Unified world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua says he will only feel he has “made it” in boxing if he captures Deontay Wilder’s WBC title.
The 29-year-old faces Andy Ruiz Jr on Saturday and told BBC Sport he does not feel “burnt out” as a fight week begins for the first time in a decade.
“I’ve never been in a fight week where I have felt so energised,” he said.
Meanwhile Ruiz has revealed he got the New York fight by “bugging” Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn on Instagram.
Billboards and one more belt Joshua, the WBA, IBF and WBO champion, cut a relaxed figure as he spoke on a New York rooftop, his hands sporting plasters and his cheeks showing small blemishes likely picked up in sparring at the Miami training base he has used to prepare for his US debut.
Saturday’s fight at Madison Square Garden will see him end nine months of inactivity, during which talks with Wilder have yielded nothing in the shape of a historic contest where one man could win all four heavyweight world titles for the first time.
Asked if the glamour of New York and billboards sporting his name mean he has made it, Joshua replied: “Yeah, it looks like I’ve made it but it’s only when I put my hand on the last title – and win on Saturday – then I can say I’ve made it.
“It’s been down to calculated steps. It’s been a good journey, a tough journey. On the sides of the journey there are billboards, then with time, two billboards but it’s all about winning this sport.
“I haven’t put a foot wrong yet and I am not looking to put a foot wrong on Saturday either.”
AJ’s breakthrough and point to prove
Wilder – who is expected to face Luis Ortiz in his next bout – will not be at ‘The Garden’ on Saturday but his manager Shelly Finkel will.
There appears little chance of any contest with Joshua in the coming 12 months, meaning both men risk losing their huge payday and unification bout with a defeat before then.
But Joshua, who stopped the respected Alexander Povetkin last time out, has previously warned delays will only make him better and feels the preparations for this fight are his best ever, refining methods after almost 11 years in the sport.
“I’ve had 10 years of that feeling of being burnt out by the time I get to the ring,” the 2012 Olympic champion told BBC Sport.
“Even in the Povetkin fight I was so ill and tired. This camp, I knew I couldn’t afford that again and again as it shortens the career. So it’s learning but it’s taken time. We are finally pulling it together.
“It’s time to rebuild that name again. I feel like an underdog and like I want to prove myself.”