‘My heart’s in the game’ – Joshua ‘starting fresh’


Ever since his heavyweight gold medal win at the 2012 Olympics, the spotlight has shone on Anthony Joshua.

After three defeats in his last five fights, the former world champion will return to the ring on Saturday, 1 April against American Jermaine Franklin.

The fight at London’s O2 Arena is, quite aptly, billed as the ‘New Dawn’.

“I’m starting fresh,” says Joshua, who has won 24 fights and lost three.

The 33-year-old Joshua – who turned professional in 2013 – has a new team behind him, headed by coach Derrick James, and has based his training camp in Texas, USA.

Former cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew visited Joshua to discuss the Briton’s second straight loss to Oleksandr Usyk in August, his new team, new surroundings and to explore what trainer James can add to his game.

‘I felt like I let a lot of people down’

Joshua made a blistering start to the professional ranks, winning a world title in just his 16th fight, with 16 knockouts.

With the world at his feet, Joshua suffered a shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in June 2019 . He won his IBF title back in the rematch six months later, but was then dethroned once again – this time by Usyk in September 2021.

Joshua replaced coach Rob McCracken with Robert Garcia for the rematch with the Ukrainian, but was once again outpointed by Usyk.

Despite a better performance in the second fight, Joshua lost his temper moments after Usyk had been declared the winner – dropping two of the champion’s belts over the top rope of the ring and then arguing with the opposing team.

“When I fought Usyk I felt like I let a lot of people down,” says Joshua. People said, ‘his mind ain’t in it, where’s his head at? His head’s not in the game’.

“That’s not the truth – my heart’s in the game, fully. This is all I have, really.”

‘Success breeds success’

James is Joshua’s third trainer in as many fights. Up until the Usyk rematch, he had been trained by Briton McCracken.

Having split with Garcia after just one fight, one of Joshua’s team contacted James on Instagram.

“When I saw him, I liked him,” James says. “I liked his size. What I saw from him, initially, was he’s a good fighter, he’s a good boxer. Very fast hands, very athletic.”

The coach is a former fighter who also trains world champions Errol Spence Jr and twins Jermall and Jermell Charlo.

“Derrick James is an ex-fighter himself. I feel he knows how to get someone fight ready and he’s pushing me in that direction,” Joshua adds.

“When you’re among great fighters it helps. We’re all training at different times because there’s one Derrick James.”

Texan James, 41, added: “We kind of cross each other’s paths. It does give the motivation because you can see the good and the bad from a distance. Success breeds success. You put a dog with sheep, it’ll become a sheep.

“I think that, for me, it’s all about getting him to understand who he really is and how great he really is. What his full potential really is.”

Joshua can ‘relax and shut off’ in Texas

Promoter Eddie Hearn has previously referenced the level of fame and scrutiny Joshua faces, and the impact that can have on his fighter’s life.

Joshua also highlights how basing a training camp outside of the United Kingdom can relieve some of that pressure.

“It’s been tough,” he adds. “The expectation that’s been on my back where it’s like, ‘represent this, stand up for that, smile this place, carry this baby and smile’, that’s why it hit me when I didn’t win [against Usyk].

“Now I’m just saying I’m starting fresh. Training for example, when I’m at home doing ice baths, I’m able to relax and shut off.

“I remember [Saul] Canelo [Alvarez] said something, what made him successful was when he left the gym and was walking to the bus stop, he’ll be thinking about what his coach taught him that day.

“He’ll be overplaying it in his mind, shadow boxing and that’s how he managed to get to the next level.

“When I leave the gym here, my mind is still on the job. It’s not just about is your head in it? My heart is in it. It’s not just about the dough, you have to love it. Because it’s not normal.”

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