JEDDAH:  Heavyweight boxer Anthony Joshua called retirement speculation "nonsense" on Wednesday after suggestions he could hang up his gloves if he loses to Oleksandr Usyk again this week. Joshua, 32, is bidding to reclaim the world titles he lost to Ukraine's Usyk, who beat the Briton by unanimous decision in London last September. Some experts have said a third professional defeat could end the career of the former Olympic heavyweight gold medalist - a claim dismissed by Joshua.

"I'm competing with a pound-for-pound (one of the most skilled across all weight classes) fighter," he told AFP ahead of Saturday's fight in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. "I'm not losing against some has-been. It's crazy to suggest I should retire. "If I would lose to one of the top fighters of the world today (people would say) 'Oh he should retire, he lost to one of the best'. What type of nonsense is that?" Joshua remains one of the sport's biggest draws but his lustre faded with his surprise defeat by Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019, and dimmed further when he lost to Usyk last year.

However, he avenged the Ruiz loss in Saudi Arabia, and he is hoping for the same result again in Saturday's "Rage on the Red Sea" in the coastal city of Jeddah. "If people really want me to walk away, then cool. I ain't begging no one," Joshua said. "People always ask questions and they're entitled to their questions. "For me personally, I still want to compete. I love it. It's challenging, but I love the challenge. Sometimes I question whether I want to do it, it's that hard. "It's not an easy job but I've got the will, I've got the strength to keep on pushing."

Joshua declined to comment on human rights in Saudi Arabia as news broke Wednesday that a woman had been jailed for 34 years over her Twitter activity, days before his world heavyweight fight in Jeddah. Joshua, who has been based in Saudi Arabia ahead of Saturday's unification bout with Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine, said people seemed "cool" in the kingdom and that he preferred to avoid "negative" talk.

"I'm here enjoying Saudi Arabia now we're all here loving the positive side of things. Don't focus on anything that's negative. I've had a great time," he told AFP. "What I experienced is only what I can talk about. I'm not on the internet researching, digging and digging and digging. I'm sure if you want to find that stuff out you have to dig." As Joshua was preparing for his fight, it emerged that a Saudi woman studying in Britain was jailed for 34 years - with a further 34-year travel ban - for posting messages on Twitter. - AFP