Anthony Joshua explains why he has no plans to take a knee before Kubrat Pulev fight

Boxing: Joshua says he has 'character' to crack Pulev

Anthony Joshua has announced that he will not be taking a knee prior to his heavyweight clash with mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev on Saturday night, insisting he wants to do “more tangible things” even though he believes kneeling is “important”. Joshua takes on 39-year-old Pulev, the mandatory for the IBF belt, and puts his three major world titles (IBF, WBA and WBO) on the line in his first fight in 12 months.

The Watford fighter’s long-awaited return to the ring will be his first since the Black Lives Matters protests all across the world earlier this year in the wake of the death of George Floyd, with Joshua making a powerful speech in his hometown in June.

The 31-year-old, who is hoping to set up an undisputed showdown with British rival Tyson Fury with a win over Pulev, faced a backlash for his comments.

During his speech, which was written by Joshua’s friend Reece Campbell, he said: “The virus has been declared a pandemic, it is out of control. And I’m not talking about COVID-19. The virus I’m referring to is called racism. We need to speak out. We need to be united.”

And he later added: “Abstain from spending your money in their shops and economies, and invest in black-owned businesses.”

After being branded ‘racist’ for his use of ‘their’, the heavyweight champion declared via Instagram: “If you think I’m a racist, go f*** yourself! If you watch the full video, the speech was passed around for someone to read and I took the lead.

“I personally spoke from the heart about the Watford community, ideas of us personally investing seven figures to create unity and opportunities and adding change to the African/Caribbean community.

“Shops aren’t the issue here. Before you talk s***, you better boycott racism.”

But while the majority of footballers at Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two matches have all taken a knee prior to kick-off since the sport returned amid the coronavirus pandemic, Joshua says he will not kneel before taking on Bulgarian Pulev.

“I won’t take the knee. I’m trying to do more tangible things,” Joshua explained to reporters on the eve of his fight. “What we’re trying to do is create a union to support British culture.

“That’s important – to showcase people from the Afro-Caribbean community as valuable members of British society.

“I think that’s more important. That’s what we’re working on at the minute. Different athletes, different people, different places.

“So taking a knee is important – 100 per cent. But for me, personally, I’m doing something different this time around.”

AJ revealed over the summer that he plans to help create a new community centre close to where he and his son JJ live and explained: “If you want to be the change, the change has to come from within. I appreciate the people who protest but once the awareness is raised, we need to ­create economic change.

“We need to look at education — readers become leaders. I am focused on the local community. We want to create a centre to help people get educated, for them to gather together and bring some unity.

“I want to give kids a place to go and learn, so if they get into a confrontation with someone who is not from the same country or culture as them, they are not ignorant and they won’t judge them for what they look like.”

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Joshua’s heavyweight rival Fury, who is expected to agree a two-fight deal to do battle with AJ in 2021 if he comes through the challenge of Pulev, was however heavily critical of the speech Joshua gave earlier this year.

The Gypsy King said back in June: “I’m sure he’s apologised if he’s offended anybody — oh he actually didn’t, did he. He actually said if you didn’t like what I said, go f*** yourself. So no apology necessary.

“Let’s just say, I’m not pushing knives in or pushing anybody when they’re down but if it had been me who said it, ‘Don’t shop in any black-owned stores or any Asian owned stores’ or anything, or don’t buy from their businesses, then I’d have been crucified like Jesus Christ. I’ll just say that.

Anthony Joshua explains why he has no plans to take a knee before Kubrat Pulev fight [Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing]

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“Because I think it’s cost him a lot of pay-per-views, figures and stuff like that, and it’s upset a lot of people because he’s supposed to be the poster boy, the role model, the ambassador and talks bulls*** like that.

“But it is what it is what it is. Everyone to their own. None of my concern, to be fair. Good job it wasn’t me, and it never would be me because to me colour doesn’t exist, I’ve got the most diverse team in boxing.”

“The thing is with Joshua, he’s always got [his promoter] Eddie [Hearn] to talk for him, and Eddie does all the media stuff and all that and he sort of just reads off a piece of paper.

“Even that speech he was reading, he read it off a piece of paper. Nothing is freestyle, everything is wrote out or planned.

“So during the lockdown obviously Eddie wasn’t with him when he did this, or else he’d have given him a right kick up the rear end.”

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