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Thomas Cook customers will not be stranded, vows Raab

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Media captionForeign Secretary Dominic Raab says that people “will not be stranded” if Thomas Cook collapses

The government is ready to fly holidaymakers back to the UK if tour operator Thomas Cook collapses, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said.

Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show contingency planning was in place to make sure no-one would be stranded.

But he dampened hopes of a government rescue bid for the firm.

Ministers did not “systematically step in” when businesses went under unless there was “a good strategic national interest”, he said.

Mr Raab said he did not want to undermine the rescue talks that Thomas Cook is currently conducting with its biggest shareholder and creditors at City law firm Slaughter & May.

The tour operator’s financial difficulties have mounted over the past year, culminating in a refinancing plan in August led by its biggest shareholder, Chinese company Fosun.

But banks now want the company to raise extra funds and it could fall into administration within days unless it finds £200m.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) union, which represents Thomas Cook staff, is urging the government to step in with a bail out amid fears the company’s collapse could leave about 150,000 British tourists stranded.


Analysis

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Reuters

Katie Prescott, business correspondent

This meeting is crucial for Thomas Cook’s survival.

If there is no agreement, then the decision to wind up the company will be taken at a Board meeting this evening. It’s likely (looking at the precedent of Monarch’s collapse) that any announcement about that will be made late at night, once all planes are on the ground. But the company doesn’t have to announce anything until the markets open at 07:00 BST on Monday.

It’s low season at the moment, the time of year when Thomas Cook has to pay its suppliers for the busy summer season just gone. Hoteliers are paid on 60 to 90-day terms, once travellers have already taken their holidays. The nightmare scenario is that hoteliers who don’t think they will get paid might turn out the people staying with them.

However, it is worth re-stating that the company is still trading. People are still holidaying with Thomas Cook. And while we can assume the company is reining back marketing activity around last-minute deals and offers, until any announcement is made, it is business as usual.

The foreign secretary said he did not want talk of contingency planning to become “a self-fulfilling prophecy”.

But he told the BBC the government had learned lessons from the collapse of the Monarch airline in 2017. The UK’s consular authorities abroad were ready to assist, he said.

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise it’s a worrying time for holidaymakers and employees.

“The financial circumstances of individual businesses are a commercial matter, but the government and the Civil Aviation Authority are monitoring the situation closely.”

‘Being held hostage’

Meanwhile, holidaymakers staying at a hotel in Tunisia owed money by Thomas Cook have reportedly been prevented from leaving the resort until it has been paid.

Guests at the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet, near Tunis, said the hotel was refusing to let them leave because of concerns about Thomas Cook’s future.

Customers have reported that the hotel is asking visitors to pay extra money amid fears it will not be paid what it is owed by the tour operator for bookings.

Ryan Farmer, from Leicestershire, told BBC Radio 5 Live the hotel demanded all guests who were due to leave go to reception “to pay additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook”.

Security guards closed the hotel’s gates as guests refused to pay the extra fee, Mr Farmer claims.

He told the Stephen Nolan show: “I’d describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage.”

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AFP

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Thomas Cook has hundreds of High Street stores

Thomas Cook customers have been reminded on social media that they have Atol protection – a fund paid for through industry levies – “in the event that Thomas Cook goes into administration”.

The travel firm also reassured customers on Saturday night that flights continue to operate as normal.

Rescue call

One of the world’s largest travel companies, Thomas Cook was founded in 1841 to operate temperance day trips, and now has annual sales of £9bn.

It employs 22,000 staff, 9,000 of whom are in the UK, and serves 19 million customers a year in 16 different countries.

There are currently 600,000 Thomas Cook customers on holiday, of which 150,000 to 160,000 are British.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes has called on Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom to help Thomas Cook “no matter what”, saying it would save thousands of jobs.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said “the government must consider stepping in and taking an equity stake to avoid this crisis”.

