Anthony Joshua welcomes Kubrat Pulev challenge, hopes to prove he's No. 1 vs. Tyson Fury

IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua goes 1-on-1 with Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole and explains why he respects his Dec. 12 opponent Kubrat Pulev as a fighter.

Video Transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, folks. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports.

And my next guest needs no introduction-- the heavyweight champion of the world Anthony Joshua. AJ is going to be fighting on December 12 Kubrat Pulev and I guess, for a change, in front of some fans. So how about that? What's that going to be like for you, AJ, having fans back in a fight? It's going to be a new experience for a lot of boxers.

ANTHONY JOSHUA: Yes, exactly. So it's been about 12 months since I've been back in the ring. Even though there are fans allowed in attendance, it's not to its full capacity.

We're only allowing 1,000 fans. It'll be nice. It'll be intimate.

This time around, I suppose, like, I can get lost in the crowd. So normally, I'm used to fighting in front of tens of thousands of people. So you know, I'm not concentrating on that many people, which is tunnel vision. When there's only 1,000 people in there, it's like, you can see everyone in the arena.

[INAUDIBLE] voices are going to stand out over others. I'm going to be able to hear everything in there. So it's going to be intense. But it's going to be nice for the 1,000 people in there because it'll be intimate, and it'll be a good fight, I'm sure.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, do you feel in a way that in this fight, like, the pressure's off you? You know, you lost the title to Ruiz. You come back.

And to me, I don't know if you would agree with this, but just as a person, I've watch boxing all my life. I'm a lot older than you. You looked really tight in that rematch. Like, you know, you knew you had to do this, and it seemed like you weren't the free and loose Anthony Joshua that I have seen in the past. You feel like now that you've gotten over that fight that we'll see a different version of you against Pulev?

ANTHONY JOSHUA: You're 100% correct. You know, after that loss, I realized what industry I'm in. It's an unforgiving industry.

I'm normally the happy go lucky guy, right? I'm just going to go through the division. I didn't even expect to be in this position I'm in, and hey, I'm a champion of the world. Then I lost.

And I got to see what it was like from the other side of the pond of what it meant to be heavyweight champion of the world. I was watching Andy Ruiz lapping it all up. And I said, I really want some of that.

So now I had an opportunity to box and compete with Andy Ruiz It's kind of like Joe Louis and Tony "Two Ton" Galento where you have to box. You have to be smart.

You're against someone big and strong. So I have to box and outmaneuver him. And I don't want to make any mistakes.

So what I decided to do was box on the back foot and control the short fighter. I got that win. And in a way, right, we had the fight scheduled for June 20.


ANTHONY JOSHUA: So that would have been me straight back after Saudi. December 7, straight back into training camp around January, and I would have been working to a deadline. But having this fight pushed back to December the 12th, from that loss, where I lost to Ruiz and had to fight him again, it gives me a chance not to work to a certain opponent, not to have to work to a certain deadline, but just to work to improve myself mentally, tactically, and physically.

So I had a nice period where I just dedicated myself to the gym, and the gym dedicated itself to me. And I'm not worried about anyone else. And then Pulev came alone. And you know, I've had that good foundation over the last six, seven months. And now I'm ready for the challenge of Pulev.

KEVIN IOLE: I want to ask you this because, you know, as you talk about that sort of, you know, Tyson Fury makes his comeback, has the two fights with Deontay Wilder during all this going on, and especially the rematch with Wilder where he looked so good. So we're at a point before you lose to Ruiz, you're considered the number one heavy weight in the world. I think at this point, most people consider Tyson Fury the number one heavyweight in the world.

So does that in any way give you that extra hunger that may not have been there had you just beaten Ruiz and be looking ahead after Pulev to a potential Fury fight where you were the favorite, you were the guy, and he was-- you know, even though he has a championship, he would have been chasing you. In this case, do you feel like that gives you a little bit extra motivation?

ANTHONY JOSHUA: It's a great question because the normal ones will be like, yeah, 100% it does. You know, him being number one, I want to feel like I want to chase that. And I realize that no one lives in my head rent free.

Tyson Fury doesn't live in my head. Deontay Wilder doesn't live in my head. You know, I'm working hard, paying my own rent.

So I'm just focused on myself. I'm not worried. Whenever people put Tyson Fury number one is down to public opinion.


