By: Sean Crose
Rewatching the first Anthony Joshua-Oleksandr Usyk fight from last September, it becomes instantly obvious that Usyk controlled the tempo. From the opening bell on, the Ukrainian employed an extremely fast paced, herky-jerky style, effectively throwing Joshua off his rhythm from the start. In this, Joshua was not alone. Dempsey-Tunney 1, Clay-Liston 1, Douglas-Tyson, the heavyweight title scene has long known fighters who were thrown off their game stylistically by opponents who were determined to have a mental edge in the ring.
With a rematch between himself and Usyk just days away, the question for Joshua now is whether or not he, not Usyk, will be the psychologically dominant fighter once the opening bell rings in Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Under the tutelage of new trainer Robert Garcia, Joshua just may have a chance to be. It was California’s Garcia, after all, who led the rugged Marcos Maidana to victory over Adrien Broner and near victory against the seemingly invincible Floyd Mayweather. Both Broner – and to a far larger degree, Mayweather – knew the importance of mental dominance. Maidana, however, proved how psychologically dominant he himself could be when he battled the colorful duo in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
“I don’t need the confidence,” Joshua recently told The Sun. “I respect Garcia highly, that’s why his name was initially on the list, because of his name and credentials and experience.” According to Joshua, Garcia does more than drill and give pep talks. A Garcia camp, he claims, is all about specifics. “I might get told ‘in this round, perfect that f—–g jab,” says Joshua. “‘The goal in this round is to get that jab popping. The next goal is to tilt more when you throw the right hand’…It’s more tactical like that, so there is reasoning behind the method.”
There are those who feel Garcia wasn’t the best choice for Joshua after the towering Englishman parted ways with longtime trainer Robert McCraken in the aftermath of the Usyk loss. “Robert Garcia’s an excellent trainer,” promoter Bob Arum recently told FightHub, “but what experience does he really have training a heavyweight?” To Arum’s point, heavyweights have never been known as Garcia’s specialty. Garcia is, however, a respected trainer with quite the impressive resume for himself (here’ a man who has led more than his fair share of fighters to title wins). Although the results of Saturday’s fight will ultimately land on the shoulders of the combatants, it will be interesting to see whether or not Garcia has helped Joshua sharpen his skills of mental warfare.
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