EXCLUSIVE Rob McCracken on Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko rematch

Anthony Joshua
Action Images/Lee Smith
The trainer tells John Dennen how Anthony Joshua was learning even as the Klitschko fight progressed, and why he'll be better second time around

ROB McCRACKEN always knew the fight would be hard. Wladimir Klitschko was a 68 fight veteran with a tremendous track record. Anthony Joshua is talented and an Olympic gold medallist, but was only going into the 19th bout of his professional career.

“It was three or four fights early, in my opinion, because he’s been a pro three and a half years, Anthony. Klitschko had been arguably the best heavyweight for the last 15 years or whatever. He’s been the number one for the last decade until he got beat by Fury. So it was always a risk. It was worth the risk though, I looked at it and thought if Anthony didn’t make too many mistakes,” McCracken told Boxing News. “He obviously made some mistakes but you’re going to against someone of that experience and that ability and obviously very heavy-handed Klitschko as well.”

But Joshua proved himself in the toughest of tests against Klitschko. “So looking at it he hurt Klitschko in the fifth I think it was, then he got over-excited and then obviously he got caught with some big shots and allowed Klitschko right back into it and kind of loaded up too much. Needed to try to find a bit of time to recover in the sixth, then obviously he got caught with a right hand while he was trying to recover as well. But I thought he did fantastically well to come through that, to keep calm. Clearly he’d been hurt, especially with the right hand, the knockdown shot, but that’s what professional boxing is. If you don’t fight the best, then you don’t have to come through adversity and you don’t have to come through difficult spells in a fight, how do you ever become a genuine champion?” Rob said.

McCracken was pleased to see his charge learning, even as the fight progressed. “Klitschko obviously used his experience, stayed in there, was dangerous, caught him with some big shots. Anthony needed to recover, he got through that, showed loads of heart and guile to get through it. Obviously it culminated with Joshua getting his second wind and starting to apply more pressure down the tail end of the fight and coming out brilliantly round 11 with the right hand that started the downfall of Klitschko, and finishing Klitschko off in the 11th in a way that you’d have like him to do in the fifth. But I think even in the fight he learned because when he hurt Klitschko in round 11 he boxed his way in. He didn’t charge in. He showed he already learned a good bit between rounds five and round 11. He showed a lot,” Rob said.

The trainer said Joshua sealed the win not with a wild effort in the 11th round but with a newly calculated finish. “He got his second wind and he regrouped. He’s very positive on the corner stool. Even the fifth, where he overdid it trying to finish Klitschko and he got caught himself with some big shots. He’s very positive, he believes in himself. He was just trying to find a way to get his energy back in round six and Klitschko is too experienced to allow that. But he came through it and he learned so much from it and finished the fight in great style. But it wasn’t ‘throw everything at it,’ we had a chat on the stool and he came out and beat Klitschko to the one-two that Klitschko was trying to throw at the start of every round. Anthony just got off the stool went straight at him and threw the right hand himself first and obviously caught Klitschko. He was pretty calm in round 11 when he was hurting Klitschko. He didn’t go crazy like he did in round five. He was precise with his punches and he put his shots together when he was in the right position. I thought he finished the fight off in brilliant, brilliant fashion,” McCracken said.

“I don’t really take too much notice of what people say. I just look at fighters and think what I think. I knew [Klitschko] was a top fighter. You’re going to lose in professional boxing if you fight all the best fighters. He’s been a pro for 20 years and he’s lost three or four fights. He reigned for the best part of a decade and he’s beat some tremendous fighters in his career. He’s a former Olympic champ. I know the quality of him, I know the ability of him and I know his punching power as well. Huge experience and obviously a big challenge for somebody who’s been a pro three a half years. Anthony doesn’t take the hype that people talk. Anthony doesn’t talk like that. That’s what people say about him. That’s nothing to do with him. And up till now he steps up and he delivers every time and that’s what he did at Wembley, a massive audience, a worldwide event. For somebody still as relatively inexperienced as he is as a professional, to step up and do that I thought was brilliant for him and he’ll have learned so much from that fight.

“I thought it was a fantastic fight. It was nerve-wracking because Klitschko’s a big puncher and had some real good spells in the fight. But AJ came through it and got the win and it’s tremendous for him and British boxing. I’m just really pleased for him because he deserves it. He’s a great bloke.”

Anthony Joshua

While waiting for confirmation that Klitschko will take the rematch later this year, Bulgarian heavyweight Kubrat Pulev remains in the frame to be Joshua’s next challenger. “He’s only ever lost to Klitschko, he’s a good fighter. He’s got some good wins, he’s a good boxer, he’s got good ability. You can’t ever underestimate anybody at this level in heavyweight boxing. There’s some good heavyweights out there. There’s some dangerous heavyweights and there’s some good heavyweights. I think Anthony showed if you’ve got the belief and you work hard and you keep developing, then you can achieve things in a short space of time. That’s what he’s done. He’s gone for it and he’s got to the top and now he fully intends to stay at the top. He’s dedicated to becoming a top heavyweight champion for a period of time,” McCracken said.

But if Klitschko does take the rematch, Rob expects another demanding night. “Boxing’s a funny thing because Klitschko will be doubly determined if he does accept the fight. At the minute the fight’s not been agreed,” Rob said. “Klitschko I suppose is weighing up his options before he makes a decision. But he’s a very successful boxer, with big punching power, and he’ll believe in himself and if he does take the rematch, then he’ll be coming to win. Anthony knows what he’s up against now. He’s been in there with him. Some of the mistakes he made, he knows what he can do better and the weaknesses in what Klitschko does that he can capitalise on. So it’s a fight I’m sure Anthony will be looking forward to… If Klitschko takes it he’ll be up for it and he’ll look forward to it.”

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