last month.

It remains to be seen where the huge heavyweight showdown between the British foes will take place due to continued uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Boxing events in Britain are suspended in January due to the rise in COVID-19 cases and Joshua insists fans would need to be allowed to attend if the fight with Fury takes place at Wembley. 

"I would welcome Tyson Fury to that. I would welcome him to that all day," Joshua told Sky Sports News.

"It's brilliant for the kids of the local areas to come down. It's like half an hour drive, a couple of hours' drive for some of them.

"It's a brilliant opportunity to have it here as well, but the government have got to do right by the people and protect us from this virus. I understand the situation that the country is in.

"I think the possibilities of it being in this country are down to the pandemic, and how that shapes up.

"I feel, for me, I'm not too fussed where it is. I just want to get the fight, because there's so much variables, and so much for me to look at. Where is it going to be? Is he going to take the fight? Have I got a mandatory?

"I've just stripped it all back now and stopped dealing with that stuff. I've just said, 'Let me just fight Tyson Fury wherever it is, whatever time it is.'"

No specific date has yet been rubber-stamped for a fight that would see an undisputed heavyweight champion crowned, but Joshua is targeting a meeting by the middle of the year.

"I think maybe June, end of June," said Joshua.

"It needs a bit of time, because the pandemic is unpredictable at the minute. We don't know what's happening, but with a little more time, it gives us more time to prepare and plan.

"Right now, I said to the team, let's get ahead of the curve, let's start putting things in place now. They are doing a great job.

"I promise you, conversations and face-to-face meetings are happening with representations of my team and Tyson Fury's team."

Tyson Fury doubts Anthony Joshua's knockout power and claims his heavyweight rival has a confidence issue, having avoided fighting him "for a long time". 

The two British boxers appear on course to finally face each other after Joshua was victorious over Kubrat Pulev in December, stopping the Bulgarian in the ninth round of their bout at Wembley Arena. 

Both sides agreed in principle to a two-fight deal for 2021, though details over a date and venue for an initial bout are still being discussed.

After seeing off Pulev, IBF, WBA and WBO champion Joshua vowed to beat Fury when they finally go toe to toe, insisting he will take his "head off his shoulders" in the long-awaited showdown. 

However, in an interview with Fox Miami, the holder of the WBC title questioned Joshua's ability to back up his words. 

 "I don't think he's as good as people crack him up to be, or he doesn't believe he is, his own self. He's got a confidence issue," Fury said. 

"The fight has been brewing for a long time. They've been avoiding me for a long time. Now it's finally got to happen. 

"I've never seen him take anybody's head off anybody's shoulders in all of his 22 fights. It's probably a lie, another lie. We'll see if he's got the guts to try and do it." 

Fury had hoped to get in a bout before the end of 2020 - a year in which the boxing schedule was badly hampered due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic - only to shelve that plan.

The 32-year-old has not fought since February of last year, when he sensationally stopped the previously unbeaten Deontay Wilder in their rematch in Las Vegas.

Promoter Frank Warren has revealed talks are ongoing over a date and venue for Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua to meet in a fight that will be "one of the biggest in British boxing history".

The two heavyweights have both made clear they are keen for a lucrative unification showdown, with a two-fight deal previously agreed between both sides for 2021.

However, there are still details to be sorted out, including over exactly where a first bout will be staged, particularly with the continuing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on major sporting events.

Outlining his plans for the coming year in his column for the Daily Star, Warren - whose Queensberry Promotions work with Fury - has no doubts over who will prevail, whenever the event takes place.

"The big one that everyone wants to see is Tyson Fury against Anthony Joshua to decide the undisputed heavyweight champion," Warren wrote.

"Talks are continuing as we plan when and where to stage one of the biggest fights in British boxing history.

"Of course, I'm backing Fury to come out on top in that and prove what I believe that he is the best heavyweight in the world right now."

