EXCLUSIVE McCracken – Why Deontay Wilder should come to Britain for Anthony Joshua fight

Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder
Action Images/Matthew Childs
Trainer Rob McCracken speaks to John Dennen about what's next for Anthony Joshua, how many times he'll fight this year and how, if Joseph Parker had come to fight, Joshua would have knocked him out

IT’S not every day that an email with a $50 million offer from Deontay Wilder arrives in your inbox. Rob McCracken, Anthony Joshua’s trainer, seems fairly sanguine about it. “It’s common knowledge that I have an email address,” he says with a hint of a smile.

Discussions around making the major fight, the heavyweight unification between WBC titlist Wilder and WBO, IBF and WBA boss Joshua rumble on. There are sticking points. Joshua’s team believes the unified champion should defend in his home country.

“I do what I think is in Anthony’s interests and right now I think what’s best for him would be to box in the UK,” McCracken explained. “Whoever that’s against, whether it’s against Wilder, the likes of [Alexander] Povetkin. You’ve got fighters like Dillian Whyte doing fantastically well, right up there at the top. There’s one or two other really good fighters out there. But my thinking at the moment is he fights in the UK. Without a doubt for me the Wilder fight will take place, it’s just whether it’s this year or next year, that’s to be determined. I’d like Anthony to fight in the UK in his next contest. I believe that’s what’s in his interests and best for him.

“He fights in stadiums,” McCracken continued. “He’s filled three of them, he did Wembley against [Wladimir] Klitschko and he’s done the Principality against [Carlos] Takam and Joseph Parker. He’s been a breath of fresh air for British boxing. He’s a great bloke, he’s great for the sport. He speaks well, he looks well, he’s likeable, he’s genuine. You can’t speak highly enough of Anthony and he’s a real fighter. He takes challenges up. He’ll fight anybody. But I still believe if he’s filling out stadiums, he’ll fight in America at some stage but not right now. I think he should be in the UK for his next fight.

“We’ve worked as a team, the promotion’s been fantastic from Matchroom. I think Josh has developed as a fighter and he understands the business now and the game and my feeling is and I’m sure his feeling is, his next fight will be in front of the UK fans who have supported him all the way through his career. I think that’s what will happen.”

Expect Joshua to have one more fight in 2018 but then be able to box early in 2019. “One. You never know, I’d have thought one,” the trainer said. “I’d have thought if Josh fights around September/October then he can fight March/April or something. That’s how I see it.”

Anthony Joshua

McCracken is pleased with Joshua’s last performance when he clearly outpointed Joseph Parker, going the distance for the first time in his professional career and winning the WBO heavyweight title as well as defending his IBF and WBA belts. “We know it’s an entertainment business and that’s one of the main things in professional boxing. But ultimately you’ve watched tremendous heavyweights over the years, trying to knock people out or stop people and ended up getting caught themselves. I think Anthony boxed really well, I think he controlled Parker,” Rob said.

“I think his feet were really good. His weight was around what it should be and he was able to get 12 rounds under his belt where at no stage did he feel right I’ve really got to go for this and really get stuck in.”

He also thought if Parker had been more aggressive, Joshua could have scored a knockout. “It’s the same thing with Takam. In my opinion, and no disrespect to Takam, he came in at late notice and in my opinion he came to survive and you can’t blame him because that’s what any sensible heavyweight would do on relatively short notice. I feel that Parker did something similar after the first round or two. I think he realised that Anthony was a bit too good and too big for him. I think he went into a mode of getting through the fight. It takes two to make a fight. Joshua was looking to make the fight and in both those cases I think the two opponents were safety first at times. You can’t blame them. Parker, fantastic boxer, and did really well and got through the fight. I think if they really came to win, you’d have seen what happens normally happens in an AJ fight, a knockout or a stoppage. Because it’s harder to stop somebody if you’re cutting the ring off and chasing them down and making the fight. I think that’s what we saw a bit of. It’s great experience for Anthony, tip my hat to Takam and Parker. He got in invaluable rounds, they showed how brave they are and what good fighters they are. But ultimately I do believe if they both came to win, seriously came to win, I think that the fight would have ended differently,” McCracken explained.

“[Joshua] didn’t get hit a lot and it was a great night. I thought his feet were great. He could respond a bit more and a bit quicker. But this is what the sport is. You learn from every fight and he’ll only be better for it.”

Joshua has plenty of options. There is the potential unification with Deontay Wilder, otherwise Alexander Povetkin is the mandatory challenger for his WBA belt. His next opponent is likely to be one of them.

“There’s the Wilder offer, he’ll have Povetkin as his mandatory. Like I say there’s one or two fighters out there that have made big in roads. We’ll have a look at the mandatory situation. But my thoughts are at the moment that I’d like Josh to fight in the UK in his next fight. I’ve always thought that the Wilder fight is next year. But let’s see what happens. You just don’t know what happens in a short space of time. But certainly that’s my feelings. I’ve had the same thoughts for a long, long time. I think it will happen next year, possibly as early as around April and I think it will be a fantastic worldwide event. But I think right now AJ’s next fight, I’d like to see it in the UK. Things can change, money talks and things can change,” Rob said. “He’s the unified heavyweight champion and I think it would be good to see him fight in another stadium in the UK in front of the fans who have supported him and followed him.”

McCracken also reacted to revelation that Eric Molina failed a drug test after fighting Joshua in 2016, a bout which Molina straightforwardly lost inside three rounds. “I just think it’s a concern. I just think you’ve got UKAD, who are the best in the world, and you’ve got WADA and wherever and I just think that fighters should be open to testing for a long time before the fights, from the minute the fight’s mooted or agreed, I think they should agree to be available for testing. AJ is, he always is and I feel that certainly Anthony Joshua opponents moving forward would have to be available for testing as well,” McCracken said.

“The positives are Anthony and Klitschko had an unbelievable fight, worldwide event, both clean, no issues, great fight, and that’s really what boxing’s all about. You’re going to get the odd incident and unfortunately there’s been a few creeping in of late. But hopefully the sport stays clean and if everyone’s open to be tested for 10 or 12 weeks when they’re made, world championships I’m talking, then hopefully we can combat it, cut it out.”

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