Madison Square Garden’s proud boxing history is not lost on Anthony Joshua

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Anthony Joshua during the public work-out at the Brookfield Place, New York.

Anthony Joshua plans to watch footage of heavyweight greats fighting at Madison Square Garden before defending his IBF, WBA and WBO titles there against Andy Ruiz Jr.

The 29-year-old, who makes his United States debut at boxing’s most revered venue on Saturday evening, is relishing the fact Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Joe Frazier have fought there before him.

Naseem Hamed intentionally prolonged his ringwalk to saviour walking in the footsteps of some of those greats before defeating Kevin Kelley on what was also his US debut in 1997.

Joshua’s deep respect for his sport’s decorated history means he has often studied those who came before him, which might even mean watching The Fight of the Century between Ali and Frazier in 1971 from the changing room inside the venue where that memorable night took place.

“I’ll definitely use it as inspiration,” he told Press Association Sport. “I’ll watch their videos on the day; maybe in the changing room, just to feel like I’m not the only one doing this. Others have done it before me, so that’s the inspiration I’ll take.

“I always watch different fights; the Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota fight’s a good one to watch (as well).

Muhammad Ali
Anthony Joshua may watch the bout between former world heavyweight champions Joe Frazier (left) and Muhammad Ali (centre) – pictured here in 1989 with George Foreman (PA Archive)

“It’s big business, it’s a blessing to be here. What can I say? I’ve got to get the win. The people who lose and don’t perform don’t go down in history, so I’ve got to go out there and get the job done.

“Ruiz is a good fighter. He’s not worried about the feelings and emotions. He’ll get in there, do what he does best, and try and beat me. That’s the main thing he’s going to try. I’m going to be in his way so it’s training and going to war.”

When the collective stock of divisional rivals Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury is at its highest, and with Joshua fighting in perhaps the only territory he has yet to convince, there is pressure on the champion to make a statement, even if that is something he has dismissed.

Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr – Public Work Outs – Brookfield Place
Anthony Joshua knows Andy Ruiz Jr is a threat (Nick Potts/PA)

Brooklyn’s Jarrell Miller was previously chosen as his opponent to increase the occasion’s profile and after his suspension led to his replacement by Ruiz Jr, also 29, Joshua has harshly been viewed as accepting an easier fight.

“I’ve been making statements,” he said. “It’s just winning; that’s all that matters. Statements have been happening long before New York, that’s what brought me here, so I’ll go out there and do what I do.

“I don’t think (Miller) really cares (he’s missing out). He’ll fight again but I don’t think he’s really that bothered. He’s got that mindset – ‘it is what it is’.

“That’s what I like about boxing. One opportunity comes, and then another’s always going to come up and be available. He got a six-month ban; he’ll be back before you know it. Good luck to him.”

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