Joshua retained the IBF, WBA and WBO titles in December when he stopped Kubrat Pulev in front of a limited crowd of 1,000 at Wembley Arena.

Fury, meanwhile, holds the WBC belt, having dethroned Deontay Wilder in their rematch last February. He had hoped to fight again before the end of 2020, but was forced to shelve those plans.

Warren confirmed the continued COVID-19 health crisis makes it unclear exactly when fans will be able to be present in big numbers inside venues, but made clear "the planning and plotting continues".

That includes trying to fix a date for Carl Frampton's bid to win a world title a third different weight, 'The Jackal' set to take on WBO super-featherweight champion Jamel Herring as early as February.

Anthony Joshua has denied claims he is scared to face Tyson Fury and is eager to finalise a contract for a much-anticipated unification fight between the heavyweights. 

Promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed on Saturday a verbal agreement is in place for Joshua to take on Fury next year, most likely in the Middle East due to coronavirus restrictions.

IBF, WBA and WBO title holder Joshua knocked out Kubrat Pulev earlier this month to clear another potential hurdle standing between himself and a lucrative clash with Fury.

He appeared reluctant to call out the WBC champion in the aftermath of the fight at Wembley Arena, saying only that his focus was on securing the fourth heavyweight belt.

Fury accused his fellow Briton of running scared but Joshua is determined to put everything on the line by finalising a date for a money-spinning bout in 2021.

"Whether he really wants it or not, I'm keen," Joshua told Sky Sports. "I basically said, 'If Tyson Fury is the man with the belts, Tyson Fury is the man I want.' 

"That basically says, 'I'll fight anyone who has that belt, there's no problem with the person'. I just want to go for the undisputed championship. 

"That's what I was trying to say that night. He took it how he wanted to take it. I've never turned away from a fight. I've never announced a fight and not showed up. 

"I've fought six to seven champions, in my short career. Tyson Fury is another one of them.

"There's no reason as to why I see him any different to any other. If Fury is down, I'm ready, I'm keen. I've got four of the major belts, he's got one. I'll take that one from him."

Fury has not stepped in the ring since beating Deontay Wilder to reclaim the WBC heavyweight belt in February, with plans for a trilogy fight halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Joshua's mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk has suggested he is happy to step aside for now, meanwhile, clearing another obstacle.

"I'm speaking to my management team, and I'm ready. I'm keen," Joshua said. "I've got past my mandatory. Right now, I'm about less talk, more action.

"But the ultimate thing coming from me, I'm ready. The next fight, I want Tyson Fury, the next fight I want the WBC champion, the next fight I want to be for the undisputed championship of the world.

"That being said, they are in conversations now – my management team, my promotional outfit – of the best way to put a package together that can lead us into 2021.

"Hopefully, the pandemic will be done and we can bring someone unity, a good energy to Britain, if we can announce this fight."

There is a verbal agreement in place for Anthony Joshua to fight Tyson Fury in a heavyweight unification bout, with promoter Eddie Hearn seemingly suggesting the Middle East as the likely venue.

Joshua's ninth-round stoppage of Kubrat Pulev last week kept him on a collision course with Fury, who has not fought since defeating Deontay Wilder to claim the WBC title, which is the only belt Joshua does not own.

Wilder has a rematch clause he can trigger for a third fight with Fury, however, Joshua's promoter Hearn is insistent the only bout either camp is concerned about is one that will crown a Briton as the undisputed champion.

Speaking at the post-fight news conference for Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez's victory over Callum Smith, Hearn said: "They've been ongoing none stop, the next move is drafting of agreements which is going on right now.

"[There's] a lot of work to do on that but only minor points in my opinion to resolve. So I think you'll see over the next few weeks getting into that position where we can get into the market place and look at where that fight might take place. But as I've said before no one is looking at another fight from either team other than that one."

Asked about a verbal agreement, he added: "Yes, yes I mean we have a verbal.

