Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua 23-1 (21) has drafted in Joe ‘Juggernaut’ Joyce 11-0 (10) as a sparring partner to help him prepare for his upcoming title defence against Kubrat ‘The Cobra’ Pulev 28-1 (14) at the O2 Arena in London on December 12.
Promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing confirmed the move, adding that the pair had previously sparred many rounds as amateurs.
“There’ve been many bruising sessions over the years,” promoter Eddie Hearn told Sky Sports about Joshua and Joyce’s history.
“Joe has been around for many years on the amateur scene. When AJ was coming through, Joe was one of the experienced guys and some of their spars have been fantastic.
“Obviously AJ went to another level, but Joe is still an outstanding heavyweight.”
WBA, IBF and WBO champion Joshua lost his titles to Andy Ruiz Jr by seventh-round knockout in June last year when the Mexican-American stepped in to replace Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller, who had failed a drugs test.
Finding sparring partners at short notice who could mimic Ruiz Jr’s unique style was difficult, says Hearn.
“I think the research will be in place to identify probably half a dozen sparring partners that will be the right style for Pulev,” he said.
“The sparring for Andy Ruiz, first time around, was so difficult because we had five weeks to find a short – sorry Andy – tubby, fast heavyweight with great movement. It’s very, very difficult to find.
“We got it perfectly right for the rematch. We really brought in five or six guys that had the speed, had the movement, and replicated the style.”
Joshua would regain his world title belts in an immediate rematch with Ruiz Jr last December, winning a wide points decision.
One of the sparring partners he used to prepare himself was American Timothy ‘Mayhem’ Moten.
“I know, as a shorter fighter, how to take heat off shots. I saw him hit people with shots and take them off their feet. AJ’s sharpness was crazy,” Moten told Sky Sports.
“If AJ was ever hit, he would fix the problem and never be hit by that same shot again.
“You have to go hard in sparring otherwise, in a fight, it will be foreign to you.
“The last four weeks of sparring got extremely difficult. I sparred him on the Wednesday before the fight. By that time, the sharpness of his shots was great.
“I got hit with a body shot that hurt and a straight right hand that hurt.”
Joyce previously opened up to Sky Sports about sparring Joshua: “I used to love sparing with Joshua. Sometimes we used to go at it, toe-to-toe, really connecting.”
Hearn said finding sparring partners for the Pulev fight should be easier due to the 39-year-old Bulgarian’s more straightforward style.
“Against Pulev, it’s a little bit easier,” he said.
“Taller, stand up, more of a European style, traditional heavyweight and they’ve already identified a lot of those guys to get in.
“Camp is underway, to be honest. Camp has been underway for the last few weeks. He’ll be moving up to Sheffield soon. I’ve not seen him this excited for a long time.”