Anthony Joshua seeks out US trainers ahead of highly-anticipated title rematch with Oleksandr Usyk

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Anthony Joshua trains with Mike Tyson's former coach fuelling rumours of Rob McCracken split - PA
Anthony Joshua trains with Mike Tyson's former coach fuelling rumours of Rob McCracken split - PA

Anthony Joshua has been ploughing a deep furrow in seeking advice from trainers in the USA ahead of his highly-anticipated world heavyweight title rematch with Oleksandr Usyk in the early part of next year.

There is no official news that Joshua will part from Rob McCracken, who has been the heavyweight's trainer since 2010 and a powerful decision maker in Joshua's career, but the corner were heavily criticised for their instructions during his world title defeat to Usyk on points over 12 rounds on September 25 in London.

The two-time heavyweight champion has met esteemed US-based trainers Robert Garcia, Eddy Reynoso, Ronnie Shields, and Virgil Hunter during this period in the United States. Joshua, travelling with Angel Fernandez, one of his current team, will have been taking advice from them all.

What can they provide for him? A change of scene, a new voice, new ideas, which will almost certainly involve being far more aggressive and using his size and weight advantages. All four are proven with world champions in the past, but is it the right time for a change?

My view: Stay with the same team and hatch a new game plan. Don't get sucked into a boxing match in this second meeting. Be faster to the punch, make it more of a dogfight, and use Joshua's physical attributes; be more aggressive, throw combinations. Train against southpaws for extended sparring sessions. These were all absent in the first contest. Joshua and McCracken have had a long partnership, stretching back to 2010, but a shift now seems radical when the former IBF, WBA and WBO champion needs to make clear changes to his flat, almost gun-shy performance.

Usyk is a difficult rematch, and it is a fight that Joshua must win, but he must return to being the enforcer who can finish opponents. Joshua showed what he has to do in rounds five and six against Usyk, attacking his opponent's body and taking the fight to the Ukrainian. There are risks in doing so, but the strategy was clearly wrong the first time.

Joshua trains with Mike Tyson's former coach, fuelling rumours of Rob McCracken split

Anthony Joshua has sparked fresh speculation he is splitting with long-term head trainer Rob McCracken after being put through his paces in the gym by Mike Tyson's former coach.

Joshua and McCracken had both faced criticism over the former Olympic champion's game plan ahead of his defeat by Oleksandr Usyk last month. While it had been expected Joshua would remain loyal to his coach, footage of Joshua with Ronnie Shields suggests he is seeking new ideas.

Shields, who currently works with Jermall Charlo and previously coached Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Arturo Gatti, has since told a podcast that "team AJ reached out".

"They reached out to me and they asked if I would be interested in taking a look at AJ and that he wanted to come down to Texas and see if things would work out between him and I," he told ThaBoxingvoice. "I said, 'No problem, I would love to see if we had a connection together'."

Joshua was humbled by Usyk in their showdown at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and he is yet to confirm he will stay with McCracken, who was appointed performance director of GB Boxing in November 2009. McCracken also served for years as coach for three-time world super-middleweight champion, Carl Froch.

Shields, however, appears to have set out his case to take charge of Joshua's training schedule - claiming "our chemistry was really good". "It would be great to get him to reclaim the world titles he lost to Usyk and I think I've got the capabilities to help him do that," he added. "For the last two days everything seemed to go well. The first day we talked for about three or four hours and when he came back today we did some light pad work to show him everything we talked about.

"You have to be able to show a fighter what you really mean and how he should do things. We did some light work and I put him through some drills to help him understand what I'd told him the day before.

"For me it's about the game plan. We talked about a lot of stuff and we watched a few rounds of the Usyk fight together. I pointed out a few things that he should have done but he didn't do. I think our chemistry was really good but I'm not going to lose sleep over [whether he chooses me]."

Joshua was criticised for trying to outbox Usyk instead of using his weight and power advantage to bully his opponent. Usyk claimed the IBF, WBA, WBO and IBO belts from Joshua, but the fallen champion quickly vowed to dust himself off and "learn from the loss".

Eddie Hearn, his promoter, confirmed that the rematch would take place in the UK, likely in February/March 2022, against Usyk’s wish to take the bout back to Kiev. He added that the fight with Tyson Fury could still go ahead in the future despite this major setback.

McCracken, Joshua's head trainer, had said his fighter could not carry out their game plan against Usyk. “You’ve got to apply better pressure with a fighter like Usyk and not give him too much time,” said McCracken. “That’s really what should happen. But Anthony’s already addressed that he’s learning on the job."

Joshua has also been spotted at a training camp in San Diego with Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez and his trainer Eddie Reynoso.

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