Usyk vs AJ: Anthony Joshua plotted revenge over Oleksandr Usyk as he shopped for a new trainer in America

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Anthony Joshua had endured painful questions and regrets on his previous trip to America. A return visit across the Atlantic might now have unearthed career-defining answers for good measure. He and we will find out on Saturday. 

On that peculiar New York night of June 2019, he had been a distant shadow of the Popeyed poster boy unflappable in the face of heavyweight pressure as Andy Ruiz crashed, blitzed and spoiled his US bow.

He went home, tinkered with the blueprint and adopted a slicker, newly-composed edition of AJ to reclaim his belts in dominant fashion in Saudi Arabia later that year.

His next ‘now I know’ moment might well have come with 15 seconds left at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 25 last year: Joshua slouched against the ropes, drawing on his final fumes to bob and weave stoppage-hunting flurries from Oleksandr Usyk before affording an ironic smile as the bell sounded, knowing he had been in a fight, knowing he had faced a master technician, knowing he had come up short.

If the realisation he would do things differently should he get another chance had not already sunk in, it had now.

“I think in all honesty, from him there was no blame, which there never has been so it was just a bit of soul searching, finding solutions and figuring out what he could do differently and just listening to various different things and figuring out what his next step should be,” Joshua’s training camp manager David ‘KD’ Ghansa told Sky Sports.

Live Usyk v Joshua 2: Build-up

Saturday 20th August 6:00pm

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Ahead of Anthony Joshua’s rematch against Oleksandr Usyk, Buddy McGirt, Ben Whittaker, and Callum Smith reveal how they think the fight will play out.

Joshua has taken ownership of every step in his career, whether good or bad. And while Rob McCracken’s guidance helped shape his ascent from Olympic glory to world champion, the man throwing the punches never shirked responsibility or blame.

It was no different post-Usyk, only this time the inquest proved the edge-tipper Joshua was perhaps due. He had aced the chase; here was the tougher test of permanence.

He parted with McCracken, envisioned extensions to the blueprint and headed Stateside to renovate, all in view of reaching the moustached-itch he had failed to scratch first time around.

“I think if we’re going to be completely honest with ourselves Anthony had been searching for something to add to what he was already doing,” ‘KD’ added.

“You saw that for the second fight with Ruiz when he brought Angel (Fernandes) and Joby (Clayton) into the camp. He just wanted to add some more things to the arsenal, I don’t think he wanted complete change.

“He’s a creature of habit, he enjoys doing things consistently with the same people, but it got to that point where it felt like this was the only option in order to get a different result.

“I was part of that. The next day we sat down with Eddie (Hearn) and he expressed that. We ran through a few options off the head we could think of, he did his own research.

“We made the trip and started shopping.”

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Adam Smith says that Anthony Joshua has to take risks against Oleksander Usyk with everything on the line.

Joshua and his team travelled to California to meet with Virgil Hunter, the man instrumental in steering Andre Ward to light-heavyweight unification; he sought time with Ronnie Shields in Texas to test the waters with a man that previously worked with Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, and who had guided Jermall Charlo to middleweight glory; he stepped into the world of Canelo Alvarez to pick the great boxing mind of Eddy Reynoso.

The box-over-bang approach to try and match Usyk’s shiftiness was flawed and Joshua was willing to admit as much in each conversation. America was about stripping everything back, reigniting the grit of his win over Dillian Whyte and the unrelenting mindset of his win over Klitschko. As Shields noted shortly after, Joshua had set out to be a ‘dog’ in the rematch.

“When you look at it, everything since turning professional has come to him, apart from the trip to (Wladimir) Klitschko’s camp,” admitted ‘KD’. “So I think it was definitely something that took him out of his comfort zone.

“The team planned to take him out there, they knew what they wanted to do, it was more or less an interviewing process but what was great was a lot of the coaches were throwing things back at him as well that we probably hadn’t thought of. Like ‘are you willing to do this or do that’.

“We didn’t know where the rematch was going to be, whether it was in the UK, we had no problem basing ourselves out in America doing a camp.”

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Joseph Parker questions whether Oleksandr Usyk can cope with Anthony Joshua’s ‘pressure’ in Saturday’s rematch, live on Sky Sports Box Office.

Upon returning to California, Joshua found what he had been looking for in Robert Garcia, whose unfiltered honesty in analysing fighters became popular. He was the man to tell Joshua what was wrong, even if he didn’t like it.

“When we first met in California last October, once I met the whole team, I talked to Anthony, I was crossing fingers so they could pick me,” said Garcia. “I know they still went to different trainers and different teams to try to see which one fits the best, but I really wanted to because I wanted that challenge.

“I know after his loss everybody pretty much gave up on him, especially the media, boxing fans. Once again lots of people told me, he’s done already, his mind, his heart, it’s not there anymore. I wanted to take the challenge.

“They flew me down in December, the first time I spent 10 days with him and I’ve seen that he’s got unbelievable skills, his skills, his speed, his power, his height, he’s got all the advantages.

“I came back early April for another 10 days and once again he was getting better and better and then I would say probably three months ago is when I came and I stayed all three months, I’ve been here maybe close to four months already.”

