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'It is not a case of Joshua 2.0, but he's reached another level': AJ is rebuilt and ready to rumble as he prepares to avenge the only defeat on his boxing record when he faces Andy Ruiz Jnr in Saudi Arabia

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 5 days ago Riath Al-Samarrai for the Daily Mail

Contender Anthony Joshua speaks at a press conference for Ruiz vs. Joshua 2 at Capitale on September 5, 2019 in New York. - Heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr promised on Wednesday that history would repeat itself when he takes on Anthony Joshua in December's controversial rematch in Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images) Contender Anthony Joshua speaks at a press conference for Ruiz vs. Joshua 2 at Capitale on September 5, 2019 in New York. - Heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr promised on Wednesday that history would repeat itself when he takes on Anthony Joshua in December's controversial rematch in Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Bryan R. Smith / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images) Of all the tweaks, from the pads to the chats to the films, maybe it will soon be concluded that a trip to where he wasn't meant to go did the most in getting Anthony Joshua back to where he believes he belongs.

There's an instructive tale in that. It's told by Joshua's manager, Freddie Cunningham, and relates to July, when the fallen champion called up six or seven close friends and family and headed for a place that has always felt something like home.

There was no one from the AJ business, no obligations and no stress. It was simply a first trip in years to the country of his parents, Nigeria, and from there a series of unguarded visits to the slum areas of Lagos.

Anthony Joshua holding a ball: Anthony Joshua is rebuilt and ready to rumble out in the Saudi Arabian desert with Andy Ruiz © Provided by Daily Mail Anthony Joshua is rebuilt and ready to rumble out in the Saudi Arabian desert with Andy Ruiz

'It might actually have been his first time back there since he turned professional, I think,' Cunningham tells Sportsmail. 'He was there for eight to 10 days and there was no work at all. There is a lot of interest commercially in Anthony in Nigeria but we agreed he should just go and do his own thing.' 

He had touched down around six weeks after that remarkable night in New York, when Andy Ruiz and his hooks of revelation left Joshua in a fog and inverted just about everything we thought we knew.

'He travelled around all over,' Cunningham adds. 'He went to all the places they advise you not to go - he saw the people, he went to the slums and he saw a lot of kids out there who he's inspired and, honestly, I think that really showed him the impact he's having.

'He just totally reconnected with everything, his home and his roots. It really made an impression on him.' 

Marco Da Silva, Anthony Joshua in front of a crowd: The 30-year-old is mobbed by adoring fans during his visit to Nigeria back in July

The 30-year-old is mobbed by adoring fans during his visit to Nigeria back in July
© Provided by Daily Mail

If there was maybe a trace of ambivalence in his mind about the industry that had given him £60million and then taxed rather a lot of pride, it was long gone by the time he landed back in London.

'I think in terms of what he has experienced, with losing his fight, that trip was really important,' Cunningham says. 'I spoke to him when he came back and he was so energised.' 

How energised? Is it enough? Will it ever be like it was before the astonishing events at Madison Square Garden on June 1? 

On Saturday night, within a temporary structure in Saudi Arabia, will Joshua offer a reminder about that old saying on form and class? His inner circle are convinced on all those questions.

  British boxer Anthony Joshua reacts after the referee stops a heavyweight championship boxing match against Andy Ruiz Saturday, June 1, 2019, in New York. Ruiz stopped Joshua in the seventh round. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) © ASSOCIATED PRESS British boxer Anthony Joshua reacts after the referee stops a heavyweight championship boxing match against Andy Ruiz Saturday, June 1, 2019, in New York. Ruiz stopped Joshua in the seventh round. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

A big difference this time is in the numbers and the dimensions. Or so say the believers who have been behind closed doors on the first floor of the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield, where Joshua was based from Monday until Friday for 10 of the 12 weeks of this restoration mission.

'A major change, if you ask me, has been the sparring,' Eddie Hearn told Sportsmail. 'Far more boxing and more partners.' 

There was Bryant Jennings, 6ft 3ins and a contender in 2015 for Wladimir Klitschko's titles. Then there was Tyrone Spong (6ft 2ins and a 14-0 record), Albon Pervizaj (6ft 3ins, 12-1), Hussein Muhamed (6ft 5ins, 14-0), Elvis Garcia (6ft 2ins, 8-0) and Andrew Tabiti (6ft 1ins, 17-1). 

All either experienced or strong prospects, several with good speed and a similar height to Ruiz. Dereck Chisora (6ft 1ins and 260 pounds) also dropped in for a time, and there was a squat heavyweight in Timothy Moten, as well as big Tom Little (268 pounds). 

Anthony Joshua et al. sitting on a bench: Timothy Moten (left) pictured with Joshua (right) in training ahead of Andy Ruiz Jnr rematch © Provided by Daily Mail Timothy Moten (left) pictured with Joshua (right) in training ahead of Andy Ruiz Jnr rematch a couple of men standing next to a fence: Moten (L) pictured after a sparring session with Joshua - has done over 60 rounds with the Brit © Provided by Daily Mail Moten (L) pictured after a sparring session with Joshua - has done over 60 rounds with the Brit

All had something to replicate the unusual, enigmatic blitz of a Mexican-American who loosely drapes 268 pounds off a 6ft 2ins frame but has deceptively quick and accurate hands.

'I would probably say it is the only time I have seen one of his camps where the focus is all on the other guy,' Hearn adds. 'It has been about tailoring for Andy Ruiz and what he brings.' 

A critical point here is the comparison to the build-up to the first fight and by extension it comes down to who you choose to believe about how those preparations played out.