"AJ has a fighting exclusive with Sky, Fury with BT, in America Fury with ESPN, AJ with DAZN. Minor again, then the silly stuff, who walks out first, who gets the better changing room. AJ thinks he's the A side, Fury thinks he's the A side. Anthony Joshua [is the A side] - when you talk about as a global brand and the biggest draw globally in that fight, it's clear it's AJ. He has three of the belts - this is why AJ could fight in December and Fury couldn't.

"It depends where it could take place, if it's in the Middle East I think Ramadan runs until mid-May so the end of May, early June is target for that fight. If it's in the UK May-June is great as well.

"But the only way that fight can take place in the UK is if 90,000 fans can attend. Even then guys could be taking 50 per cent of the purse in another territory, but right now with the UK going into another lockdown, who knows if we'll see those kind of numbers?"

Tyson Fury has urged Anthony Joshua to "grow a pair and sign the contract" for a much-anticipated unification fight between the heavyweights. 

Joshua knocked out Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena on Saturday to retain his IBF, WBA and WBO belts, in the process clearing another potential hurdle standing between himself and a lucrative showdown with Fury. 

Promoter Eddie Hearn revealed on Sunday that an agreement could be in place for a 'Battle of Britain' clash in May 2021 in the next "couple of days". 

Fury, who has not stepped in the ring since reclaiming the WBC heavyweight belt with victory over Deontay Wilder in February, has now ramped up the stakes by suggesting the deal hinges on Joshua. 

"I'm willing to take the fight, I don't know if they are," he told ITV's Good Morning Britain. 

"I've been willing to take the fight for the last five years, it's not happened so far but I'm very optimistic it will happen in 2021."

Asked if he had a message for Joshua, he replied: "Grow a pair and sign the contract, big boy." 

Plans for a trilogy fight between Fury and Wilder in July were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, while Joshua may yet be told by the WBO that he has to face mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk next. 

Should an agreement finally be reached between Fury and Joshua for a two-fight deal, it will reportedly be worth $500million (£372.47m). 

"Well, that doesn't sound too bad, but then again I don't believe anything I see in the paper," Fury said. 

"So yeah, we'll see what's going go on, but let's hope this fight happens." 

He added: "All of these organisations will allow this fight - it's the biggest one since Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman and the Rumble in the Jungle. it's a massive fight. 

"Oleksandr Usyk is a mandatory - but if that belt has to be vacated then I'm sure they’re going to do it to make the biggest fight of our generation. 

"I'm willing, I hope he's willing and let's give the fans the fight they really want to see." 

Joshua finished Pulev with a brutal right in the ninth round, but Fury was not that impressed by his rival's performance and vowed to get the job done inside four rounds. 

"I'm not just saying it because he's going to be a rival of mine and he's going to be one of my opponents, but I've always said for a long time that I do believe Anthony Joshua's tailor-made for somebody with my style," he said. 

"I think it's going be one of the most explosive, quickest fights you're going to see. I'm aiming to take him out inside four rounds." 

A deal for the long-awaited world heavyweight unification title fight between Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury could be agreed within days, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.

Joshua knocked out Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena on Saturday to retain his IBF, WBA and WBO belts and clear another potential hurdle standing between himself and a lucrative showdown with Fury.

Hearn confirmed in the aftermath of the fight that talks over a 'Battle of Britain' clash in 2021 will ramp up on Monday and has now revealed he expects a contract to be signed imminently.

Asked how long it will realistically take to complete a deal between both camps, Hearn was quoted by BBC Sport as saying: "A couple of days. There is no reason we cannot complete the deal and then move on and solve the other problems.

"We need to write to the governing bodies and say yes we have a deal and we will now talk to the various sites and confirm the dates shortly for what I suppose will be the end of May."

Fury reclaimed the WBC heavyweight belt by ending Deontay Wilder's unbeaten streak in February with a sensational seventh-road stoppage in their much-anticipated rematch in Las Vegas.

