On Saturday there will be a new face in Anthony Joshua’s corner for his crucial rematch with Oleksandr Usyk, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
After a humbling points reverse to the excellent Ukrainian in September, Joshua decided to make a change. He revamped his training team, leaving long-time coach Rob McCracken and brought in Robert Garcia to join Angel Fernandez as co-trainer.
Garcia is a highly experienced coach. He was a world champion as a fighter and went on to train world champions himself, including his brother Mikey Garcia, a multi-weight title winner.
That background, he believes, makes him ideally placed to guide Joshua to a memorable victory over his nemesis Usyk.
“I could go on with a list of fighters that have already been towards the end of their careers but then they come to me and I kind of bring them back to good wins, good fights. Some have even become champions after everyone thought they were finished. One perfect example is Abner Mares,” he told Sky Sports.
“People told me just forget it, I took him on and we went on to win a world title together.
“When [Marcos] Maidana came to me, he had just lost the fight to Devon Alexander I believe and his manager told me Maidana wants to retire but he still has a lot left,” he added.
“We did our job but he also did his. He listened and once he found the hunger again, he paid attention and did what he was told and the results were there. He had a great win against Adrien Broner and then those two fights against [Floyd] Mayweather. We wouldn’t have had two if the first fight wasn’t so close. A lot of people thought we won.”
Joshua has taken an immediate rematch with Usyk and the stakes for this fight are high. The manner of the performance will dictate the future direction of his career.
Garcia though maintains Joshua’s chances going into Saturday’s rematch have been unfairly discredited.
“That’s what I love most about boxing, with one loss, the fans, the people, the media, they write you off. They don’t see that Anthony started boxing at 18, went to the Olympics with not so many years of experience, still won a gold medal. He’s already a two-time heavyweight champion of the world. You get a bad performance, you get a loss and everybody writes you off,” he said.
The task facing Garcia is one he relishes. “These are the challenges that a trainer loves, especially a trainer that still has passion for it,” he said.
“Not to take anything away from former champions that I’ve worked with or fighters that we’ve gone against, like Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao but this event is just special, especially for me, it’s a heavyweight championship of the world. Not every trainer can say that.
“I’ve had great wins but this would be the best win of my career as a trainer,” he added. “Even though everything I’ve accomplished, this will probably be the biggest win. So I need it too, not just Anthony. Myself and Angel Fernandez want this. We want it so bad we worked very hard to make it happen.”
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To that end he has driven Joshua hard in camp. “I came in not to be Anthony’s friend. I told him you might not like us and there’s been times when he’s not happy with us, but I don’t care. I want him to win,” Garcia said. “Sunday morning after the fight, he’s going to be happy because the results are there.
“I came to camp to be the trainer and get Anthony’s respect as a trainer, but I don’t want to be his friend either.
“I learned earlier in my career as a trainer not to be friends with my fighters. They got to know that I come to the gym to give them instructions, they do the work.
“We told Anthony, look you might not like us during training camp. We’re going to push you to do everything we want you to do. There’s going to be days that you’re going to complain about us and yeah, those days have been there where [he thinks,] ‘You guys don’t give me credit for things that I do right.’ Well, that’s good because we want you to do more. But after the fight you’re going to like us. You’re going to thank us.”
Garcia is happy with what he’s seeing now. Joshua, he reports, is in the right frame of mind.
“I told him, ‘Look, I think you’re going to be right at the right moment. With the way training went, sparring partners that we had and your mindset.’ Not only myself but all the guys that are around him, they’ve been saying [Joshua’s thinking,] ‘I know what I’ve got to do, I know how hard I trained, I know what I did in the gym, I know I’m going to go out there and knock him out.’ That’s really the right mentality that he needs to have,” his trainer said.
“Keep giving that positive vibe. Because the whole team has it. We’re on the same page. We’ve talked about it with the team, tell him nothing but positive things. Myself, Angel Fernandez, we’re on the same page. Throughout training camp, we never disagreed on anything we teamed up very well and the job was done. Now we’ve just got to wait for Saturday.”
Joshua may be the underdog going into Saturday’s bout with Usyk. But Garcia is adamant he has the potential to be the best heavyweight in the world.
“Skills, talent, his power, he has it. You see him shadowbox, you see him do the mitts, you see him do heavy bag, you think this guy talent-wise he’s the best heavyweight out there. Talent-wise he’s the best heavyweight out there. But you’ve got to know that you want it in your head and your heart. That’s all that was missing. I think with that in this fight coming up, he’s got all the tools to win,” Garcia said.
“Every time he talks about the fight, he’s very positive about himself and I do believe that that was the main thing. He has to believe in himself. He has to know that he’s got everything that it takes to beat Usyk.”
He knows the calibre of Joshua’s opponent. Usyk has previously trained at his gym in America so Garcia has seen the Ukrainian at first hand.
“He’s very, very difficult, very awkward, smart inside the ring. He trained in my gym for a while when I was in Oxnard so I’ve seen his training. He trains hard. He’s always going to be in great shape. He’s a fun person to be around actually,” he said.
But Garcia noted, “We have the weight, the height, the power, Anthony hits unbelievably hard and he’s got the reach also as well. If we consider those things and work on them, and with the right mindset, I think Anthony has what it takes to win and that’s all we’ve trained for.”
Garcia also has his view on what the method of victory will be. “The only thing in his mind is he’s going to win by knockout,” he said.
“I know that [Joshua] could also win by decision, because if he controls the fight with his long punches using a lot of jabs, even though we want him to back him up, but if he just uses that reach and that distance where he’s controlling the fight, he could easily win a decision too. [But] can he knock him out? I think so and that’s what we’re going for.
“We’re going to push him to go for a knockout.”
Anthony Joshua’s huge heavyweight rematch against Oleksandr Usyk is on Saturday August 20, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book Usyk vs Joshua 2 now!