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Anthony Joshua’s new trainer Robert Garcia reveals what it is like to work with AJ and admits a win on Saturday would be the best win of his career as a trainer.

Build-up to Saturday has willed and forecast a front-foot Joshua that can combat Usyk’s sleight of hand with the natural power world boxing had been enamoured by early in his career. It appears the message in camp was the same.

“In Fresno, we sat at a table and he was very positive about what he wanted to do, what he wanted to learn and he mentioned, ‘I know I need to be more aggressive, I know I need to be a little bit more of the guy going out there looking for the fight to hurt your opponent’,” said Garcia.

“I said that’s perfect. Because that’s what everybody knows you need and he’s got to accept it. I don’t think it was even that hard to adapt. We didn’t try to change to something that he’s never done before or something that he can’t do.

“Because earlier in his career he had that mentality. I think it was just his last fight with Usyk, his frustration was Usyk is lefty, very awkward with his movements so he kind of felt like he needed something new.”

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Carl Froch says that Anthony Joshua needs to change his approach and use his power when going into the rematch against Oleksandr Usyk.

Why Garcia?

‘KD’ has been part of Joshua’s rise since the beginning, and knows the man outside the ring as well as anybody.

So when Garcia emerged as a personal favourite, he had no reservations in letting it be known.

“What I liked about Robert, it was more through seeing his interviews, we know what he’s done with previous fighters and his CV talks for itself,” he said.

“But what I saw in Robert was a man who spoke well of Anthony when needed, but there were times when he was critical of Anthony’s performances. He did say things that could have ruffled a few feathers. I liked the fact he wasn’t looking like a yes man from the outside.

“He was definitely somebody who was coming in, seeing some flaws, and he was confident. There have been videos of him talking about fantasy match-ups and who would beat who, and Anthony hasn’t been the pick sometimes, that was one of the main things I was looking at.

“Somebody who wouldn’t just be happy to come in and have an opportunity at one, the finances that come with working with Anthony Joshua, and two, the glory and everything else it could do with them personally.”

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Anthony Joshua gives his reaction to an intense face off with Oleksandr Usyk, with the pair now just a day away from their highly anticipated rematch.

He admits it is a big moment in the career of the 47-year-old trainer, whose ‘mission’ mentality became a primary selling point alongside the humanised reality check he has sought to impose with regards to the task ahead.

“What I’ve realised is Robert is one of those very relaxed, chilled people who doesn’t overcomplicate things,” said ‘KD’. “He doesn’t think things are impossible, it’s very straight forward A, B, C.

“He’s taken away what the media and social media have done by putting Usyk on this amazing pedestal, which we’re not taking anything away from him, but at the end of the day he’s human. He’s going into a fight with another human that we believe he can beat.

“It’s actually been that simple. It’s not idolising him and seeing all the greatness Usyk can do and palming it off as an impossible task. It’s Robert breaking it down, ‘he’s human, you know what you’re doing, you know where you went wrong, let’s go do it’.”

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Tyson Fury will ‘answer the bell’ to face the winner of the Oleksandr Usyk vs Anthony Joshua rematch, says his American promoter Bob Arum.

‘No doubts at all’

The old ‘hard work is done’ adage typically tossed around following a pre-fight weigh-in doesn’t quite stand up in a contest of such magnitude or such contrasting styles.

But everything points to meticulous, devoted preparation on Joshua’s part, fuelled less by titles but more so a burning distaste for defeat.

“I’d say he does (want this more than he’s ever wanted anything),” admitted ‘KD’. “What he’s shown time and time again is he doesn’t idolise the belts, titles, but what it is is he’s in a fight and doesn’t want to be the loser.

“So come Sunday morning, he doesn’t want to feel how he felt back in Tottenham. He didn’t like the feeling of losing and he’s left himself no choice but to win by any means.”

There is an emphasis on ‘by any means’. While there is every expectation Joshua lets his hands go in search of the stoppage, both he and those around him have maintained the ability to go 12 rounds.

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Ahead of Saturday’s rematch, Matt Macklin and Johnny Nelson reveal the game-plan that Anthony Joshua could follow to gain revenge over Oleksandr Usyk.

It was KD who triggered cries of ‘two-time’ as Joshua avenged his loss to Ruiz to retake his spot at the pinnacle of the heavyweight division. He deems cries of ‘three-time’ an inevitability.

“When I look at it, the amount of interest in this fight, it’s because people know they didn’t get the version of Anthony Joshua that was meant to be there,” he continued.

“This fight, everybody is talking about it, everybody knows there’s an Anthony Joshua that didn’t turn up on the night.

“Was that the best Usyk? Was that Anthony’s worst Anthony? People are curious to see what levels this fight will go to.
We believe a better Usyk is going to come. We know a better Anthony Joshua is going to come. So that’s fireworks.”

Perhaps for the first time in his career, Joshua arrives as the underdog. But for all the praise Usyk continues to be lavished with in recognition of the puzzle he presents, the man in the opposite corner is as motivated and maybe as dangerous as ever.

“I’m just happy, I’ve pictured it already in my mind,” said ‘KD’. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to see a calm and collected guy.

“I have no doubts at all. Anthony Joshua is coming out victorious that night.”

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!

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