However, he has not been in action since as plans for a trilogy between the pair in July were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, while a possible return to the ring in December against another opponent was ruled out last month.

Joshua may be told by the WBO that he has to face mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk, meanwhile, but Matchroom promoter Hearn remains confident of getting the bout on in 2021.

"The only hitch I can think of is Wilder. If the court order the Fury rematch, and it doesn't sound as though they will, then it is out of our hands," he said. "That is the only way it falls through is if something stops their side. 

"That isn't me saying they don't want it, they do, but if the court orders it then we will have to fight Usyk.

"The WBO probably on Monday will email to say you have 30 days to start negotiations with Usyk. [Bob] Arum seems very confident that the fight (Wilder-Fury) is not on. Unless he has made complete balls up, it sounds like the fight is dead."

There is no doubting Fury's eagerness for the fight, with the 32-year-old having posted a video to his official Twitter account on Saturday promising a quick win in a meeting with Joshua. 

"He got asked if he wants the fight and he went around the bushes," Fury said in the video.

"I want the fight. I want the fight next – I will knock him out inside three rounds. He's a big bum dosser, I can't wait to knock him out."

Eddie Hearn promised "less talk" and "more action" as the promoter plans to get a deal done for Anthony Joshua to fight Tyson Fury next. 

Joshua cleared a potential hurdle in the way of the lucrative heavyweight showdown by beating Kubrat Pulev on Saturday, in the process retaining his IBF, WBA and WBO belts. 

Fury is the reigning WBC champion, and the two British boxers now appear on a collision course for 2021. 

Hearn believes it will be a historical occasion when the pair do finally meet in the ring, as he plans to begin negotiations with Fury's team immediately. 

"Since he [Joshua] came into my office, he's wanted to be undisputed heavyweight champion of the world," Hearn told Sky Sports Boxing. 

"Less talk from us, more action. We're going to be friendly, we're going to be nice. We know what we have to do, starting from tomorrow, we make the Tyson Fury fight straight away. 

"It's the only fight to be made in boxing – and it's the biggest fight in boxing. It's the biggest fight in British boxing history, too. 

"I know he [Joshua] wants it. He's the best heavyweight in the world, I promise you. He will break him down and knock him out. 

"We know what we have to do, we know what we want to do. It's about legacy – and we will get it done."

Top Rank's Bob Arum, who works with Fury, also made clear that his priority is to get the fight signed and sealed, insisting it will be as big as Muhammad Ali against Joe Frazier, which is known as the 'Fight of the Century'.

"It looks like the stage is set for the biggest heavyweight championship fight since Ali-Frazier in 1971, when Tyson Fury meets Anthony Joshua for the undisputed crown," Arum posted on Twitter.

"We at Top Rank will start on Monday working to put that fight together."

Fury shelved plans to fight before the end of 2020, while he and Joshua – who stopped Pulev in the ninth round at Wembley Arena – agreed a two-fight deal earlier this year.

Anthony Joshua made clear his desire to become the undisputed heavyweight champion ahead of a potential showdown with Tyson Fury, who insists he will knock out his rival inside three rounds.

In his first fight on home soil in over two years, Joshua successfully defended his IBF, WBO and WBA titles with a ninth-round stoppage of Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena on Saturday.

The victory clears a major hurdle standing in the way of a unification clash with Fury, who holds the WBC belt following his victory over Deontay Wilder earlier this year.

For Joshua, the only thing that matters is his legacy as he looks to complete the set in 2021.

"I started this game in 2013, I've been chasing all the belts and dealing with mandatories," Joshua told Sky Sports Boxing.

"Of course I want a challenge. It's not about the opponent, it's about the legacy and the belt.

"Whoever has got the belt, I'd love to compete with them. If that is Tyson Fury, let it be Tyson Fury. It's no big deal.

"It's just one fight at time, picking them off one at a time. I've got to stay focused."

