Anthony Joshua says he axed Rob McCracken and brought in Robert Garcia to create a lucky camp for Oleksandr Usyk’s rematch

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

After the shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr. in New York in June 2019, AJ, 32, added Spain coach Angel Fernandez and Wolverhampton coach Joby Clayton to his team.

Joshua and his old trainer McCracken with the heavyweight belts in the world

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Joshua and his old trainer McCracken with the heavyweight belts in the worldPhoto credit: Getty Images – Getty
Joshua is now working with Garcia ahead of his rematch with Usyk

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

From the outside it looked like a worrying break in style, with Team GB boss McCracken a master of European fundamentals and the two untried newcomers favoring a more polished Cuban style.

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

September’s unanimous decision loss to the 35-year-old Ukraine southpaw was too tough a loss for the Joshua-McCracken partnership to survive and the disconnects in the corner were obvious to anyone watching the fight on TV Listen.

And ahead of Saturday’s must-win repeat in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, AJ has revealed changes had to be made to ensure he enjoys his re-education under new head coach, Mexican-American Robert Garcia.

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The two-time heavyweight champion said: “Rather than taking control, this time I’ve learned that what I want isn’t as important as what the coach wants.

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

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

“I’m a sponge, I’ll learn from everyone, so I’ll let them control the environment and – as long as it’s a happy environment – I’ll get a good workout.

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“If I walk into a gym that I’ve set up but people don’t get along, he doesn’t talk to him or he doesn’t get along with him, I’m not going to make the most of the environment.

“And that’s how we did it this time.”

Joshua affectionately referred to McCracken as “The General” and also as “Alex Ferguson” of Team AJ.

But he suggests that the tried and tested methods of training were becoming tiresome and the new faces were brought in to refresh the regime.

The London 2012 Olympics gold boy said: “Me and Rob went in and did jumping, shadow boxing, pads and the bag.

“Of course he said things like ‘hands up’ or ‘slide out’. But Angel and Robert Garcia break things down more.

“Now I might be told, ‘This round, perfect that damn jab. The goal in this round is to get that jab to pop. The next goal is to lean more when throwing the right hand.

“So it’s more tactical, so there are reasons for the method.

“It’s a lot to remember, it can be a bit tiring, but nothing will tire me out more than standing in that ring and going through 12 rounds, really, so I have to go through it.”

Prior to Garcia’s appointment – who has coached 14 world champions but was never a heavyweight – Joshua toured America’s top gyms and met with a roster of respected coaches.

British fight fans were delighted when the Watford hero visited Mexican multi-weight star Canelo’s Californian gym.

But AJ revealed coach Eddy Reynoso’s total devotion to the pound-for-pound ace caused the Dream Team to quickly fade.

He said: “I would want one on one so I wouldn’t have trained alongside Canelo.

“That was one of the reasons why we didn’t go down this path. I need that one on one time and he is committed to his fighter at the moment.

“He couldn’t come here and I live in the UK so we found someone who could and could work within the remit alongside Angel whether he’s here or not.”

It feels most of the rebuilding must happen between AJ’s ears, with his confidence on the deck after such a definitive loss to the former 14.4-pound cruiserweight king.

But the England icon insists his confidence isn’t being fueled by cheerleaders but by hard spars against the four southpaws flown in to set him up for the undefeated left genius.

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

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

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

“A coach can say a million good things to a fighter, but if he doesn’t, it’s pointless.”

Joshua and Usyk faced each other at a press conference in late June

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Joshua and Usyk faced each other at a press conference in late JuneCredit: PA
The couple will meet in Saudi Arabia

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The couple will meet in Saudi ArabiaPhoto credit: Getty

https://www.the-sun.com/sport/boxing/5966221/anthony-joshua-rob-mccracken-robert-garcia-oleksandr-usyk-rematch/ Anthony Joshua says he axed Rob McCracken and brought in Robert Garcia to create a lucky camp for Oleksandr Usyk’s rematch

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