Andy Ruiz, left, punches British boxer Anthony Joshua during the third round of a heavyweight championship boxing match Saturday, June 1, 2019, in New YorkRuiz stopped Joshua in the seventh round. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) © ASSOCIATED PRESS Andy Ruiz, left, punches British boxer Anthony Joshua during the third round of a heavyweight championship boxing match Saturday, June 1, 2019, in New YorkRuiz stopped Joshua in the seventh round. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) One of the issues before the first fight, told to Sportsmail by a source well connected to Joshua, is that their main body-match sparring partner in the final weeks, Joey Dawejko, did not fully engage in the sessions. He was good but occasionally wouldn't let his hands go.

Of course that is contradicted by folk on the outside who speculated Dawejko dropped Joshua in camp and gave him a concussion which carried through to fight night. That theory, while an easy dot-joiner for what followed, has never been forwarded with any great authority.

More plausible, based on views of those in the camp, is that the most monumental heavyweight shock since Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson derived from Joshua being under prepared. Not under prepared for a fight, because he had done a long camp; just not for a fight against Ruiz. 

Working back from the most decisive factor of all - a massive left hook behind the right ear - the defeat can sensibly be traced to Joshua's sub-conscious complacency towards his opponent, which has been alluded to previously, and a build-up spent largely preparing for Jarrell Miller and talking about Deontay Wilder.

Andy Ruiz, Eddie Hearn and Anthony Joshua during a press conference at The Hilton London Syon Park, London. (Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images) © PA Wire/PA Images Andy Ruiz, Eddie Hearn and Anthony Joshua during a press conference at The Hilton London Syon Park, London. (Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images) By the time Miller (6ft 4ins and 315 pounds) was busted for drugs, and after 16 contenders were whittled down to one, only four weeks were left for Joshua to adapt to a fighter whose physique was significantly different to Miller's and horribly misleading. He was described by one writer as a guy who might wear a t-shirt in the swimming pool.

He would go on to knock Joshua down four times before the stoppage in round seven to win the IBF, WBA and WBO world titles. 

The hand speed and resilience of Ruiz would be a surprise factor but Joshua controlled the distance with his greater reach through rounds one and two, before an ill-fated charge on the back of dropping Ruiz in the third. 

That saw the champion floored with the crucial left hook that probably concussed him, before his inexperience of only 22 previous fights showed with his attempt to trade when the only sensible option was to hold. He was very well beaten by the point when it was waved off. 

Joshua, pictured with trainer Rob McCracken, is aiming to recapture his heavyweight titles © Provided by Daily Mail Joshua, pictured with trainer Rob McCracken, is aiming to recapture his heavyweight titles

All clues this time point to more of a boxing contest. Or rather that seems the plan, with Joshua expected to come in considerably lighter than the 247 pounds he weighed for the first fight after sparring, technique and shadow work in front of the mirror were ramped up and strength and conditioning was cut back.

That has dovetailed with the appointment of pad men Angel Fernandez and Joby Clayton. 

While getting rid of Rob McCracken was recommended by Lennox Lewis and was rightly never entertained as a possibility inside the tent - McCracken led Joshua to Olympic gold, tutored his rapid ascension as a professional and is generally regarded as a master among trainers - it is self-evident that the new recruits were brought in (with McCracken's backing) because it was felt some aspects could be done better. 

Among the reasons, Sportsmail understands, is that McCracken is unable these days to withstand as much time and punishment wearing the body pads.

'There have not been any major changes but there have been a few smaller ones,' David Ghansa tells Sportsmail. He is Joshua's friend since childhood and now his camp manager.

'He has been working smarter. I wouldn't say it is a case of Joshua 2.0 but it is another level he has reached with change.'

It took Joshua around three weeks to make headway in the processing of defeat.

'The initial shock for him was the first 24 hours,' Cunningham says. 'Then it was about adjustment.

'I remember even when I landed back, I was in a taxi and the guy was asking what I did, so I told him, and then he went on for 35 minutes about what Anthony should have done in the fight. I was like, "God, this is what it is like for me, what about him?" But people probably know by now he is a very strong guy mentally.

'Everything since has been about improvement. I don't think he feels he has fulfilled what he feels he can do in boxing - not so much in belts but in levels of performance. He is a very focused guy.' 

That is one reason why his team has dismissed the rumours that the distractions around his Miami camp came into play last time. Ghansa says they went out for a meal one Sunday and that was the extent of it. 

Likewise Cunningham says his much-discussed entourage of 23 has stayed the same - 'any similar scale business would have that amount of staff'.

a man in a boxing ring: Joshua has been watching his only defeat back plenty of times as he looks to right the wrongs © Provided by Daily Mail Joshua has been watching his only defeat back plenty of times as he looks to right the wrongs

For this fight, a picture has been painted by Joshua's circle of a man obsessed. He has taken to regular phone calls with Wladimir Klitschko, with whom he had a legitimately great heavyweight encounter in brighter times. Among other things, Klitschko recommended Joshua cut salt from his diet and Joshua did.

A lot of the beaten man's time has been spent watching fight tapes. Hours have been given to re-watching the third round of the Ruiz fight, but Ghansa says: 'He is now watching any fights he can find, black and white, as far back as you can go. I sometimes have to find the clips for him and it's getting harder.

'I know a fair bit about boxing but now I am constantly having to ask him, "Who even is this?" He used to watch documentaries about anything. Now, all boxing, deeper and deeper.

'He is watching fights, talking about everyone's style. He was always been a student of the history of it but now I feel like he has a masters.' They are catchy words. 

If Joshua gets it right this weekend, they will look wiser still. Maybe it will have been about the videos. Maybe it was about the sparring, the salt, the mirrors, the rejuvenating power of a good holiday. The big glory of the small details.

Or maybe the best man this time will be the same as the last. The time is approaching for Joshua to come up with an answer he surely cannot afford to get wrong.

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