Fury himself was quick to offer his verdict on social media, posting a video including a prediction of an early stoppage win in his favour, should the bout go ahead in 2021.

"He got asked if he wants the fight and he went around the bushes," Fury said in a Twitter post.

"I want the fight. I want the fight next – I will knock him out inside three rounds. He's a big bum dosser, I can't wait to knock him out."

On his performance against Pulev, who was knocked down four times in total, Joshua commented: "It's a fight – less talk, more action.

"We did our press conference on Thursday, on Friday there was a bit of back to back [at the weigh-in], but boxing is about less talk and more action.

"I hope everyone was satisfied tonight, not only with my fight but the whole undercard as well."

Anthony Joshua retained his IBF, WBA and WBO titles in style at Wembley Arena, stopping Kubrat Pulev in the ninth round of their heavyweight contest. 

In his first outing since reclaiming the belts from Andy Ruiz Jr just over a year ago, Joshua dropped his challenger four times on his way to a victory that clears the path for a huge unification clash with WBC champion Tyson Fury in 2021. 

Pulev had exchanged words with the unified champion at a feisty weigh-in on Friday, yet the Bulgarian failed to pose too many problems once the pair came face to face again in the ring.

Joshua had produced a calculated performance to avenge a stunning first loss in the pros to Ruiz, utilising his boxing skills to record a unanimous points win in their Diriyah rematch in December 2019. 

However, there was no need for the judges on Saturday, the Briton finishing the job as he recorded a 22nd stoppage victory in his 25-fight career. 

After a quiet start to proceedings, the action suddenly came to life in front of a 1,000-strong crowd – Floyd Mayweather Jr among them following the easing of coronavirus restrictions in London – when Pulev was put down twice in the third round. 

Joshua countered a laboured jab with a crunching right hand that immediately had his opponent in trouble, leading to an onslaught that ended when Pulev turned his back while stuck in a corner. 

Cleared to carry on, an uppercut saw him dropped again before an eventful round concluded with both fighters landing hooks after the bell had sounded. 

The only surprise after that was Pulev managing to last for as long as he did, the 39-year-old occasionally even having the odd moment of success as the contest became scrappy. 

Joshua, though, produced a series of uppercuts to signal the beginning of the end, leading to a third knockdown. Pulev rose again to continue, only to be caught by a straight right hand that laid him out. 

It was an emphatic finish, followed by celebrations with Mayweather at ringside, as Joshua made sure he did not slip up with so much at stake.

Anthony Joshua is back on British soil aiming to avoid another untimely career setback when he defends his IBF, WBA and WBO titles against Kubrat Pulev. 

The unified heavyweight champion has Tyson Fury pencilled in for a fight in 2021 – provided he comes through Saturday's main event at Wembley Arena, which will see a 1,000-strong crowd present. 

Pulev has patiently waited his turn – this pair were initially due to meet back in 2017, only for the Bulgarian to have to pull out through injury – but finally gets his chance, this a second attempt to stage the contest in 2020 after a June date was scuppered by the coronavirus pandemic.

He certainly did not waste his opportunity at the weigh-in to get under Joshua's skin, as a lengthy exchange between the pair went on for several minutes as security watched on, just in case.

The challenger has a record to suggest there is reason to believe he can back up his words with meaningful actions. Pulev's only defeat in the paid ranks was to Wladimir Klitschko six years ago - and he's won eight on the spin since that setback.

Still, he is now 39 and has not fought anyone close to Joshua's level since being stopped inside five rounds by Klitschko.

In truth, though, this is all about Joshua. The Briton bounced back from a first career loss to regain his titles a year ago against an out-of-shape Andy Ruiz Jr, a considered approach allowing him to dictate terms over 12 rounds. 

His method paid off on that occasion, aided by his opponent's lack of thorough preparation, but will we see a return to the more aggressive, open style that helped his rise in popularity? 

