Tyson Fury turned up early and conducted the final press conference for his fight with Tom Schwarz as he continued to build on his growing popularity in the United States.
The heavyweight even briefly sang and, without a hint of attempting to provoke his opponent at what for boxing represented an unusually tension-free affair, complimented Germany’s Schwarz on his “good looks”.
Fury proved even more engaging than in the build-up to December’s dramatic draw with Deontay Wilder, since when he has signed a lucrative contract with promoters Top Rank to fight out of the US and made regular appearances on American television to discuss his struggles with suicide and mental health.
Before his victory over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 he attended a press conference dressed as Batman and similarly involved those present while insulting his opponent, but the 30-year-old has matured and resisted any urges he may have felt to do the same.
Fury, who has been criticised for making homophobic and sexist remarks in the past, also diplomatically attempted to stop influential Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, 87, from complimenting female fighter Mikaela Mayer on her appearance.
Arum himself has been at pains to make comparisons between Fury’s charisma and that of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, who he once promoted, and alongside Schwarz and co-promoter Frank Warren was summoned to the top-table early when Fury decided it was time to start.
It is only since the build-up to fighting Wilder that Fury’s personal struggles have been documented more widely in the US, and when asked to revisit them ahead of Saturday’s fight at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, he responded: “Eighteen months ago I was in a very, very dark place.
“If you had seen me at that time I was very heavy and very unwell. I want to inspire people to change their lives and get well.
“I’m living my dream and I don’t know many people who can say the same. I’m seeing my picture on all the screens and billboards, this is what I was born to do.
“The crowd have warmed to me and been very welcoming. I’m surprised, people who don’t speak English, who don’t even watch sports are asking for photos and wanting to talk. It’s quite humbling.”
Fury had by then also joked about spending eight weeks training with Shaolin monks, having turned on and handed out microphones to those he felt should also be at the top-table.
Fury also stopped someone present from beginning an anti-German song when he demanded someone sing.
“The two guys Tyson reminds me of are Muhammad Ali and George Foreman,” explained Arum.
“They were people person’s first. They’d talk directly to the people, over the head of the writers, right to the people.
“Tyson’s going to lead this sport into a new dimension, just the way Ali did in his time, and then later George.”
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Anthony Joshua has targeted an immediate rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr after losing his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles in a shock defeat at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
On the occasion of his US debut and despite being the significant favourite against an opponent who had been given little more than a month’s notice and had lost his only previous world title fight, Joshua suffered four knockdowns in what became a one-sided upset.
He was eventually rescued in the seventh round by referee Mike Griffin when, after returning to his feet for the fourth time – the two knockdowns in the seventh followed two similarly hurtful ones in the third, which came after Ruiz Jr’s only knockdown – he was no longer able to defend himself.
The 29-year-old had established himself as the world’s leading heavyweight by so memorably retiring Wladimir Klitschko in 2017, but so unexpected a defeat has damaged his reputation, contributing to his desire for a rematch in the winter.
“Look out for the end of the year, and what’s next,” said Joshua, like Ruiz Jr aged 29.
“It’s an upset, it’s unexpected. I was the favourite. One shot hit me on the top of the dome and rattled me a bit. I tried to stay in there a few more rounds but the better man won.
“I don’t underestimate anyone. He’s a decent puncher, a decent fighter. He was the better man.
“I’ll tidy up, brush off the cobwebs and go again. But it’s a minor setback.
“Trust me, where I was at in life, I’ve dealt with more than this, with some real big losses, and bounced back.
“If I was to look at my setbacks back then then I would have been finished. I didn’t. I kept my head strong, fought like a champion, and bounced back.
“I didn’t even ask about a rematch clause because I was so confident I was going to win. If it’s there, we’ll go again and I’ll get the titles back. I’m going to beat him up.
“I’m not dwelling on it. You just correct it, you adjust, you sit down, you focus and you go again.”
Joshua also revealed that he had also already spoken to his mother Yeta Odusanya, and his father Robert, who had given him some advice.
“My dad’s upset, which is a natural reaction; my mum’s cool, she doesn’t come to the boxing and separates it,” he said.
“Everyone’s in good spirits; losing isn’t a good night but it’s something we can learn from.
