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ANTHONY JOSHUA has added a sports psychologist to his team ahead of his first fight as a professional in America after admitting that previous training camps were ‘f**king him over’.
The WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight champion defends his titles against the unfancied Andy Ruiz on Saturday night and, after complacency was suggested as his biggest enemy, the unbeaten 29-year-old employed help from the Navy Seals to ensure his mind is focused only on victory inside New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Joshua is unbeaten in 22 contests with each preceding training camp being based exclusively in Sheffield. This time a significant portion of the build-up was spent in a makeshift albeit high-tech gym in Miami with a new regime designed to benefit both body and mind.
“We all came together round a table and talked about where I’m struggling,” Joshua explained. “Rob [McCracken] spoke about where he’s struggling and where he wants to improve, as did the strength and conditioning coach, the commercial team, the physios, the nutritionist, everyone opened up. So we brought in a psychologist, we wrote everything down and we’ve been working on it every day.”
Elite boxers like Vasyl Lomachenko regularly work with sports psychologists but this is the first time that Joshua has used one since he worked with Chris Marshall as part of the Team GB back in his amateur days.
“Everyone that I work with now, I’ve been working with for 10 or 11 years,” Joshua said.
“This is the first time I have worked with a psychologist as a pro. We were talking about improving because I don’t know how long I can keep going through these training camps because they’re seriously f**king me over, big time. There’s a massive amount of work you need to do, no matter how you’re feeling; f**k it, get on with it, that’s boxing.
“We spoke to a lot of teams we work with that [manager] Freddie [Cunningham] had brought to the table. We partnered up with people who are performance-based and they brought in Navy Seal experts, team-bonding experts, all experts in different types of field, where you’re trying to achieve a goal.”
The purpose of the new addition was to hone Joshua’s mind and focus under high pressure. The process, Joshua claims, has heightened his performance, both physically and mentally.
“They [Navy Seals] are put in situations where they are under a lot of pressure and how do they react, how they’re able to perform under pressure… I have a plan to beat Ruiz on Saturday. But then he goes out and clocks me with a big shot. How do I deal with that situation?”
Joshua had considered the benefits of sports psychology before but did not believe he had enough experience as a professional to get the most out of the process.
“The good thing is that I’ve been able to get to a stage where I’ve built up so much information about what I do like and what I don’t like [in regard to training] over the years,” Joshua said.
“There’s now a lot to talk about. I didn’t have this at the start of my career because there wasn’t much to talk about. It wouldn’t have made sense because I wouldn’t have had the experience to relate it to. I’ve gone through so much now and this guy brought in everything we needed. The main thing was just communication, simplifying all our jargon and giving us a target, which is Saturday night.”
Each point of his 16-week training camp was mapped out with specific goals at the end of each week. The new regime has allowed Joshua, a stickler for routine, to enter the final week of camp without the fatigue he has suffered with in the past.
“It’s all about debriefs to discuss your strategies on a daily basis, you don’t wait until the end of the camp and say ‘oh f**k, I should have done this’,” he said. “This has allowed us to talk and work out what more I can do and what more the trainers can do to help.
“There’s a time for everything in training. A time to be creative, a time for the coach to have his say, a time for the athlete to have his say and it’s about putting all that information into practice and then not wavering on that information and techniques.
“Because of all this, I’ve been able to do more. I was training at the weekends, when I should have been resting. I asked Rob [McCracken] if I could do some training because I went back to the purpose of this particular week and worked harder on that purpose. The purpose is to work on that right hand, but be creative with it, drop that left.
“It’s about having fun with it as well. Even as a kid, you want to learn, but you have to make it fun, so we want to make training purposeful rather than just beasting myself. Boxing is so hard.
“The good thing is I have got energy going into fight week. Normally it’s about recovery. Usually I’m sitting there on fight week, feeling like a zombie, hoping I feel better by Saturday.
“I’ve got more energy.”