Joshua’s trainer Rob McCracken talks mistakes against Ruiz

By Robert Addams: Anthony Joshua’s longtime trainer Rob McCracken says the plan is for AJ to box Andy Ruiz Jr. on December 7th, and not put himself in harm’s way like he did in their previous fight in June. McCracken doesn’t want to give away the whole game plan, but he makes it clear that the focus is to box Ruiz, and not let him get close to get close to land his combinations. It’s going to be easier said than done, because Ruiz (33-1, 22 KOs) is fast on his feet, and he knows how to nullify Joshua’s jabs.

McCracken says there’s NO way Joshua could take 2 or 3 tune-ups

Despite many people saying Joshua should take warm-up fights, wasn’t possible for AJ to take two or three tune-ups to get ready for his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr., according to McCracken. He says it would have consumed too much time in his career. He didn’t want to do that. McCracken estimates that Joshua would have chewed up between 18 to 24 months of his career fighting 2 or 3 warm-up opponents to prepare him for the rematch with Ruiz.

Besides, Joshua feels that he didn’t need to take a bunch of tune-ups. He felt that he could get the same thing by sparring in the gym. But with the same trainer in McCracken, Joshua might stay as badly flawed as he was in his first fight with Ruiz. McCracken was a decent but not great amateur fighter, but he’s not improved Joshua’s game since he turned pro. All the same flaws in Joshua’s game are still present from when he was fighting as an amateur. Since McCracken is the one at the wheel as Joshua’s trainer, he deserves the blame.

McCracken rules out Joshua taking tune-ups

“It’s been tough if you look at his career and how quickly he’s gotten to the top, and all the fame an adulation and the success that he’s had, yeah, it’s been difficult,” said McCracken to secondsout about Joshua. “He’s settled down now. Somebody talked to me about Joshua having two or three warm-ups. It’s probably unrealistic right now in the Anthony Joshua world. That would take 18 months to two years, and he has no interest in that. He’s not someone who is going to be here for another 20 years. He wants to achieve things, and compete against the best.

He’s lost to Andy Ruiz, and he wants to try and put that right. And he wants to beat Ruiz. That’s what heavyweight boxing is all about. If you lose your titles, why would you hide from the person you lost them to? You’ve got to try and get them back. We’ve seen time and time again that you can get them back if you apply yourself. People don’t realize that at this level, he makes his own decisions His first thing was, ‘I want to get my titles back,” said McCracken.

It’s understandable why Joshua isn’t taking any tune-up fights to get ready for the rematch with Ruiz Jr. because he doesn’t have the time. If Joshua doesn’t fight Ruiz immediately, he loses out on the purse split in his favorite written into the rematch clause. Joshua would giving away millions by not fighting with the existing contract, which is tilted in his favor. Some of the problems that Ruiz exposed in Joshua last time might beyond fixing. Joshua is never going to have good stamina, and his punch resistance has and always will be a problem for him.

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Joshua’s game plan is to box Ruiz in rematch

“I want to box Ruiz, and that’s what he’s going to do,” said McCracken. “You’ve seen heavyweight champions lose their titles, and have a rematch with the person they’ve lost to. He’s not going to go skulk away, and take another year or 18 months to. He doesn’t want to do that. he wants to beat Ruiz, and try and get his titles back. He doesn’t want to fight lower level opponents. That’s the reality of it. He’s a smart guy, and he knows what he’s doing, and in my opinion, if he gets it right, and he carries out the tactics, he can get his titles back.

Where you’ve had a huge amount of attention, and you’ve won heavyweight titles, you want all the heavyweight titles in the shortest amount of time. Look at the coach’s job. The coach gets no credit when he’s winning everything; zilch, zero, and I don’t want it. And as soon as they lose, it’s ‘ah.’ It’s a money-based sport, it’s money driven, and a lot of the criticism comes from people that tried to work with him [Joshua] in the past, and tried to sign him,” said McCracken.

McCracken has the right idea for Joshua to box Ruiz from the outside, and to keep him from getting in close. The way to make sure Ruiz doesn’t get close enough to land his shots is for Joshua to employ these tactics:

  • Clinch frequently. Follow the Wladimir Klitschko-esque game plan Joshua used against Joseph Parker
  • Move a lot
  • Use the jab
  • Don’t exchange power shots

AJ can win rematch if he employs game plan

“I don’t take a lot of notice of it, but the people that work in the camp…listen, it was a hard night,” said McCracken. “We’ve seen great fighters lose and get KO’d. They’ve come back, and won in the rematch, and got the tactics right. If Anthony can employ the tactics he needs to do, he can win the rematch, but he has no intention of going away and having two or three warm-up fights. He’ll do that in the gym. It’s just unrealistic for him to do that. That’s the reality of that. It’s not an excuse; I think Andy Ruiz is a good fighter,” said McCracken.

What Joshua needs more than anything is a referee that will prevent Ruiz from getting in close to land shots. If Joshua had the same referee that worked his fight with Parker last year in Cardiff, Ruiz would be helpless. That referee Giuseppe Quartarone really helped Joshua by pulling Parker away from him the entire fight. Whenever Parker got passed Joshua’s jabs to get in close, the referee Quartarone would pull him away to the outside.