Wedding worries

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Chloe Hardy

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Chloe and her fiance Jack are due to fly to Zante for their wedding

Chloe Hardy from Leicestershire is due to get married in Zante in October and booked the wedding package with Thomas Cook back in June 2018.

Chloe and her fiance will also have 33 family members flying out, with their trips costing more than £33,000 in total.

With the big day looming, Chloe is frustrated by Thomas Cook’s handling of their booking.

“We are unsure if we will be able to fly… This is causing great concern, worry and stress to all of us involved.”

In July, Thomas Cook produced a business plan saying that it needed £900m in refinancing, up from a previous estimate of £150m. The £900m would come from China’s Fosun, the group of creditors and some other investors.

The group of lenders then commissioned an independent investigation. Its financial advisers said Thomas Cook would require an additional £200m on top of the £900m already required, which would bring the total refinancing needed up to £1.1bn.

Thomas Cook succeeded in finding a backer to provide the additional £200m, but the BBC understands it has since pulled out.

The firm has blamed a series of problems for its profit warnings, including political unrest in holiday destinations such as Turkey, last summer’s prolonged heatwave and customers delaying booking holidays because of Brexit.

What are your rights?

If you are on a package holiday you are covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence scheme (Atol).

The scheme will pay for your accommodation abroad, although you may have to move to a different hotel or apartment.

Atol will also pay to have you brought home if the airline is no longer operating.

If you have holiday booked in the future you will also be refunded by the scheme.

If you have booked a flight-only deal you will need to apply to your travel insurance company or credit card and debit card provider to seek a refund.

When Monarch Airlines collapsed in 2017, the government organised to bring home all the stranded passengers, whether they were covered by Atol or not.

Here is more information on Atol protection and Your questions answered


Are you a Thomas Cook customer or member of staff? If you’ve been affected by the issues raised here, you can get in touch by emailing .

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:



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Climate Strike: Protests expected across UK

Teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg

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Teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg – who inspired the protests – sailed to the US ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York next week

Protests are expected across the UK, with pupils leaving schools and workers downing tools in a bid to urge more government action on climate change.

It’s part of a global “climate strike” day, which started in Australia earlier, where organisers said around 300,000 people took part.

They are urging “climate justice” and “an end to the age of fossil fuels”.

Energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng said their voices were being heard but did not “endorse children leaving school”.

It follows earlier school strikes inspired by activist Greta Thunberg.

The teenager, from Sweden, has described the turnout in Australia earlier as “incredible”.

She is set to join a later rally planned in New York, where world leaders will meet at the UN next week to discuss climate change.

Extinction Rebellion, which organised its own climate and environment protests in the UK earlier this year, said it stood “in solidarity” with those taking part.

It added that its members were joining the strikes and holding their own events, including a choir and “kids’ space” in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, and outside King’s College London.

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Students gather for a protest against climate change in Nicosia, Cyprus

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will address the UK Student Climate Network’s Global Climate Strike in Westminster at about 13:15pm.

Mr Kwarteng told BBC Breakfast protesters’ voices were “being heard” but insisted the time spent in school was “incredibly important”.

He added: “What I do support is their energy, their creativity, and the fact that they have completely mastered these issues and take them very seriously.”

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Hampton Hill ‘explosion’: Residents evacuated after building fire

Hampton Hill

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The London Fire Brigade evacuated 30 residents after a building on High Street in Hampton Hill caught fire

About 30 residents have been evacuated and part of a building has been destroyed following a suspected explosion.

London Fire Brigade said it was called to a fire after the suspected blast on High Street in Hampton Hill, south-west London, on Tuesday night.

On social media, one witness described hearing a “boom” before the blaze. No was injured.

Road closures remain in place at the scene, Richmond Council said.



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Sir Rod Stewart says he’s ‘in the clear’ after cancer diagnosis

Sir Rod Stewart and wife Penny Lancaster

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Sir Rod Stewart and wife Penny Lancaster

Sir Rod Stewart has been given the all-clear after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The rock legend made the revelation at a fundraising event on Saturday.

