Anthony Joshua prepared to go the distance with Kubrat Pulev

Anthony Joshua is ready to trade blows with Kubrat Pulev for 12 rounds if that is what it takes to defend his world heavyweight titles at Wembley’s SSE Arena on Saturday.

The Briton will be back in the ring for the first time since he outpointed Andy Ruiz Jr in Saudi Arabia at the end of last year.

It avenged Joshua’s shock loss to the American-Mexican at Madison Square Garden in June, 2019 and won back his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts.

After a disciplined approach 12 months ago, Joshua is ready to again do whatever is needed to take his record to 24-1.

“I have been punched by the strongest people many times, and I am still here today so that never changed me,” he said.

“Just because I took a loss to Ruiz, that is not enough to change me because I have character.

“Every fighter trains hard but it is character that separates us and I feel I have a lot of character. I will definitely get hit on Saturday and he will definitely get hit and it will be the last man standing.”

The world heavyweight champion is once more prepared to go until the final bell this weekend where 1,000 spectators will be in attendance.

A lot of the talk in the build up to Saturday’s contest has centred on a potential ‘Battle of Britain’ between Joshua and WBC-belt holder Tyson Fury in 2021 but the Gypsy King has confirmed he will not be at the SSE Arena.

The pressure is on Joshua to come through and he was set to face Pulev in 2017 before the Bulgarian suffered a shoulder injury.

Joshua added: “I am prepared for it to go to the final bell, I feel like I am a 15-round fighter and if it needs to go the 12 rounds, I will be more than capable to carry my stamina, my boxing IQ, my concentration and my strength until the final bell.

“The pressure I went through last year was tough but made me stronger mentally, it has given me thicker skin and I have always been tough and always wanted to fight the best.

“That has never been an issue and what have I got to lose? I have got everything to gain.

“I want to be successful in boxing and the only way to be successful is to take on good challenges and this is another one that I am looking forward to competing with him.”

Pulev, 39, said his camp had been waiting for the opportunity to take on Joshua and always expected the chance to come again.

“I’m ready to fight, we spend a long time waiting because 2017 I had a little problem and that is why I tell my trainer we must go for the win,” the Bulgarian said.

“I said let’s not fight now (in 2017), maybe we can fight one or two years later because I believed this fight would come again one day and that is why we don’t fight (in) 2017. I’m here now, ready to fight good and to win.

“I think Saturday night I take the win.”

Airdrie-based Martin Bakole will challenge for the WBC international heavyweight title on the undercard of Joshua-Pulev.

The 27-year-old is confident of success against Sergey Kuzmin and hinted another knockout win could be added to his record.

Bakole said: “We have both won 15, lost once, and I’m also a big puncher. Our careers are on the line and we’ll see who is the best.”

Hughie Fury will be on the undercard of Joshua-Pulev but cousin Tyson Fury will not be in the crowd
Hughie Fury will be on the undercard of Joshua-Pulev but cousin Tyson Fury will not be in the crowd

Tyson Fury’s cousin Hughie is another in action and will face Mariusz Wach in a heavyweight contest.

He said: “It will be a good fight, but Mariusz hasn’t fought anyone like me so I’m looking forward to it.

“I can box him, knock him out, I believe in myself, but the main thing is getting the win.”

Lawrence Okolie will no longer have a world title on the line in his bout, but the WBO international cruiserweight belt is up for grabs when he takes on Nikodem Jezewski.

“For me the most important thing is fighting, the (world) titles will come,” the Hackney boxer said.

“It is a good opportunity to put in a mature performance and my trainer Shane (McGuigan) said he will not be happy unless I do certain things, so I will make sure I do.”