ANTHONY JOSHUA’s stunning defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr was the “best thing thing to ever happen to him”, according to former heavyweight champion David Haye.
Ruiz turned the boxing world upside down last June by registering an emphatic stoppage victory over ‘AJ’ at Madison Square Garden.
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‘The Destroyer’ – a short-notice replacement for the disgraced Jarrell Miller – stopped the Brit in the seventh round to become Mexico’s first heavyweight champion.
Joshua exacted revenge on Ruiz six months later in Saudi Arabia, turning in a picture-perfect performance to reclaim the unified titles with a unanimous decision victory.
Joshua shed a considerable amount of muscle mass and worked extensively on the fundamentals of the sweet science in preparation for his second showdown with Ruiz, decisions that ended up paying dividends.
Although defeat to Ruiz bounced Joshua from the ranks of the unbeaten, Haye firmly believes the loss was a blessing in disguise for the 31-year-old.
The former cruiserweight and heavyweight champion told Sky Sports: “I think that was the best thing to ever happen to Anthony Joshua.
“I think he’s going to become the fighter he was always going to be, because he’s got that taste of defeat and he doesn’t like that.
‘None of us winners like that taste of defeat and if there’s anything humanly possible to get back into your winning run, no matter how hard you have to dedicate yourself, what type of sparring, what type of pain behind the scenes, you don’t want that feeling of a loss.”
Joshua will be back in action on Saturday night, defending his unified titles against Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at the SSE Wembley Arena.
Victory over ‘The Cobra’ would see the Olympian move a huge step closer to the long-awaited Battle of Britain with WBC heavyweight king Tyson Fury.
Haye is relishing the possibility of the pair throwing down but is refusing to rule out Pulev throwing a spanner into the works.
He added: “This is a serious test for him now, Kubrat Pulev, and then it’s the big one.
“Then it’s the Tyson Fury fight and I think there is only one guy in the world who the oddsmakers will give a legitimate chance of beating Tyson Fury. That’s someone as powerful, as strong, as fast, as motivated as Anthony Joshua.
“He will be the underdog in that fight, but write Anthony Joshua off at your peril. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Anthony Joshua yet. I think over the next three years the real Anthony Joshua will come out.
“He came to boxing late. He hasn’t been boxing since he was a little kid, like Tyson Fury. He’s had to fast-track himself and there have been gaps as he’s been fast-tracking himself, so he’s now filling these gaps in.”
Should Joshua do the business against Pulev, Haye reckons he’ll have a huge mental advantage going into a showdown with Fury.
He said: “It’s been a long, long time since Tyson Fury had the taste of a loss. A very, very long time. Many years.
“Anthony Joshua knows what it feels like recently, so I think that gives him a slight edge.
‘It sounds crazy. I think that gives him an edge, because he doesn’t want to rely on his natural attributes. He wants to make sure he wins this fight.”