“No one knows this, but I thought this was about time I told everybody. I’m in the clear, now, simply because I caught it early. I have so many tests,” he said, according to The Mirror.

The 74-year-old was speaking at an event for the Prostate Project and golf’s European Tour Foundation.

He joked to wife Penny Lancaster that he was going to use the evening to “come out”, adding: “It’s not what you think. Two years ago I was ­diagnosed with prostate cancer.”

He said: “If you’re positive, and you work through it and you keep a smile on your face… I’ve worked for two years and I’ve just been happy, and the good Lord looked after me.”

‘Go to the doctor’

He urged men to get checked, adding: “Guys, you’ve got to really go to the doctor.”

He was speaking alongside former Faces bandmate Ronnie Wood, who has previously been treated for lung cancer. “Somebody up there likes us, Rod,” he said, the paper reported.

More than 11,000 men die from prostate cancer in the UK every year. The prostate is a small gland in the pelvis, and is found only in men.

Sir Rod’s announcement comes as stars including Stephen Fry, former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull and Oscar-winning actor Jim Broadbent join a Prostate Cancer UK campaign titled Men, We Are With You.

Fry revealed in February 2018 that he was recovering after having surgery. In a video for Prostate Cancer UK, he said: “My prostate cancer was thankfully caught in the nick of time. But it shouldn’t be down to luck. A more accurate test and, in turn, a national screening programme would give men the best possible chance.”

The coverage of Fry and Turnbull’s treatments led to an increase in men getting checked, the head of the NHS revealed last year.

Prostate Project trustee Tim Sharp said: “When these high profile celebrities talk about it, it makes a huge difference.

“What we say to men between 50 and 70 is you should go and get yourself checked whether you have any symptoms or not. One of the key problems with prostate cancer in its early stages is it is largely symptomless.

“If every single man between 50 and 70 went to see their doctor, we would see the number of deaths reduced dramatically.”

What are the symptoms?

There can be few symptoms of prostate cancer in the early stages, and because of its location most symptoms are linked to urination:

  • needing to urinate more often, especially at night
  • needing to run to the toilet
  • difficulty in starting to urinate
  • weak urine flow or taking a long time while urinating
  • feeling your bladder has not emptied fully

Men with male relatives who have had prostate cancer, black men and men over 50 are at higher risk of getting the disease.

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email .



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Edgware Road stabbing: Two charged with Josiph Beker murder

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Josiph Beker died from a stab wound to the chest

Two teenagers have been charged with murdering another boy who was stabbed in central London.

The two 16-year-olds have been charged with attacking Josiph Beker, 17.

The Met Police said officers were called to Edgware Road, near to the junction of Church Street, at 13:54 BST on Tuesday.

There officers found Josiph, who was also known as Yousef, had been stabbed in the chest. He was taken to hospital but died at about 19:30 BST.

The 16-year-olds will appear before Highbury Corner Magistrates Court.

An 18-year-old was also arrested in connection with Josif’s murder but he has been bailed pending further inquiries.

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Vivianne Miedema: Arsenal’s striker on Virgil van Dijk & Dutch success

Vivianne Miedema was top scorer in the Women’s Super League last season

Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema is the Netherlands’ all-time leading goalscorer, has won three league titles in two countries and holds the record for most Women’s Super League goals in a season. She is also just 23.

Fresh from playing in this summer’s World Cup final, Miedema sat down with BBC Sport to discuss her Dutch roots, football chats with Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk and her childhood fascination with Robin van Persie.

Family, Feyenoord and Van Persie

Growing up in Hoogeveen, a town in the north-east of the Netherlands, Miedema would join her father and younger brother Lars in making the 120-mile trip to Rotterdam to watch Feyenoord play.

And when asked about the influence of her family on her playing career, Miedema jokes she “never really had a choice” but to pursue football as a profession.