A desire to impress somewhat caused his downfall in the first meeting with Ruiz, who climbed off the canvas to cause a monumental shock at the famous Madison Square Garden. Pulev's pre-fight words may well have tempted Joshua into a battle, but to do so is a risk for the home favourite when so much is at stake.

Fury - and boxing fans across the world - will watch on with great interest, knowing a win for the home favourite clears one of the major hurdles in the way of a huge unification showdown for next year.


RECENT HISTORY 

Joshua has not fought at home since September 2018, when he stopped Alexander Povetkin at a packed-out Wembley Stadium.

Since then, his two fights on the road have both been against Ruiz Jr, the last of them a rematch staged in Diriyah that went the distance.

Pulev, meanwhile, fought twice in 2019, beating Rydell Booker on points in a 10-rounder to follow on from a stoppage success against Bogdan Dinu earlier in the year.

He has two relatively recent bouts against British fighters on his career resume too, having beaten both Hughie Fury (October 2018) and Dereck Chisora (May 2016) on points. 


TALE OF THE TAPE 

ANTHONY JOSHUA

Age: 31
Height: 6ft 6ins (198cm) 
Weight: 241lbs 
Reach: 82ins  
Professional record: 23-1 (21 KOs) 
Major career titles: IBF, WBA, WBO heavyweight

KUBRAT PULEV

Age: 39
Height: 6ft 4.5ins (194cm) 
Weight: 239lbs 
Reach: 79.5ins  
Professional record: 28-1 (14 KOs) 
Major career titles: European heavyweight


THE UNDERCARD 

Lawrence Okolie takes on late stand-in Nikodem Jezewski in a cruiserweight contest as chief support. Originally, the plan had been to fight for the vacant WBO title against Krzysztof Glowacki, who was forced to withdraw from the card after testing positive for COVID-19.

Hughie Fury - a former Pulev foe - is in action against the experienced Mariusz Wach, while there is an intriguing heavyweight clash involving Martin Bakole and Sergey Kuzmin.

Unbeaten welterweight Florian Marku makes his Matchroom debut, taking on Jamie Stewart over eight rounds. However, the former nearly came to blows long before the first bell after becoming involved in a Twitter spat with another boxer inside the bubble.

Macaulay McGowan, who is up against Kieron Conway on Saturday, made clear in an interview he wants to take on Marku in the future, leading to an exchange of messages on social media and a meeting in a hotel corridor that required the presence of security to diffuse the situation.

WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY... 

Joshua on the weigh-in confrontation: "I know what's he like. He thinks he's a warrior. I said, 'Don't let the guys you've fought gas you up - you're in against a real one now'."

Pulev after the verbal exchange: "I respect him - he's an Olympic champion, a world champion. I respect him so much, but I am the better boxer. Tomorrow (Saturday) I will show him."

Trainer Rob McCracken on Joshua's mindset: "He doesn't underestimate anybody, takes everybody seriously. But he's not unified champion twice for no reason - he's a fantastic fighter and will only get better."

Anthony Joshua claimed Kubrat Pulev "spoke a lot of rubbish" after the two heavyweights were involved in a heated exchange at Friday's weigh-in. 

Joshua came in at 17 stone and two pounds ahead of the defence of his IBF, WBA and WBO titles at Wembley Arena – slightly heavier than when he regained those belts by beating Andy Ruiz Jr in their rematch last December. 

Challenger Pulev was two pounds lighter on the scales, though the weights were not the real story as the pair verbally sparred with each other. 

The lengthy conversation went on for several minutes on the stage and continued as Joshua stepped away to conduct media duties.

"He spoke a lot of rubbish. That's all it is," the unified champion told Sky Sports, opting not to reveal exactly what was said to spark the situation. 

"Many years I've been watching boxing and have seen fighters talk a load of rubbish, then they get smacked up. That's just him doing what fighters do."

He continued: "That doesn't really intimidate me. I would have just cracked him in his jaw there and then, but I've got to do that tomorrow."

