Hungry Anthony Joshua denies boxing’s silk pyjama syndrome with hard Texas grind

Anthony Joshua has denied that a career cushion of millions has caused his hunger for success in boxing to diminish.

Joshua returns to the ring on August 12 against old rival Dillian Whyte at London’s O2 Arena and he has been preparing with trainer Derrick James in Texas.

Joshua flew back last week for the press conference to announce the contest, but without James who stayed back to train Errol Spence ahead of his Terence Crawford mega-fight on July 29.

Asked whether Joshua’s financial security has stripped him of his desire, he was reminded of a Marvin Hagler quote, about how it is hard to stay motivated and to get up and run when you’re wearing silk pyjamas.

“You see me in the same clobber every time I come to a press conference,” Joshua joked, before adding: “I take it serious. I hate losing, and if I would have adopted the experience and the talent, the fundamentals that I have and the side of the game that I have now [in camp with James], then I would have been successful in my approach to certain fights.”

Joshua has lost three times in 28 fights, avenging his first defeat, to Andy Ruiz, before losing twice to Oleksandr Usyk. Joshua returned to outscore Jermaine Franklin in April, and questions were asked because he failed to shine against the American. Now plenty question Joshua’s desire, his focus and his hunger, while others still focus on the possibility of Joshua facing Wilder in January.

“People wouldn’t be talking about it,” Joshua said of the hunger debate. “But due to the fact I’ve lost, it gives an element of conversation but the thing is, what’s beautiful about sports is there’s always a next opportunity to prove yourself, so no matter what happens, there’s a process that I’m following and I just know, that if we look at history, everything will work out for me. If we look at history, everything will work out for me. All these conversations… I’m not going to be the first athlete and I’m not going to be the last to go through it. So, I’ve just got to ride the wave, stay consistent, throw them silk pyjamas in the bin, stay focused, and when the opportunity presents itself… Everyone can write you off, but if you believe in yourself and you continue on your journey, 100 per cent you will overcome. It’s just fact. Only you can defeat yourself. Not anyone else. If I give up and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I haven’t got it anymore,’ then you can say, ‘Yeah I’m not the same fighter.’ But if I know, I just know this is going to work. You know if people look at you like you’re crazy, which people probably think now, ‘Why is he not being aggressive…’ I just know what I’m doing is going to work at the right time.”

Promoter Eddie Hearn believes Joshua’s life in camp in Texas proves the silk pyjama debate is irrelevant. Hearn stopped by to see Joshua recently, and challenged the British press to witness how Joshua lives first-hand.

“I tell you what you should do,” Hearn said. “You should go out to Dallas and go to his little house in Dallas which is the most fucking mental environment I’ve ever seen. A load of them in the house… I went out there last week and it’s so far removed from silk pyjamas.”

“It is a grind,” said Joshua.

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Hearn added. “For someone who’s achieved the money in the bank you’ve got, with the money you’ve got, the fact you’re willing to go out there in that heat, put that work in, sit in that little house with everything you do designed to improve what you do, no fucking around, no going out, no dinners out, going to sleep early, it’s just pure graft.”

It is all to make sure not only Joshua gets by Whyte again in August, but to make sure the 33-year-old continues to improve as a fighter. Because that is why he is with James, to learn and get better. Does he think Whyte has improved since they met in December 2015?

“Do I think he’s improved?” Joshua mused. “It depends who he’s fighting. Styles make fights. When he’s fought, say, a [Robert] Helenius, a [Tyson] Fury or a bigger guy he’s struggled a bit. When he’s fought a [Oscar] Rivas, short, quicker guys, the Russian [Alexander Povetkin], look at [Joseph] Parker – would you describe him as a Class A, Class B or Class C fighter? But he [Parker] gave him problems. The thing is with boxing, there’s the movers, there’s the brute strength sluggers and you’ve got those who fight with their heart on their sleeves. What Dillian lacks in certain areas, he makes up for in others. Has he improved? Yeah, he’s trying, but he doesn’t lose what his foundation is. He’s one of those old school fighters. I just think that’s what he’ll always be. I don’t think he’s improved massively but he’s maintained his standard. But it’s paid off. He’s done well with that, really well. It’s taken him a long way.”

Joshua had been criticised for leaving old trainer Robert McCracken and having Robert Garcia for just one fight. He was also with Tony Sims early in his career, but Joshua points to Whyte’s corner to highlight that changing trainers is not unique to him. Whyte is having only his second bout with Buddy McGirt, and he is in camp with the American in Florida.

“Look how many times he’s moved trainers,” Joshua went on. “He’s moved trainers so many times. Maybe he’s not developing at the rate he needs to, or people aren’t teaching him the things he needs to learn and it’s not good enough. He probably knows it himself. That’s probably why he’s moved trainers so much. I was thinking about this the other day. He was with [Chris] Okoh, [Mark] Tibbs, Xavier [Miller], Buddy McGirt, Johnathon Banks, but one thing that he has got is the fight and in America, they call it the dog. He’s got the dog in him, yeah.”

For Joshua, though, expectations are typically high. He is just about always the favourite in his fights, and many think he needs to impress against Whyte to prove he has another championship run left in him. The pressure, though, is nothing new. He’s had it since he turned pro with an Olympic gold medal from the London 2012 Games around his neck. Not everyone can handle it and Joshua acknowledged that, looking at 15-0 American contender Jared Anderson, who struggled past former AJ victim Charles Martin earlier this month.

“I was watching the Anderson-Martin fight the other day,” Joshua said. “Like, they put that boy under too much pressure. They’re putting him under way too much pressure. They’re going to get him beat and found out. That’s the pressure I’ve been under, and I’ve been beating these fighters [Joshua stopped Martin in two rounds in 2016, Anderson won on points over 10 rounds]. Anderson struggled. It’s not easy, the game. The pressure…”