Anthony Joshua recovered from his nightmare against Andy Ruiz Jr with hours of chess, sleepless nights and true friends

Joshua found peace when the large group accompanying him in New York City opted against their planned night on the town, the ritual they expected to celebrate. Instead, they stayed at home quietly for a week with a chessboard and occasionally strolled through the serenity of Central Park.

Promoter Eddie Hearn was lost for words and, almost, literally lost amid the madness of New York.

“I left the arena after the press conference at 4am in the morning,” he told Sky Sports about the worst result of his career.

“I thought: ‘I’m going to walk back to the hotel across Manhattan, three or four miles’.

“I was walking past Brits who had had a few beers [and they asked]: ‘Eddie, what happened mate?’

“I got back to the hotel. My kids were leaving on the early flight in the morning. So I didn’t go to sleep. They left at 6am with my wife.

“I had to stay out in New York to do Gennadiy Golovkin’s fight week.

“It didn’t really hit me until Tuesday.

“At the time you work through it with a brave face. I went round to see AJ: ‘We’ll have a rematch!’

“Then all of a sudden it was hard to get out of bed. It was a tough moment.”

Joshua and his team returned solemnly to their accommodation in the early hours of June 2.

“After I lost you have time to think,” Joshua said. “But none of the boys went out.”

Their decision not to enjoy what New York has to offer in the days after defeat allowed Joshua to view them in a new light. The team had lost, not the individual.

Joshua reflected: “But when you’ve been winning for so many years it can come across that [these people] were just here for the good times. But they stuck with me and didn’t leave my side, and I only realised that when I had time to myself. These people are real.

“The boys that were rolling with me through Birmingham, Newcastle, Liverpool and Scotland – paying for their own flights – now we can rent an Airbnb home with enough space for all of us. My dad was there, my aunties came.”

Boxing is littered with champions who suddenly find themselves with fewer friends when they lose the title. Joshua, in the days prior to the first Ruiz Jr fight, had been criticised for the size of his entourage.

“No one changed,” he said. “People love you when you’re winning. But you realise that they love you for who you are, and what you represent.”

Madison Square Garden gave Joshua a personalised chess set and this source of entertainment provided focus in the quiet days after June 1.

“AJ got a lot better at chess,” his manager Freddie Cunningham told Sky Sports. “He hadn’t played a huge amount but, by the end, it got very competitive. It was nice to have a bit of normality for our close team.”

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