“My dad used to play football, my granddad used to play football and my little brother is playing now too,” she tells BBC Sport, referring to Lars’ contract with FC Den Bosch, the club where Ruud van Nistelrooy began his career.

“We just loved it and there was nothing else for me. I am four years older than my brother but I used to play football with him and it’s made me a better player and I think him too.”

Last year, Miedema posted a photo of her younger self with childhood hero Robin van Persie on Instagram

The Miedema family were all big Feyenoord fans and between 1996 and 2004 were able to watch as ex-Manchester United and Arsenal striker Van Persie developed on his way to becoming one of the best strikers in Europe.

Reflecting on that time, she says: “If you are a young girl now it might be a bit different because there are lots of female players to look up to but I used to be a fan of the Feyenoord players. I used to buy the little kits of Robin van Persie and watch every single game.

“They were the only games I was allowed to stay up late for during the week. We used to go to some of their games. Sometimes, as a birthday present, I would go to a fan day or an open training session.

“I met van Persie once – I can’t really remember it because I was so young. But [at Feyenoord] you got to meet some of the players and go on the pitch with them. It was amazing.”

Celebrating Dutch success with Virgil van Dijk

Virgil van Dijk and Miedema were the first players from the same country to win PFA Player of the Year awards in the same year

Like Van Persie, Miedema has become one of the most prolific strikers in the game.

She scored 22 goals and picked up 10 assists in 19 league appearances last season in helping Arsenal win their first WSL title in seven years, her performances leading to being named the PFA Player of the Year. Compatriot Van Dijk picked up the men’s prize.

“It was quite a big thing back home – two Dutch players winning it made it even bigger than it probably was for me and for him,” says Miedema.

“It was nice to get the awards after the year we both had but we are both quite down to earth and the day after the focus was on the football again.”

For Miedema, focussing on football meant the then-upcoming World Cup. Liverpool defender Van Dijk was supporting Miedema and her Dutch team-mates this summer, wishing them luck before their defeat in the final by champions the USA.

“I spoke with him [Van Dijk] at the PFA awards and he is a nice guy,” says Miedema. “Obviously we had some football chat – I went to the Liverpool v Barcelona Champions League semi-final as well.

“It was just nice. We see them [the men’s internationals] when we are away with the national team as well. We watch their games and they watch ours and he was watching the World Cup final. It’s nice to have that contact and respect each other.”

Breeding confidence at Arsenal

Dutch players have enjoyed success in the English game, with Ruud van Nistelrooy, Edwin van der Sar and Arjen Robben among players to have enhanced their reputations in the Premier League.

In 2018-19, there were four Dutch players in Arsenal Women’s title-winning squad and all four started the World Cup final. This summer, midfielder Jill Roord joined from Bayern Munich.

“The English league is one of the most attractive leagues to go to right now,” Miedema says.

“The step from Holland to England is small, it’s not like going to Spain where you don’t understand a word and it’s a different life. In England, it is quite similar to how we live and that makes it a lot easier.”

Women’s World Cup 2019: Vivianne Miedema scores again to make it 3-1 Netherlands

Miedema, who has scored 63 goals in 83 appearances for her country, adds that success on the international stage breeds confidence with team-mates back at Arsenal.

“Nobody expected us to win the Euros or do well at the World Cup but we did it, again,” she says. “I played my part in that and it was good to get back into it recently for the start of the Euro qualifiers.”

After becoming the first player to surpass 16 goals in a single WSL season in 2018-19, there are higher expectations of Miedema and her team-mates to defend their title.

“I am lucky because I have been in this situation when I was at Bayern Munich [winning back-to-back league titles in 2015 and 2016]. I have that experience,” she says.

“It is something that’s extra special because obviously every team comes for you and has nothing to lose. They want to get a point off you and work a bit harder against you than other teams.

“That’s just extra motivation to get better every single week and play better football than we did last year.”

