Anthony Joshua MBE says every fight he takes is crucial to his development in the paid ranks as he faces Rafael Zumbano Love at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.
Joshua returned from five months out a stress fracture in his back with a third round KO win over gutsy American Jason Gavern in Newcastle in April, and there’s another experienced operator in his way on Saturday in Love, the South American Heavyweight champion appearing in his 48th contest.
The Olympic gold medallist boxes again on May 30 in a hotly-anticipated clash with Kevin Johnson at The O2 in London with fight fans and pundits plotting a path to take the 25 year old into domestic dust-ups with Tyson Fury, David Price and Dereck Chisora, but Joshua insists that Saturday’s fight is the only one on his mind.
“Saturday is very important,” said Joshua. “My conditioning is improving day by day and my focus is totally on this fight – I want to put in an explosive performance for the fans.
“Everywhere I have been I have had an unbelievable reception and I am sure Birmingham will be the same. It's about building momentum. That was halted recently with the injury, I am going through a process and we have spoken about certain fights and they will happen.
“I will do things my way though, I have from the start and I will continue to do that. Everyone wants to fight me and I want to fight everyone, but I can't fight them all at once, this is not WWE wrestling, this is boxing - we'll do it at the right time and one at a time.
“There's pressure on every fight so I just take it all in my stride as right now I am a prospect with nothing to defend. Early on in your career you rack them up one after the other. I’m not taking shots, I'm not going past three rounds and my hands aren't hurt, so we're fighting a lot.
“If I was in a slugfest or had a tough fight, we'd look at rest because that is important, but I am not at the moment. I have Saturday and May 30, and I'd like to think that I would have four more fights in 2015 – but you have to take things on a fight by fight basis.”
“I felt good in there against Gavern,” said Joshua. “Rounds aren't essential to me – Wilder proved that you don't need to go rounds to do it when it matters. Everyone trains hard, so it's all mental and depends who you are facing.
“Gavern was there to be awkward and he was tricky to hit, I'd been out for a while and he was in his 50th fight and he knows his way around a ring. I take my hat off to him, he's a good guy and he was really respectful all throughout. He weighed the same as me but he was short and stocky so he's looking for that overhand right all the time, so I was looking to get to him and as I started to get the rhythm and range, he became less awkward to face.
“People don't really know me - they see me box on Sky Sports and they think they know me but they don't know the struggles when I was younger or when I was starting out at Finchley ABC, but now they want to tell me what is best for me, so I just ignore that.
“The only pressure is from my coach, not from me. I came out of the ring against Gavern and thought 'that was rubbish', and he said that I'd done some good inside work that we had been working on in the gym and I had taken that into the ring. I am always being asked about fights that are coming down the line - that's not pressure, that's just that the team around me believe in me.
“I knew that after winning gold at 2012 I would be head-hunted in the amateurs as people would want to beat me. I was going to have to start at the bottom in the pros but there's not that pressure and target of being the Olympic champion and staying in the amateurs where you are going to be a target. I had the determination and the heart, but not necessarily the skillset to handle that. I feel like I have really developed and stuff that I was learning two or three years ago is starting to filter through but there's still a few things to learn before I hit my peak.”
Joshua’s clash with Love is part of a star-studded line-up in Birmingham as all-action Stourbridge youngster Sam Eggington’s first major title shot as he faces Joseph Lamptey for the vacant Commonwealth Welterweight title vacated by Frankie Gavin.
World-rated Birmingham fighters Kal Yafai and Matthew Macklin are in action, Joshua’s fellow Olympic Gold medal winner Luke Campbell MBE fights for the 11th time in the paid ranks, Kal’s unbeaten brother Gamal will continue his rise in the pro ranks, Liverpool’s Super Middleweight star Callum Smith returns to the ring and Midlands fighters Lennox Clarke, Dan Breeze, Michael Rooney and Jordan Cooke all taste action.
It’s a huge night of boxing on Sky Sports with the coverage of our big fight night in the second city joined by two massive fights from Hidalgo, Texas as WBA Bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell meets WBO king Tomoki Kameda and former two-weight World champion Ricky Burns tackles unbeaten former Lightweight World champion Omar Figueroa.