Joshua is fighting for the first time on home soil in more than two years. A total of 1,000 fans will be present at the venue, following an easing of restrictions amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

He stopped Alexander Povetkin in the seventh round back in September 2018 at Wembley Stadium and, following the terse back-and-forth discussion with Pulev that kept security busy, made clear he does not expect this bout to go the distance either. 

"I know what's he like. He thinks he's a warrior," Joshua said. "I said, 'Don't let the guys you've fought 'gas' you up - you're in against a real one now'.

"We're big boys, we punch heavy. The first man to land, that will be the last man standing."

When he faces Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena on Saturday, Anthony Joshua will enter the ring as a two-time unified world heavyweight champion.

It will be a year and five days since he avenged his sole career loss to Andy Ruiz Jr with a landslide point victory in Diriyah, becoming the fourth man in heavyweight history to regain his titles in an immediate rematch.

The others are Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis, which handily outlines the sort of company the 31-year-old will hope to remain alongside in posterity.

How Joshua attempts to disarm and dismantle the veteran Pulev, with an undisputed showdown against Tyson Fury purportedly on the agenda for 2021, could tell us much about how he will approach this final legacy-building act of his career.

Taste for a tear up

Joshua made his swift transition from 2012 Olympic golden boy to box-office superstar thanks to his thirst for knockouts, the most valuable currency in which a heavyweight can trade.

Each of his first 20 professional wins came inside the scheduled distance, with 16 of those fights ending within three rounds.

Standout victories over Dillian Whyte and Wladimir Klitschko made good on Joshua's professed admiration for the fabled 1976 slugfest between George Foreman and Ron Lyle. In his first bout since a humiliating loss to Ali in the "Rumble in the Jungle", Foreman climbed off the canvas twice to stop Lyle after five rounds of unfathomable brutality.

"It was so violent that the first time I saw it on YouTube, it almost scared me off becoming a boxer," Joshua said in 2016, in between those meetings with Whyte and Klitschko that conformed to the template.

Hurt by Whyte and hurt badly and dropped by Klitschko, Joshua blasted his way out of trouble on both occasions to secure thrilling stoppage wins.

He sensed blood having floored Ruiz at Madison Square Garden 18 months ago. But the Mexican's deceptively fast hands clipped Joshua as he waded in to finish matters and the hulking Briton tumbled. And again. And again.

There would be no defiant rally as against Whyte and Klitschko. It was time for a rethink.

AJ 2.0

Fighting fire with fire left Joshua badly burned and those wounds needed to be soothed in quick time after a rematch clause was exercised.

Angel Fernandez and Joby Clayton were brought in to work under head trainer Rob McCracken, with an emphasis on sharper padwork and bringing their man's superior athleticism to bear against Ruiz.

The gulf between the two men in that regard expanded much as a rotund Ruiz did for the return, with Joshua boxing, moving and jabbing his way to a near shutout triumph, having weighed his lightest for more than five years.

Turning a crushing defeat on its head was an accomplishment made all the more impressive by it coming courtesy of a radical chance in style, however beneficial Ruiz's lack of discipline in the interim period might have been.

During the hellacious Klitschko classic, Joshua landed 69 of 186 power punches thrown, with 38 of 169 jabs finding a home.

In the Ruiz rematch, he also connected 107 times, but it is there the similarities end. The left lead was the solid foundation to everything Joshua accomplished amid the dunes, landing 65 of 270 thrown, averaging 23 jabs per round. His 35 thrown in the 11th were more jabs than Ruiz (23) landed during the entire contest.

The heavy artillery was deployed far more sparingly, as the IBF, WBA and WBO champion connected with 42 of 103 power punches, according to CompuBox.

Stick or twist for greatness?

Fernandez and Clayton have remained part of Joshua's setup for the Pulev fight, suggesting the tactics last time out are something the fighters wishes to keep close at hand.