Joshua was so comfortable the referee that he even called his own timeout in the fight without asking. It was basically two on one with Joshua and the referee controlling Parker. It’s unclear where Joshua’ promoter Eddie Hearn found Quarterone, but if he can get a similar referee for the rematch with Ruiz, all AJ’s troubles will be over. Ruiz can’t beat Joshua with that kind of a referee working the fight.

Joshua wasn’t fully focused on Ruiz Jr. says McCracken

“Anyway, people were telling me he was good before, and I knew he was good,” said McCracken. “But I just think when the [Jarrell] Miller fight fell through, he was motivated for Miller. Was his motivation the same? Probably not. A few days without an opponent. It’s not an excuse. It’s a learning curve for Anthony, because you can’t fully focus on hand, and be watching other fighters. You’ve got to focus solely on the threat in front of you, and that’s the fighter on June 1st that was Andy Ruiz. He got in there, and tried to win the fight, but he couldn’t.

Could he have been more focused? Of course, he could. He’d tell you that by himself. I just think he knocked Ruiz down, and he tried to finish him off when Ruiz wasn’t ready to go, and Ruiz is a good hooker up close, and he knows what he’s doing. He’s got a low center of gravity, and throws hooks over the top. You don’t want to take him on. You want to box him, and if you don’t box Ruiz, you’re going to get in trouble. AJ knows what he did wrong, and he’s gotta to put it right. The beauty of it is he’s got the chance to put that right,” said McCracken.

It sounds like McCracken is blaming Joshua’s loss to Ruiz on the late switch in opponent. Joshua was originally scheduled to fight Jarrell Miller, but the fight fell through after the New Yorker tested positive for banned substances. Hearn then found Ruiz several weeks before the fight, and he stepped in as the replacement. Size-wise, there’s no real difference between Miller and Ruiz. The real difference was the hand speed of Ruiz.

McCracken: AJ needs to be calmer inside the ring

“You heard both the fighters. Ruiz said he wants to be leaner as well,” McCracken said. “His coach wants him to be leaner for the next fight. You always want your fighter to be a little bit leaner, and lighter. AJ is fully focused on this fight. He knows the threat, but he wants his belts back. I think you’ll see both fighters in better shape. I think you’ll see better game plans. They know each other better now. The coaches know each other more now.

It’s going to be a great fight. The world is going to get to see a real spectacle, but AJ doesn’t want to hide. He wants to fight Ruiz in the rematch, and get his titles back, and that’s what he intends to do. I just think Ruiz is going to come, he knows what he’s going to do.

I think AJ needs to be calmer in the ring. He’s got to punch at the right times, and move at the right times. You’ve got to control Ruiz, and you’ve to carry that out round after round. Not worry about knocking him out. Just win each round one at a time, and keep boxing him, and bring him into the shots. I think he can do the job. I think he can get it right, but it’s going to be a great fight,” said McCracken.

Joshua wasn’t fully prepared to fight a heavyweight with the speed of Ruiz, as well as the aggressiveness.

Joshua wants to “put it right”

“It’s difficult. I’ve worked with him for nine years,” McCracken said. “He’s won a lot of things in 9 years, and then bang, you lose. This is boxing, and this is why there’s a crowd. This is why they’re interested. Anything can happen in heavyweight boxing. This was just a disappointment. He was disappointed. And, he was obviously upset about it, but he was positive at the same time. He said, ‘I learned a lesson. I’m going to put it right.’ He was determined to put it right the next day in New York. But talk is cheap. Preparation and executing the job on the night is all that matters now. The beauty of this is they go at it again, and he gets a chance to put it right.

This isn’t the first time that Joshua has lost a fight under McCracken’s watch. He lost in the amateur ranks from time to time. In the 2012 London Olympics, Joshua appeared to lose two fights against Erislandy Savon and Roberto Cammarelle. He was given the gold medal, but a lot of fans think that was hometown deal. McCracken was there, and he looked lost in barking orders that Joshua was helpless to follow. It was the same thing in Joshua’s loss to Ruiz. As McCracken points out, Joshua has won a lot of things in the last 9 years, but he’s clearly lost fights. He’s infallible, as we saw against Ruiz. This is boxing. It just takes one punch, and it’s over.

Joshua has got to control every round

It’s going to be a fascinating build up, and a tough training camp for him,” said McCracken. It’s one that he’s looking forward to. He’s still young, and he’s 29. And, he’s not past it. And he’s a young man. Young men can carry things out remarkable. I think my job is to instill that Joshua does things at the right times, and he actually does that, and makes the right decisions at the right time.

It’s a fight. It’s reactive fighting. A boxing match, professional is like a fight. You know how a fight breaks out on the street. Anything can happen. It’s the one that is in control that wins. Joshua has got to be in control. That’s what he’s got to do, and that’s going to be part of the game plan. I’m not going to go into the technical side of it, but certainly he’s got to be in control and win one round at a time. He’s got to carry out the plan that he’s training for, and he’s agreed to as well,” said McCracken.