IT was almost inevitable. Anthony Joshua spends months getting himself fine-tuned and ready to conquer the biggest demon of his boxing career to date – that pesky human sandbag, Andy Ruiz Jr – and a boxing website picks the opportune moment to tell the world he’s in no position to do anything of the sort. There’s been problems in camp! Anthony Joshua reportedly TROUBLED by sparring partner…AGAIN, it screamed.

It was a curious headline, particularly as it hadn’t been reported anywhere until WBN reported it without a source to verify the story. It followed a similar tale from the first fight, that Joshua had been knocked out in training, which gathered pace alongside all manner of conspiracy theories when Anthony Joshua was stopped in seven stunning rounds by Ruiz in June.

What has been widely reported, for good reason it seems, is that Joshua has had an excellent training camp this time. Furthermore, given the intensity of sparring Joshua has demanded, it would not be a surprise to hear he’s been buzzed once or twice. Frankly, it would be a surprise if the opposite was true. Boxer Gets Punched In Sparring. You don’t say.

Anthony Joshua
ALL GOOD: Joshua is in a good place ahead of Ruiz Jr return [Mark Robinson/Matchroom]

Certainly, from what Boxing News can gather out here in Saudi Arabia, the Englishman appears to be in an exceptionally good place – both in body and mind.

Rob McCracken, Anthony Joshua’s trainer, cut a slightly prickly figure in New York six months ago in the lead-up to that unforgettable first encounter. But the coach – like his charge – is in a completely different mood this time around.

“Anthony is in a much better place than last time at this stage, and I’m much happier with where he’s at,” McCracken reported three days before the sequel.

“Everybody has said his training camp has gone really well. We’ve been training well out here in Saudi. Anthony has been training at the British Embassy, he’s got his own facility, and able to train diligently and hard. Listen, we know how good Ruiz is, we know he’s a top heavyweight fighter, and he’s the champion. We’re totally confident, it’s a completely different mood going into this fight than back in New York. I think you will see the real ‘AJ’, for sure.”

Rob McCracken Anthony Joshua
OPTIMISTIC: McCracken is expecting a Joshua victory [Action Images/Andrew Couldridge]

One would expect such optimism to be reported so close to the fight, but McCracken is not one to paint a false picture. Ahead of the Joshua-Ruiz opener, he was not nearly as chirpy. He even told some members of the media on the Monday night in New York that he just wanted the fight to be over and done with.

This time, McCracken was visibly relaxed and waxing lyrical about his fighter.
“For Andy Ruiz we had about five-week notice for the last fight,” McCracken continued. “Anthony’s [original] opponent pulled out [Jarrell Miller], so we had to restructure and change things, but with Ruiz’s ability that isn’t easy to do, but that isn’t a excuse.

“The right man won on the night, they both had 12 weeks to prepare for this fight, I think it’s a level playing field now. I think Anthony knows exactly what is in front of him, the sparring partners have been tailored to suit what Andy does. I think it you will see the real AJ on Saturday night and see a great performance.”

Bryant Jennings
IN THE KNOW: Jennings is a key member of the Joshua camp

Boxing News caught up with heavyweight contender and chief Joshua sparring partner, Bryant Jennings, when the ‘report’ broke surrounding Joshua’s supposed mishap in training.

“It’s false,” Jennings said defiantly. “The story had no reliable sources. You didn’t hear it from the horse’s mouth. I don’t understand how someone could repeat or pass around something that is not true, let alone verified. I’ve been with him every day – he’s not been hurt. Not at all.

“He’s in a good place and he’s had to make sure he’s mentally prepared. He is more mentally prepared this time around – these are the things that you work on and you practice on and that’s what he’s been doing. The only signs to come from his camp – and like I say, I have been there from day one – are good signs.”

Joshua’s countryman Tom Little – who takes on Mahammadrasul Majidov on the Saudi undercard – has also sparred the former champion in the build-up to the Ruiz return and he too refuted claims that Joshua’s preparation has been anything other than positive.

“I haven’t been with Anthony the entire time, but I’ve seen nothing but good things from him,” Little told BN. “Believe me, he’s in brilliant shape and he’ll beat that pudding this time. The things he’s been working on are the next level, the concentration better than ever.

Daniel Dubois
EXPERIENCED: Little takes a right hand from Daniel Dubois

“I know all the guys in his camp. There hasn’t been one word about him getting hurt or being in trouble. It’s all optimism and a sense that he’s going to win and win well. No doubts whatsoever. You could feel that optimism from the moment you walked into the gym.

“I don’t know where these stories come from but they’re not worth reading or listening to. I know Joshua won’t care about such nonsense, he’ll laugh at it like we all do. Particularly after he wins the fight.”

But should Joshua lose – which, let’s be clear, is just as likely as him winning at this point – it will be because of his opponent, and nothing else.