The magnitude of Anthony Joshua’s rematch victory over Andy Ruiz Jr can be quantified by what it meant to so many people associated with him – not least a handful of hired guns, the sparring partners, who for a few short weeks intertwined their own fates with his.
“If AJ lost, the first thing people would have said was: ‘It is because he had a carpet cleaner as his sparring partner’,” laughs Timothy Moten whose own remarkable tale of sacrifice and bravery would have meant nothing if Ruiz Jr was victorious again.
Moten quit two jobs to withstand Joshua’s best punches but, like everybody else, stood helpless with heart in mouth when the Ruiz Jr rematch began. Only when it ended was Joshua’s fate sealed as a two-time champion – but crucially so was Moten’s, as his secret weapon rather than forever associated with failure.
Moten only understood the potential negative ramifications on his own career when it was nearly too late.
He was a carpet cleaner and a handyman in Louisville, Kentucky (a town made famous by Muhammad Ali) trying to make ends meet while launching his own heavyweight assault.
Moten has a similar physique and dimensions to Ruiz Jr, who shocked Joshua to win the IBF, WBA and WBO belts last June, and a social media bombardment convinced Joshua’s team to hire him as a sparring partner ideally suited to replicating the Mexican-American.
Sparring was a key area identified for improvement by Joshua’s team after losing to Ruiz Jr so plucking Moten from obscurity was a gamble. For Moten, too, as he was warned by a fellow sparring partner when stood in the crowd with the fight set to begin.
“Andrew Tabiti told me: ‘This is a really big moment for Joshua, but also for us, because we’ll get negative feedback if he doesn’t win’,” Moten told Sky Sports.
“Tabiti was coming off a loss. Elvis Garcia and myself were virtually unknown. We knew that, for us, this would have a big impact on our careers.
“As far as proving to him that it was the right move, that came when he beat Ruiz Jr with a completely different style.
“Our proving ground was AJ taking the game-plan and executing it.
“After he won, it was proof that it was the right move to bring us into camp.”
Joshua regaining his world heavyweight championships with a disciplined, skilled domination of Ruiz Jr last December was the culmination of a worthwhile, but painful, experience for Moten.
There can be few more thankless tasks than as a sparring partner for Joshua.
“They told me: ‘If you can’t do anything to make AJ better, you will be sent home and we’ll bring in somebody else that helps him get better’,” Moten explains.
“Jabs were thrown no less than 70 per cent – and it was only 70 per cent because he was figuring out new combinations.
“I know, as a shorter fighter, how to take heat off shots. I saw him hit people with shots and take them off their feet. AJ’s sharpness was crazy.
“If AJ was ever hit, he would fix the problem and never be hit by that same shot again.
“You have to go hard in sparring otherwise, in a fight, it will be foreign to you.
“The last four weeks of sparring got extremely difficult. I sparred him on the Wednesday before the fight. By that time, the sharpness of his shots was great.
“I got hit with a body shot that hurt and a straight right hand that hurt.”
Anthony Joshua focused on improving his sparring for the rematch
Moten had fought, and won, just five times when he was called into Joshua’s inner-circle.
His lack of elite-level experience was shown up on his first day when he exposed his naivety towards Joshua’s strict preparations.
Moten admitted: “I asked: ‘When do we go out to eat?’ They said: ‘AJ has his own chef’. I said: ‘But what about on a Saturday?'”
He was met by looks of bewilderment but his dedication soon impressed.
“The first day I went into the gym, I thanked AJ for the opportunity,” he said. “But AJ said: ‘We will both learn from this – it’s as good for me, as it is for you’.
“The next thing? We were splitting leather together in sparring.
“Eventually we would speak about life. Before I knew it, I was one of the guys. I stopped being Tim – they called me ‘Mayhem’. I was the main one in camp who bridged the gap between sparring partner and friend because I wanted to learn more. The others had been to elite camps but I hadn’t.
“I was meeting up for his 6am run before any of the others.
“They took me under their wing because I was new to the pro game. Those guys showed me the way.
“A lot of guys don’t get this opportunity. I was destined. In time, I will be at the world-class level with Tabiti, Bryant Jennings, Derek Chisora and all the guys I met in that camp.”
Joshua outclassed Ruiz Jr in their rematch
Moten truly believes his talent, as well as his physical similarities to Ruiz Jr, earned him a small role in Joshua’s redemption.
The task now is how to build on that.
How would Joshua and his team remember Moten’s involvement?
“I want them to think: ‘We knew Tim was going to make it’. I don’t want them to ever say: ‘He had a great attitude, we love him, but it sucks that he didn’t make it’.
“When I see those guys on a private jet I send a message, and they do reply back. I say: ‘One day I want to be at the top of the mountain with you’.
“AJ doesn’t have a lot of time so when he speaks, it matters. He takes time to do so.
“They haven’t forgotten about me. It wasn’t just a phase.”
The difficulties of 2020 have hit Moten and prevented him from immediately capitalising on his new reputation as the world heavyweight champion’s sparring partner.
Scheduled fights have been cancelled and so, as a result, has Moten’s plan to transition into a full-time boxer. He has no choice but to work part-time again but there is hope.
He will fight on October 31 in South Carolina and has further dates lined up in Tennessee, Canada and Georgia before the end of the year. He has signed a deal to be affiliated to James Toney Promotions.
“I’ll be 10-0 by March, then I’ll be looking to take the next step up,” Moten said.
“In the next two years I will definitely be in the top heavyweight talks. In the next 18 months people will recognise that I will be a force to be reckoned with. In the next year I will be a contender for some type of title, in the top 15 or 20.
“People know who I am through what I’ve done with AJ. It was a blessing and a step in the right direction to one day becoming a world champion.
“If I stayed in camp with the world heavyweight champion, I must have some type of skill.”