THE long-term trainer of Anthony Joshua, Robert McCracken discusses the difference between training in the USA and the UK, what effect that has had on the WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion and why they have employed a sports psychologist for the first time.
He’s been away from his family for a long time. Will that affect him?
He’s been able to completely focus. When he’s back in home, even in Sheffield, there are distractions. He’s got a lot of people looking for his attention. It’s been good to get him away from four weeks and he has just focused on the fight. It’s been good.
The less distractions the better?
He can stand on a street corner here [and not get recognised]. He can’t stand on a street corner in the UK. So he can get his head down and focus on the fight.
Are there any pent-up frustrations that he’s fighting Andy Ruiz and not someone like Deontay Wilder?
No. Not at all. The only time you see a bit of that is when he watches one of Wilder’s fights. Wilder boxed Breazeale [two weeks ago] and Josh watched that. But the reality is Andy Ruiz is a live opponent and that’s who he’s got to box.
So you didn’t feel any frustration in the pads, the morning after the Wilder fight?
No. It’s one fight at a time. Ruiz is a good opponent. If you overlook him, you’ve seen it time and time again, you come unstuck in heavyweight boxing. He’s deadly serious. All being well, he gets the win and then you can talk about Wilder.
Joshua clearly respects and enjoys working with you. What are the benefits of that Team GB system?
I just think if you look at the boxers, who have come through GB over the last 10 years, there have been at least six or seven professional world champions with more to come. Look at what AJ has achieved.
I think it’s a full-time programme. There are support staff we didn’t have in the past. Think of some of the boxers who didn’t quite get there in the Olympics. With the support they get now, bit of funding, physios, nutritionists, strength and conditioning, I think we would have been producing world beaters for some time if all that had been in place earlier.
AJ has benefited from that. But what makes him different from other fighters is he totally believes in himself, even when he was a novice.
And Joshua’s success gives back in way doesn’t it? He’s giving something to the next generation.
If you are a GB boxer now, Anthony Joshua was a 24-bout novice when he arrived at GB. If you see Anthony training there now, that inspires you.
The reality is Anthony worked extensively with Joe Joyce in the Rio [Olympics] cycle and before. Joe’s improvement from them sparring together was remarkable and Joe went on and, in my opinion, won the gold in Rio, although he ended up with the silver. Hopefully that can continue.
Anthony Joshua has been sparring with Joe Joyce and [current top amateur] Frazer Clarke for years. Hopefully we can keep producing super-heavyweights who can go and win medals at the Olympic Games. Anthony has played a massive role in that. He’s been in vital in it as well.
He’s using a psychologist now?
He had a psychologist when he was on the programme. I just think the structure and making sense of things is really important. It’s a physical sport and you’re supposed to get on with it and not show any concern or weakness. But the reality is if someone can simplify things for you, it lets you get on with the boxing.
If they have experience, they can maybe tap into some things the coach may overlook. It can be as simple as your structure being right.