Anthony Joshua says he axed Rob McCracken and hired Robert Garcia to create a happy camp for Oleksandr Usyk rematch

ANTHONY JOSHUA says he had to end his 10-year relationship with mentor Rob McCracken to create a happy camp for the Oleksandr Usyk rematch.

Following the shock June 2019 loss to Andy Ruiz Jr in New York, 32-year-old AJ added Spanish trainer Angel Fernandez and Wolverhampton coach Joby Clayton to his team.


Joshua and his old trainer McCracken with the world heavyweight beltsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Joshua is now working with Garcia ahead of his rematch with Usyk


Joshua is now working with Garcia ahead of his rematch with UsykCredit: PA

From the outside it looked like a worrying clash of styles, with Team GB boss McCracken a master of European fundamentals and the two unproven newcomers favouring a more elaborate Cuban style.

But the cautious rematch win over the Mexican and December 2020 knockout of Kubrat Pulev papered over any cracks there were in the backroom team.

September’s unanimous decision loss to the 35-year-old Ukraine southpaw was too punishing a loss for the Joshua and McCracken partnership to survive, with disjoint in the corner clear for anyone who watched the bout on TV to hear.

And, ahead of the must-win rerun in Jeddah a week on Saturday, Saudi Arabia, AJ has revealed changes had to happen to ensure he is enjoying his re-education under new head trainer, Mexican-American Robert Garcia.

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The two-time heavyweight champ said: “This time around, rather than taking control, I learned that what I want is not as important as what the coach wants.

“The coach has to able to work in an environment where he can teach me.

“I was willing to hand over the reins to guys and say ‘we need to work on x, y and z. But I want you guys to make the decisions’.

“I am a sponge, I will learn from anyone, so I let them control the environment and – as long as it is a happy environment – I will get a good workout.

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“If I come into a gym I have set-up but people are not getting along, he isn’t speaking to him or he doesn’t get along with him, I am not going to get the most out of the environment.

“And that is how we have managed it this time around.”

Joshua warmly referred to McCracken as ‘The General’ and also the ‘Alex Ferguson’ of Team AJ.

But he hints that the tried-and-tested training methods became tiresome and the new faces were brought in to freshen up the regime.

The London 2012 Olympic golden boy said: “Me and Rob would walk in and do skipping, shadow boxing, pads and the bag.

“He would obviously say things like ‘hands up’ or ‘slip there’. But Angel and Robert Garcia break things down more.

“Now I might get told ‘in this round, perfect that f****** jab. The goal in this round is to get that jab popping. The next goal is to tilt more when you throw the right hand’.

“It’s more tactical like that, so there is reasoning behind the method.

“It’s a lot to remember, it can be a bit brain fatiguing but nothing will fatigue me more than being in that ring and going through it for 12 rounds, for real, so I have to go through it.”

Before appointing Garcia – who has trained 14 world champions, but never a heavyweight – Joshua went on a tour of America’s best gyms and met with a list of respected trainers.

British fight fans were excited to see the Watford hero visit Mexican multi-weight star Canelo’s California gym.

But AJ revealed trainer Eddy Reynoso’s total dedication to the pound-for-pound ace meant the Dream Team faded fast.

He said: “I would want one-on-one time so I would not have been training alongside Canelo.

“That was one of the reasons we didn’t go down that route as well, I need that one-on-one time and he is committed to his fighter at the minute.

“He couldn’t come here and I am based in the UK, so we found someone who could and could work within the remit, alongside Angel when he is here or not.”

It’s felt that most of the rebuild needs to happen between AJ’s ears, with his confidence on the deck after such a conclusive defeat to the former 14st 4lbs cruiserweight king.

But the English icon insists his self-belief is not fuelled by cheerleaders, but hard spars against the four southpaws he flew in to prepare him for the unbeaten leftie genius.

Josh said: “I don’t need the confidence.

“I respect Garcia highly, that’s why his name was initially on the list, because of his name and credentials and experience.

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“But I am happy with whatever my team decides. I can only get my confidence from my preparation and sparring.

“A coach can tell a fighter a million good things but if he doesn’t do them then it’s pointless.”

Joshua and Usyk came face to face at a press conference in late June


Joshua and Usyk came face to face at a press conference in late JuneCredit: PA
The pair will clash in Saudi Arabia


The pair will clash in Saudi ArabiaCredit: Getty

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