Miedema’s all-time Dutch goalscoring record was celebrated in the recent Euro 2021 qualifying win over Turkey – their first home game since reaching the World Cup final

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Boycott ‘doesn’t give a toss’ about knighthood criticism

Geoffrey Boycott

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Geoffrey Boycott has said he “couldn’t give a toss” about criticism over Theresa May awarding him a knighthood in her resignation honours list.

Domestic abuse charities criticised the move to honour the ex-England cricket captain, who was convicted of beating his girlfriend in France in 1998.

Boycott has always denied the assault.

Mrs May’s former closest advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, have also been recognised on her 57-strong list, made up of mostly political figures.

Every departing prime minister can draw up a resignation honours list, which the Cabinet Office has to approve.

Mrs May announced her resignation in June after failing to get support for the withdrawal agreement she had negotiated for the UK to leave the EU.

The former prime minister showed her love of cricket with knighthoods for Boycott and fellow former England captain Andrew Strauss.

Boycott was fined £5,000 and given a three-month suspended sentence in 1998 after being convicted of beating his then-girlfriend Margaret Moore in a French Riviera hotel.

Mrs May, who introduced a landmark Domestic Abuse Bill to Parliament earlier this year, was accused of sending a “dangerous message” by Women’s Aid’s co-acting chief executive Adina Claire.

She said: “It is extremely disappointing that a knighthood has been recommended for Geoffrey Boycott, who is a convicted perpetrator of domestic abuse.”

Interviewed by presenter Martha Kearney on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Boycott responded: “I don’t give a toss about her, love. It was 25 years ago so you can take your political nature and do whatever you want with it.”

The 78-year-old, who is part of the BBC’s cricket commentary team for the current Ashes series, added: “It’s very difficult to prove your innocence in another country, in another language.

“I have to live with it – and I do. I’m clear in my mind, and I think most people in England are, that it’s not true.”

Boycott also had to apologise in 2017 after joking that he would have to “black up” to be given a knighthood, reportedly saying they were handed out to West Indian cricketers “like confetti”.

Mrs May once compared her determination to delivering Brexit with the fighting spirit in Boycott’s batting marathons.

Telling journalists he was one of her sporting heroes, she said in November 2018: “Geoffrey Boycott stuck to it and he got the runs in the end.”

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Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill were Mrs May’s closest advisers before the 2017 general election

The 37 men and 20 women on the list include members of Mrs May’s Downing Street staff, political aides and lifelong supporters of the Conservative Party.

It includes recipients from all four nations of the UK as well as non-political figures and members of civic society.

Labour said the honours rewarded “big Tory donors and No 10 cronies”.

Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, Mrs May’s former chiefs of staff who left their jobs after the 2017 general election in which the Conservatives lost their majority in the Commons, become Commanders of the Order of the British Empire, or CBEs.

The former prime minister’s chief EU negotiator Olly Robbins receives a knighthood.

The senior civil servant helped to create Mrs May’s Brexit deal before it was defeated in Parliament three times. It has been announced that Mr Robbins is to join investment bank Goldman Sachs.

There is also a knighthood for her former director of communications, Robbie Gibb.

When her predecessor David Cameron awarded a knighthood to his own head of communications, Craig Oliver, Mrs May later joked that she “retched violently” at seeing his name on the list.

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Gavin Barwell, left, and Olly Robbins are honoured by former PM Theresa May

Gavin Barwell, the former Tory MP who Mrs May brought in to replace the pair, is one of eight new Conservative peers.

Sir Kim Darroch – who was forced to resign as ambassador to the US after comments he made about President Trump were leaked – has been made a crossbench peer.

Boris Johnson, who was then running in the Tory leadership contest prior to becoming prime minister, was criticised at the time for not showing enough support for Sir Kim.

Meanwhile, there is a damehood for Cressida Dick, whose police career started at the age of 23 after a brief spell working in a fish-and-chip shop. She is one of just a few non-political figures on Mrs May’s list.

Another former England cricket captain, Strauss, was also awarded with a knighthood.

