MANAGING THE PAIN
At this early stage of his professional career,as Anthony Joshua works through the low-level opponents prospects typically face, fighting regularly is a must, to prevent him getting stale, as well as showcasing his abilities to the public. The progress he was making was slowed at the start of the year when he suffered a back injury. But it meant the work had to continue behind the scenes.
“When I was doing recovery work, I wasn’t just lounging around. To get better there’s a number of things you can do to get better. I learned a lot about my own condition, where I’m weak in the body so I could strengthen that,” Joshua said. “It’s always been like that. I was being beasted [when his back was injured]. I was doing a lot of work. Having a stress fracture and getting it right takes a lot of time. If you let it heal naturally it takes about six months.”
As well as adapting his strength and conditioning to work on his trunk, he was having painful deep tissue massages and unearthing hi-tech devices to use, like an Ultra G machine to relieve the pressure of gravity on his legs and joints when running, using an altitude chamber as well as ultrasound, electro therapy and so on. “There’s loads of different things, technology in the modern day is brilliant,” he said, “so I might as well use it.”
Heavyweights have to throw around their considerable mass during the course of their training. Wladimir Klitschko swims rather than runs to relieve the toll on his body. David Haye cites his constant, explosive work as the cause of his injury woes. Big men therefore can be vulnerable.
“As a heavyweight there’s so much ground and pound, to be elite you put your body through so much so you have to adjust. I watch Sugar Ray Leonard, I watch Mayweather, all these guys, but they’re like welterweights. So a lot of my idols are a lot lighter than me. So when I’m trying to train like them it puts my body through twice as much pain. Ultimately it’s about trying to make it suit a heavyweight fighter,” he said.
THE TRAINING HAS TO EVOLVE
Leaving the amateur sport and the Olympic programme behind to turn professional, Joshua hasn’t radically changed his training as he’s developed as a fighter. It’s been more a case of evolution than revolution, particularly when it comes to his strength and conditioning. “They’ve always been trying to teach me the basics and I’ve only started to understand now. It’s taken a while and I’m slowly starting to try and perfect these things. Not just crazy changes. Everything’s worked that we’ve been doing, so it’s not worth scrapping everything we’ve been doing and forgetting it. What I’ve changed is my attitude. Because I used to go in the boxing gym to get fit, you know what I mean, hit the bag.
Now I’m going in there, I’m already fit, it’s about how can I improve technically, work on my defence, countering and so on. So it’s all about technique now. My attitude’s changed,” he said.
Discipline though remains essential and the boxing gym isn’t only a place for suffering now, it’s for thinking, learning and improving himself. “It’s more about how can I get my training session right. If I get it right then it’s a short session, there’s nothing to correct. If I get it wrong, do it again, do it again, do it again,” he explained, “so I need to go into the gym with the mindset – how can I get today to be perfect.”
Transferring the work he does in the gym to the competitive ring is also key. The bout with Jason Gavern may not have been much of a contest but Joshua was satisfied that he’d executed what he’d been practising. “I knew he was there to look awkward, he was hard to hit, that’s what I gauged,” Anthony said. “If you look you could see the left hook to the body and driving it back up to the head, because he leans back a lot, so as he was leaning back you tilt over with him and bang, and as his head’s still there, coming up to the head.
“I saw him there and whip it there and swing back up, it was good we worked on that double hook in the gym.”
RELEASE YOUR POWER
There are many highly prized components for a professional boxer but power is foremost among them. Joshua has caught the eye as a pro not just for amassing 11 victories in his professional career but for the manner in which he has halted all his opponents.
We can’t all be 6ft 6in behemoths with explosive force, but we can still try to punch like Joshua. So how does he generate that power?
“I think balance. Not too much pressure on your front, not too much pressure on your back, get your feet in and when you’re in range you go naturally. So balance. As long as you’ve got balance right, you’re in a position to throw punches. So your opponent might not have his feet right and then all of a sudden he’s swung the wrong shot, spun off already, boom, boom, they don’t see it coming. As long as you’re balanced you’re always in a position to throw,” he advises.