ANTHONY JOSHUA: I'm-- in my world, I'm number one. I'm focusing on my own struggles and my own successes. And the only way to prove who is number one and not leave it to public opinion is to get us in the ring.

And that's why the fight with Pulev is important because it's a banana skin. So I have go in there and perform, do a good job. And then that would lead me towards proving who is number one.

So that's what I'm worried about myself. I'm worried about Pulev. I'm not worried about Tyson Fury being number one at the minute. I just got to focus on myself, and then as long as I do that, I'll get the opportunity to prove who's number one in the division.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, I wanted to ask you this question because I think, you know, every fighter in the world is tough, right? You know, I don't care if you're the worst fighter in the world. You step between those ropes, you're a bad ass guy, and you have a lot of courage and a lot of heart.

But to me, I define toughness sometimes as the things you do. And so after you lost to Ruiz, you had a lot of heat on you. Get rid of your trainer.

Hire a new trainer. And you resisted, right? And I think--


KEVIN IOLE: --in a way, you know, you showed a lot of toughness in that regard because, hey, if it didn't go well the second fight, all of a sudden, you know, you screwed yourself. You know, it was your fault. Do you agree with that, and do you feel like, you know, was it a tough decision knowing where the outside pressure at home was coming, get rid of McCracken, that you kept Rob, and you proved you could regain the title with him?

ANTHONY JOSHUA: Yeah, definitely. That outside pressure was a lot. And if it went wrong, it's like, there's a million and one excuses. You should have changed Rob, you know, this.

Well, I believe in loyalty, you know? These people-- a new trainer would know how to improve me technically to a certain degree but they don't know how to get the most out of me.

So I can easily look at a fighter and say, he needs to improve here. But you don't know the psychological battles that that person's facing and how to-- what makes them tick, what makes them angry. And that's been built up with me and Robert over a long period of time.

So there is a sense of loyalty, the training facilities, all that type of stuff. So when you look at the options we have, we have key things exactly the same. That was, staying with Rob, completely changing, and thus taking the risk of firing Rob and hiring a new trainer.

We don't know if we're going to get along. We don't know if it's going to work. Or keeping Rob and expanding the training team-- I thought that number three was the best option.

And like Rob, we conquered the world independently for the last 10 years. I think it's time that we expand our horizons and bring on some more comrades, bring some more soldiers, and see what we can learn from these different war veterans because fighting is war. So we brought out some more soldiers, some more generals. And they've definitely taught me a few tricks, a few more tricks.

KEVIN IOLE: One of the things I want to do is just ask you about Pulev's-- you know, I mean, he's a guy, I'm just looking at those last couple of fights. Rydell Booker, Bogdan Dinu, Hughie Fury, Kevin Johnson-- you know, not the killer of the heavyweight division that he's been fighting. How did you get yourself up for this guy so that you can be AJ and be the guy that, you know, we've known you being when you see he hasn't had that kind of level of opposition.

ANTHONY JOSHUA: I actually respect him. That's the thing. I actually have a level of respect for him-- not as a person because I don't know him. As a fighter, I have a level of respect for him he's been in with Klitschko even though he got beat. But it takes a man to get there.

Even though he hasn't had like the [INAUDIBLE] on his record, you know, you put that record to someone who's coming up challenging for the title-- Rydell Booker, Kevin Johnson, Bogdan Dinu, Hughie Fury, and he's beating all of these guys. I'll say, OK, this young up and coming heavyweight is hungry. So he's got something about him that has led him towards a championship. And I believe when someone challenges for the championship, they come 25% better than what we've seen. It's just naturally, you know, that natural instinct of I'm fighting--


ANTHONY JOSHUA: Yeah, yeah. So I just can't underestimate this guy. And remember, I've lost before, and I never want to lose again.

And that goes, you know, the Tyson Fury question. I want to compete with him one day. So the only way to prove who's number one is by getting past Pulev and then having the opportunity to compete with him. And that's how I'll go about proving I'm number one.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, that'll be a huge fight down the road on Saturday on December 12 on [INAUDIBLE] here in the US. This man, Anthony Joshua, defends the belt against Kubrat Pulev. AJ, I appreciate you. Good luck as always.

ANTHONY JOSHUA: I appreciate you, Thanks for being a true lover of the sport of boxing. I love speaking to people like you. So have a good day.

KEVIN IOLE: Thank you, brother. Be well.