Pressure comes with the territory for heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, but he has enlisted the help of Navy Seal training for maximum duress ahead of his world title defence against Andy Ruiz Jr at Madison Square this Saturday. As the fighter and his team push the boundaries in training, they seek out novel training experiences.
“I like to think ‘what am I learning?’. That’s just me as a person, why I am doing what I’m doing? If you can explain it to me, I’ll give it a 100 per cent. If I don’t understand it, I won’t have the right attitude,” explained Joshua. “It’s the same as friendship and relationships and you have to speak about them and be open.”
“As a team, we all come together round a table and talk about where I’m struggling. [Coach] Rob McCracken spoke about where he’s struggling and where he wants to improve, as did the strength and conditioning coach, the commercial team. Everyone opened up, we brought in a psychologist, wrote everything down and we’ve been working on it every day. This is the first time I have worked with a psychologist as a pro. With the Under Armour team, we were talking about improving, about how you get the work done. We spoke to a lot of teams we work with and they brought in Navy Seal experts, team-bonding experts, all experts in different types of fields, where you’re trying to achieve a goal.
“Navy Seals are put in situations where they are under a lot of pressure to see how they react. As a team, we had one of those weeks where we all went out together, a Navy Seal guy showed us army pictures of people getting shot and how they deal with those situations, how they controlling that [pressure situation].
“Say I have a plan to beat Ruiz on Saturday. He goes out and clips me with a big shot, how do I deal with that situation? The good thing is that I’ve got to a situation where I have a lot of information from what I’ve done over the years. There’s a lot to talk about. I didn’t have this at the start of my career because there wasn’t much to talk about. I’ve gone through so much and the Navy Seal guy just came and brought in everything we needed. The main thing was just communication, simplifying all our jargon and giving us a target, which is Saturday night.”
Joshua is also working individually with a sports psychologist. “Psychology is quite interesting, you learn about the brain. He works with me one-on-one, but also sometimes with the team and they then implement that on me. I heard that Cus D’Amato was a psychologist. So he got into Mike Tyson’s mind. 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—, we should have done this’.
“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. Because of all this, I’ve been able to do more. 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.”
It has meant a novel approach to this week, his first fight abroad for seven years, and his debut in America. “It definitely feels different, but 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. This time, I’ve got more energy.”