Anthony Joshua says he is “punching like a horse kicking backwards” and holds “no fear” going into his highly anticipated rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr.
At a charged final face-off next to the Diriyah Arena where the two fight in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Ruiz, 30, warned there is “no way” he will lose.
Joshua added he will weigh in lighter than the 17st 9lbs he posted before his New York defeat as part of a new plan.
“I may be less than 17 stone,” he told BBC Sport.
“I’m punching loose and heavy – rhythm and flow,” the 30-year-old added. “Before I was trying to bench-press a house. I used my body to get where I needed but then I started realising the sweet science of the sport.
“I am punching like a horse kicking backwards right now.”
Mind games, no fear and team chants
Joshua has not weighed less than 17st since 2014 and 5 Live analyst Steve Bunce said his projected weight was a “stunning revelation”.
Ruiz, perhaps playing mind games, arrived at the news conference sporting a New York Knicks jersey. Joshua was housed in the changing room of the NBA franchise for the first bout, where he suffered one of the most shocking defeats in heavyweight history and lost the IBF, WBA and WBO world titles.
As the pair faced off, Joshua’s team shouted “two times” behind him in reference of his chance to win the world titles for a second time. Ruiz’s team responded, shouting “and still” as the camera flashes lit up both men.
Joshua, who had his final six-round spar on Tuesday, was asked if winning the belts back would be a career high and replied: “I was asked if it will be a special moment and said ‘no’ as I know I belong there.
“When I got back from New York, I didn’t lose any heart or fire in my belly and started punching the heavy bag preparing for this day. There is no fear in my heart, my eyes or mind, I am confident.”
Ruiz’s pledge and Hearn’s defiant stance
The venue for the news conference and fight – on the outskirts of Riyadh in Diriyah – are flanked by a fairground and a stage that will host US artist Usher and Chris Brown on Friday.
The world’s best-paid fighter Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson are expected to attend a fight that has been widely criticised as a result of the host country’s human rights record.
Those involved have made no secret of the financial motivation to come here – with Joshua set to earn upwards of £50m – and promoter Eddie Hearn defiantly told reporters it was “a wonderful, wonderful decision”.
Ruiz described Saudi Arabia as “the perfect place to make history” and his stunning stoppage win six months ago ranked high in the sport’s archive of upsets.
Asked if he held any fear over the kind of power that saw Joshua knock him down in New York, he told BBC Sport: “Not really. I was the one who had the strength, the one backing him up. When I jabbed I pushed him away.
“I know he lost weight and that he will try and box me around, so it’s my job to prevent that.
“I have been doing this since I was six and it is finally paying off. There is no way I am going to let these belts go, I will die trying. It has been a rollercoaster and now that I made the dreams come true there is no way I will let these go.”
‘I brought the roughest and toughest’
Joshua’s back-to-basics approach for the bout has been well documented and he again said he had no interest in delivering a “show” but was just “here to win”.
His promoter Hearn has expressed how nervous he is given his marquee fighter would slip down the heavyweight pecking order with a second defeat.
Joshua’s trainer Rob McCracken, who faced criticism after the first loss, said his fighter was “in a much better place” this time around.
And Joshua told BBC Sport’s Mike Costello defeat made him use his “time wisely” in prioritising his skills over other aspects of training.
“When Muhammad Ali was training he said he would build a shack to train in,” added Joshua.
“There are clues to success and you have to go back to what it takes to be a great heavyweight champion. We had to bring in hard, rough sparring partners. I brought in the toughest and roughest.”
‘I think Ruiz wins again’
Former world heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman attended Wednesday’s news conference and repeated comparisons have been drawn between Ruiz’s win over Joshua and his own surprise triumph over Lennox Lewis in 2001.
Rahman stunned Joshua’s compatriot, only to lose a rematch by knockout seven months later.
Rahman told BBC Sport: “I would have Ruiz go straight out for it from round one, take Joshua back to the last round of the first fight. If I’m in Anthony’s corner I am going to a Wladimir Klitschko-style jab and grab.
“I am leaning at the moment to Ruiz by knockout. I just think Joshua has lost weight. I didn’t see him with much fat to lose. I feel he may have lost muscle and that can be detrimental. He could win a decision if he executes perfectly and uses his distance. But if Andy hits him, Andy will finish him.”