"I am going to go in there and perform with no pressure and showcase the styles I have merged together, which is sticking and moving, and aggression and knockout power," he told the Daily Mail last weekend.

Were he to become more circumspect during his later years, Joshua would something in common with the two men who dominated the heavyweight division before him.

Lewis only needed recourse to the scorecards three times in 25 outings before a shock KO loss to Oliver McCall in 1994. It is hard to imagine the younger Lewis, who wrecked the dangerous Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock on the way to being crowned WBC champion picking his way through a methodical points win as he did against David Tua in 2000 - a performance that won plaudits from purists but drew boos from a bloodthirsty Las Vegas crowd.

The joy of Klitschko's gallant last hurrah against Joshua was seeing the great Ukrainian involved in the sort of gunslinging contest he had long since eschewed, the late and esteemed Emanuel Steward having masterminded a similar reboot to the one he oversaw with Lewis.

A fighter once reduced to minced meat by the likes of Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster embarked upon a run of 18 world title defences spanning almost a decade, Klitschko's ramrod jab and unerring straight right the cornerstones of a safety-first course.

An exception came in November 2014, when he repeatedly left-hooked a prime Pulev to the canvas to secure a fifth-round stoppage.

Herein lies the quandary for Joshua, this weekend and beyond. The pre-Ruiz version bludgeoning forward against Pulev would be very well placed to repeat Klitschko's emphatic victory - the Bulgarian has not lost since.

What impact have his Ruiz experiences, the chastening and the triumphant, had on Joshua's appetite for a tear-up? How does a seasoned fighter benefit from being aware of their vulnerabilities without being consumed them?

Pulev is not the only rival who would appear to be best tackled on the front foot. For all his amateur pedigree, it is more or less impossible to foresee Joshua jabbing his way to a win against the formidable Fury.

A year ago, Joshua went into his shell to get his career back on track. How much he emerges from it against Pulev and others will define his claims to greatness.

Anthony Joshua has revealed how the pressure of his rematch against Andy Ruiz Jr helped him become mentally stronger as he gets ready to fight for the first time in 2020.

Heavyweight Joshua gained revenge for the only defeat of his professional career when beating Ruiz on points a year ago, in the process reclaiming the IBF, WBA and WBO titles from his rival.

The Briton puts those belts on the line on Saturday when he takes on Kubrat Pulev, the duo finally getting to face each other in the ring.

They were scheduled to meet in 2017 only for Pulev to pull out due to injury, while a date booked for earlier this year had to be cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Hungry for further success after overcoming that unexpected setback against Ruiz, Joshua feels fully prepared for whatever situation he faces against the experienced Bulgarian.

"The pressure I went through last year was tough, but it made me stronger mentally," Joshua said at the pre-fight news conference. "I grew a thicker skin.

"I've always been tough, I've always wanted to fight the best. That's never been an issue. What have I got to lose? I've got everything to gain.

"I want to be successful in boxing - the way to do that is to take on good challengers. This is just another one I'm looking forward to competing with.

"I'm very motivated, I'm hungry. That's why I put myself forward for any opportunity."

He added: "I've been punched by the strongest people many times and I'm still here today. That never changed me, so because I took a little loss to Ruiz, I don't think that's enough to change someone like me.

"I've got a lot of character. Every fighter trains hard - it's character that separates us. I'll be keen to stand there."

After being sensationally stopped in their first fight in New York, Joshua went the distance with Ruiz in the return in Diriyah, resulting in a unanimous triumph on the scorecards.

The Olympic gold medallist is ready for the same to occur against Pulev, whose only defeat in 29 fights came against Wladimir Klitschko six years ago.

"I'm prepared for it to go to the final bell, of course," Joshua said. "I feel like I'm a 15-round fighter, not a 12-round fighter.

"If it needs to go the 12 rounds, I will be more than capable of being able to carry my stamina, to carry my boxing IQ, my concentration and my strength through to the final bell."

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