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Anthony Joshua ‘haunted by shadow of Andy Ruiz Jr’ ahead of Oleksandr Usyk rematch

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Joe Joyce has claimed that Anthony Joshua is ‘haunted by the shadow of Andy Ruiz Jr’ and is “scared to engage”. Joshua’s former Team GB stablemate believes the Watford powerhouse has become more of a defensive backfoot fighter and needs to find his ruthless streak again if he hopes to beat Oleksandr Usyk later this month.

Ruiz Jr handed Joshua the first defeat of his professional career in June 2019 when he stopped the former unified heavyweight champion in the seventh round. The Mexican-American replaced Jarrell Miller on one month’s notice after a failed drugs test from the latter and went on to record one of the biggest upsets of the year in the process.

When they rematched six months later, however, Joshua – who had gone toe to toe with Ruiz Jr in their inaugural encounter – opted for a more conservative approach in the second fight. ‘AJ’ jabbed and moved his way to victory in a comfortable points win that showed a different dimension to his game.

Joshua’s second loss of his career came last September against Usyk in a display that was heavily criticised for being ‘too timid’. Joyce believes this has a lot to do with the Ruiz Jr fight and is confident it has taken its toll.

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He continued: “Especially with the (Andy) Ruiz Jr rematch he probably went into that defensive on the back foot [mode]. [He] was kind of scared to engage. I guess rightly so because he must have seen the shadow of Ruiz putting him down. Even (Wladimir) Klitschko put him down and he was in trouble for a whole round when they fought. Klitschko, if he’d been more an offensive fighter, he could have taken him out there.”

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Joshua gets an opportunity to rewrite the wrong on August 20 at the King Abdullah Sport City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia live on Sky Sports PPV. With the whole world watching ‘AJ’ will be hoping to become a three-time heavyweight world champion and set up a blockbuster all-British showdown with Tyson Fury for the undisputed crown.

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