Anthony Joshua will resist the temptation to use his second IBF world heavyweight title defence against Eric Molina to send a message to Wladimir Klitschko, despite the looming bout with the Ukrainian. The former Olympic champion is scheduled to face Klitschko in early 2017 if he beats Molina on 10 December, with the 40-year-old expected to be ringside at the Manchester Arena.
Joshua and Klitschko had initially agreed to face-off next month for the IBF and vacant WBA heavyweight crowns, before the division's second-longest reigning champion suffered a calf injury, scuppering a potential bout. However, after the WBA sanctioned the bout the pair will clash in either March or April of 2017 in what is already the most anticipated fight of the forthcoming year.
Klitschko will make the trip to Manchester to assess the competition as Joshua fights for the first time since June's seventh round stoppage of Dominic Breazeale, against Molina, who is bidding to become the first Mexican-born world champion of the blue ribbon weight class. But Joshua will not allow the presence of the legendary 'Dr. Steelhammer' to effect his performance and is fully focused on the task at hand.
"He's not in the ring with me, Joshua told reporters in London. "I've got more pressure on me because Eddie [Hearn, Matchroom promoter] is sitting at ringside, or my trainer [Tony Sims] is sitting there, than with Klitschko. I'm more worried about what my coach says than what Klitschko is thinking. He got injured and that is what it is. I was signed, he was going to sign and then he got injured. I've just got to crack on. Either I didn't fight him now, and fight him next. I just kept the ball rolling and stayed in the gym."
Though Joshua never tailored his trailing in preparation to face Klitschko, the Briton was expecting to face the man conquered by Tyson Fury in November 2015 up until two weeks ago. Molina, meanwhile has been parachuted in following two successive victories since last losing to WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
Molina survived three knockdowns before eventually succumbing in the ninth round in June 2015 and emerged with much credit after rattling Wilder, who has a knock-out rate of in excess of 97%. Joshua admits comparisons with the American are inevitable when he takes on Molina, 34, but he has pledged to improve on Wilder's display.
"I think I'll do it [win] in an easier fashion," he insisted. "People say they are going to come and it's going to be the toughest fight of their life, and if that is their mentality then I'll make it easy. If you're going to tell everyone it's going to be the toughest fight of your life; I'll make you shift. What does that say about me?
"Even if I took him 12 rounds, but I played with him that shows I've got a greater skills set. If I knock him out, it says I have a better punching power so either way as long as I win in a good fashion I can tick a box. I don't want to focus the win on Wilder's performance; it's about my own development."
Among the opponents touted for Joshua both before Molina was confirmed as his winter opponent, and after he takes on Klitschko, is fellow-countryman David Haye who is two fights into his third coming in professional boxing. The Bermondsey-born Haye has failed in attempts to land a world title shot for the vacated WBA 'regular' or WBO belts and Hearn says without one, an all-British clash is unlikely.
"David Haye doesn't want to fight Anthony Joshua," Hearn said. "He wants to win a world title, then he wants to fight Joshua and he's smart to do that because that unification fight is huge. He would much rather box the winner of Parker and Ruiz, or what he was trying to do fight Lucas Browne. He wants some power and that is all down to negotiation as well. When he's negotiating with a world title it makes a hell of a lot of difference and that means splitting as a voluntary candidate.
"Once you've fought Klitshcko, how can you go to him [Joshua] and say you've earned double the millions but you're going to do back and have a voluntary defence. He won't want it, he'll just want the massive fights and that is Klitschko, Wilder, Haye. Don't rule out Fury one day, they're the sights."