“My dad said ‘Tighten up and get smart; when things are going good nothing’s going wrong, then something bad happens, you realise’.”
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn, who had previously secured the now-suspended Jarrell Miller as his opponent, also revealed that the UK is the likeliest venue for the rematch that can be expected to follow.
“We didn’t know what was coming next, in November, December, now we do,” he said. “But there’s a lot of pressure on that fight; the rematch is huge.
“For me, it should be the UK, but we’ll sit down as a team and look at everything.
“I know it didn’t go our way but we said we wanted to create a night that people would remember for a long time; unfortunately they’ll remember it for a shock defeat and an incredible night of boxing.
“But that’s okay; revenge will be sweet and I believe he’ll get it.”
Andy Ruiz Jr has caused one of the biggest shocks in the history of heavyweight boxing by stopping Anthony Joshua in seven rounds to inflict his first defeat and win the IBF, WBA and WBO titles.
On the occasion of the defending champion’s US debut, at New York’s revered Madison Square Garden, he was dethroned as the world’s leading heavyweight by a significant underdog who took advantage of becoming a late-notice opponent to secure a life-changing win.
Brooklyn’s Jarrell Miller had been chosen as Joshua’s opponent until a six-month suspension ruled him out and gave Ruiz Jr an unexpected opportunity with little over a month’s notice.
When he was knocked down in the third round, he appeared on the verge of losing as routinely as Joshua’s previous 22 opponents, but he immediately responded with two knockdowns that left Joshua fortunate to survive.
If Joshua appeared to recover throughout the fourth and fifth, in the sixth he again became hesitant even if there was little sign that he was about to be stopped.
Two further knockdowns in the seventh again left him fighting for survival, and though he returned to his feet after each, he was no longer able to defend himself, forcing referee Mike Griffin’s intervention while he was on his still on his feet after one minute and 27 seconds.
It was a straight right followed by a left hook that sent Ruiz Jr, who had been criticised for being fleshy and over 20lbs heavier than the champion at Friday’s weigh-in, to the canvas in the third round.
Joshua had previously struggled with punching down against smaller opponents – his challenger had repeatedly fallen short with the jab because of the size disadvantage he faced – but there was no suggestion that he was about to suffer the most damaging round of his career.
When Ruiz Jr returned to his feet, Joshua immediately pursued the stoppage but Ruiz Jr fought to survive, landing a right flush on Joshua’s chin, forcing the first heavy knockdown before another with two left hooks after Joshua had beat the count.
That dramatic round’s end came with Joshua on the verge of a shock stoppage, but after spending much of the fourth and the fifth – in which he landed a powerful left hand – recovering, he struggled to build any momentum in the sixth.
Joshua became cautious in a way he never previously had against Dillian Whyte, who also once hurt him, and Wladimir Klitschko, who knocked him down, and Ruiz Jr capitalised by landing to the body.
A right hook then hurt Joshua again in the seventh before further lefts and rights forced him down, and as he returned to his feet, a further assault knocked him over as he again beat the count.
But he remained sufficiently unsteady that Griffin rightly rescued him from further punishment.
Joshua-Ruiz Jr had been intended to showcase the defending champion to the only territory in boxing he had yet to convince, yet if he again proved how entertaining he can be he suffered his first defeat, lost his three world titles and suffered significant damage to his reputation.
An immediate rematch may be inevitable, but at the venue where heavyweight greats Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield enjoyed some of their finest nights, he suffered perhaps his worst as Mexico’s first world heavyweight champion was instead crowned.
“I can’t believe I just made my dream come true, the sky is the limit,” said Ruiz Jr, like Joshua aged 29.
“That was the first time I’ve been down on the floor and it just made me stronger.
“I’m a Mexican warrior, I have that blood in me. I just made history for Mexico.”
Joshua was booed by many of the spectators who cheered him to the ring, and he said: “Respect to Andy Ruiz Jr. Sorry I let my fans down.”
“This will devastate him,” said his promoter, Eddie Hearn.
“He will come back. It’s now down to the rematch and winning that fight.
“He must win that fight and he will do anything he can to regain his title.
“To get back to the heights he has been, he must win that rematch.”
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