The 42-year-old left his role as England’s director of cricket last year and has raised nearly £400,000 for the charity he set up in honour of his wife, Ruth, who died of cancer in 2018.

Sir Simon Woolley, the founder of operation Black Vote, and Ruth Hunt, the ex-chief executive of Stonewall, have been made crossbench life peers.

While British Empire Medals, or BEMs, have been awarded to Graham Howarth and Debra Wheatley – Mrs May’s head chef at Chequers and housekeeper at Downing Street respectively.

The list of peerages – which sees those appointed sit in the House of Lords – include several nominated by other parties to sit on their benches.

‘Policy of restraint’

Among them are former NUT general secretary Christine Blower, for Labour, and former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, who will become the party’s second peer in the House of Lords.

The Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, said Mrs May’s list was “substantially smaller” than those drawn up by predecessors, helping to reduce the size of the House of Lords.

Several MPs have received honours:

  • Sir Patrick McLoughlin, Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales (Companion of Honour)
  • George Hollingbery, Conservative MP for Meon Valley (Knighthood)
  • David Lidington, Conservative MP for Aylesbury (Knighthood)
  • Charles Walker, Conservative MP for Broxbourne (Knighthood)
  • Brandon Lewis, Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth (CBE)
  • Julian Smith, Conservative MP for Skipton and Ripon (CBE)
  • Seema Kennedy, Conservative MP for South Ribble (OBE)

John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw and an independent government adviser on anti-Semitism, received a non-affiliated peerage.

Mr Mann is standing down as MP, citing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the party’s anti-Semitism crisis.

Margaret Ritchie, who was leader of the SDLP in Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2011, also received a non-affiliated peerage.

The former South Down MP made history in 2010 when she became the first leader of a nationalist party to wear a remembrance poppy.

A source close to Mrs May said the list “recognises the many different people who have made a significant contribution to public life” during her political career.

Criticising Mrs May’s choices, Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery said: “It comes as no surprise that big Tory donors and Number 10 cronies are being honoured yet again.

“The Tories only care about looking after their own and will only stand up for the wealthy few who fund them.”

The SNP’s Pete Wishart accused Mrs May of “handing out peerages like sweeties”, adding that it was the “worst kind of cronyism”.

He said: “It is a disgrace that the Tories are able to give away jobs for the boys, and make their cronies and donors legislators for life – with no democratic mandate or accountability to the people of Scotland and the UK.”

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Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz: British fighter made ‘drastic changes’ after June loss

Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua returned to New York for a news conference, where they fought in June

Britain’s Anthony Joshua says he has made “drastic” lifestyle changes since his shock defeat by Andy Ruiz in June.

Joshua lost his IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles as he was knocked down four times before a seventh-round stoppage in New York – one of boxing’s biggest upsets.

The pair will fight again in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia on 7 December.

“Boxing was always the easiest part for me. The struggle was always keeping my life in check,” Joshua, 29, told AFP.

“There will be no aftershock after the first fight. I will be smarter. Getting knocked down was good.

“I have made some drastic changes, lifestyle stuff. Family, circles, what is important, priorities. The effort it takes to stay on the straight and narrow is challenging.”

The pair faced off on Thursday during an international media tour for the rematch with Ruiz – who fights under a Mexican flag – wearing a sombrero throughout the news conference.

Joshua vowed to regain his titles and insisted “stopping isn’t in my DNA”.

“As long as I have breath in me I will keep on fighting for the passion of boxing,” said Joshua.

“I faced defeat as an amateur in my third fight. If I had stopped then there would be no now. I lost in the European quarter-finals. If I stopped then, there would be no now.

“Everyone in this room has been through certain things where no-one believed in them.

“I am not gun shy and I am looking forward to getting back in there and regaining my belts.”

The bout has attracted criticism since it was announced it would be in Saudi Arabia.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International has highlighted the country’s “abysmal” human rights record. Heavy restrictions on freedom of expression and women’s rights have been raised, as has the use of the death penalty for offences not recognised as crimes under international law.