‘Tyson Fury is NOT on our minds right now’: Anthony Joshua’s physio on how the scrapped undisputed fight was like ‘popping a balloon,’ preparing for Oleksandr Usyk and the secrets of AJ’s training and recovery methods
- Anthony Joshua is set to defend his titles against Oleksandr Usyk in September
- It comes after his undisputed showdown with Tyson Fury was called off
- Fury will instead take on Deontay Wilder for a third time on October 9
- Rob Madden, AJ’s physio, speaks to Sportsmail about the heavyweight’s preparation for his impending bout and the keys to longevity
As Anthony Joshua sent Kubrat Pulev sprawling to the canvas with a vicious one-two, knocking out his mandatory challenger to round off a near punch-perfect performance, all roads were finally pointing towards a mouth-watering undisputed showdown with British rival Tyson Fury.
The contracts were seemingly signed and sealed, and both camps were beginning to gear up towards what would be their defining moments, in what was set to be one of the biggest fights of all time.
But that dream has been put to bed, for now anyway, as an American arbitrator ruled Fury must take on Deontay Wilder for a third and, hopefully, final time. Instead, Joshua is presented with an entirely novel challenge, taking on the former cruiserweight king and now heavyweight enigma, Oleksandr Usyk.
Anthony Joshua (L) put in an emphatic performance as he stopped Kubrat Pulev (R) last year
Usyk and Fury are not exactly like-for-like. Usyk is a 6ft 3 southpaw and an Olympic gold medalist, who’s only notable heavyweight showing came in a victory over Derek Chisora, which preceded the Ukrainian’s return to former trainer and father to Vasyl Lomachenko, Anatoly. He is still somewhat of an unknown quantity in the division of the giants.
Fury, though undeniably awkward, jaw-droppingly skilled and deceptively fleet-footed, is an opponent Joshua has had his eye on ever since they sparred all the way back in 2010, and was an opponent the IBF, WBA and WBO champion was chomping at the bit to face.
But while Usyk is not the fight Joshua wanted, he has shown he is highly capable of adaption, particularly after his shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019. The Brit switched to a boxer-mover in his rematch victory, before mixing his new style with flashes of the old, spiteful, hard-hitting heavyweight we’d previously become accustomed to in his statement win over Pulev.
Tyson Fury (L) will go head-to-head with Deontay Wilder (R) for a third time in October
Rob Madden, Joshua’s long-term physio, has been heavily involved the Brit’s development since he turned professional. And working alongside the likes of coach Rob McCraken, he’s part of the team who now need to crack the Ukrainian puzzle.
Though admitting the change in opponent was a shock to all, Madden has opened up on the processes they put in place to make it as smooth a transition as possible.
‘To be honest, no-one really saw it coming,’ Madden said of the undisputed bout’s cancellation, while speaking at an event to celebrate Joshua investing in percussion muscle therapy and recovery brand, Pulseroll.
‘I’m not going to lie, it was disappointing for everyone. I was disappointed, obviously AJ very much so.
‘He was ready, he wanted it, we were planning for it. But this is boxing, it’s full of politics. Fury’s not on our minds right now; he can do what he’s doing and we’ll be ready when he is. But Usyk is a tough opponent who demands respect – which he has from AJ and the team. And having that focus is crucial, because Usyk is not a nobody. If you know boxing, you know Usyk is a very, very talented fighter.’
Rob Madden (right) has been working with Joshua since the heavyweight turned professional
Joshua has invested in percussion muscle therapy and recovery brand, Pulseroll. The heavyweight joins the company as an ambassador having used the products for years
Importantly – both for Madden and Joshua – the heavyweight champion is no stranger to a change in opponent. He was made to battle to a hard-fought victory over Carlos Takam in 2017 having had only 12 days notice.
And the 31-year-old has clearly learned from his shock defeat to Ruiz, who stepped in to replace Jarrell Miler, a man who seemed to have riled Joshua up like no other before.
Despite the blow of the Fury fight falling through, Joshua and his team quickly adapted once more.
‘We had the disappointment with Fury, and then a stale, weird few weeks where we were trying to work out what was going on as a team,’ Madden explained.
‘The mental side (when an opponent is changed) is very, very significant. If you think he was preparing for arguably the biggest fight of the decade, certainly one of the biggest heavyweight fights for a long time. All the mental energy that goes into that, it’s like popping a balloon.
‘We forced a de-load and encouraged some time off. That doesn’t mean he was sitting on his backside – he was still boxing, still training. Being able to switch off and have a bit of a holiday, but still ticking away, means he’s able to put his foot down when coming into camp.
‘Now it’s time to put our heads down. We’ve started sparring and now we just pick it up and up.’
Joshua is set to take on Oleksandr Usyk at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 25
Usyk (right) defeated Derek Chisora (left) in his first real test in the heavyweight division
This short de-load was crucial. One, because, as Madden explains, it’s ‘essential Joshua recovers just as well as he trains, because if he just pushes all the time, that’s when his body will break down and get injured’. And two, because of Joshua’s intense focus on longevity.
Joshua is in the game of boxing for the long haul. He isn’t an athlete who blows up in weight in between fights, one who comes into a fight needing to cut the excess fat before even working on a game plan.
‘Early in his career he was having multiple fights per year, so it always seemed like he was in camp,’ Madden explained. ‘Now, he’s in camp for one part of the year, then he’s outside of it again.
‘So, one thing he’s really focused on is ticking away, boxing and staying fit in between fights. If you go to a complete rest period, let’s stay a month, and you start training again, it puts your body in a higher risk bracket for injury.
‘AJ has a very serious outlook on his health and his longevity. Longevity is about mind, body, nutrition – all of the things you can do to control your health and fitness. He takes it really seriously and the team do as well. Of course, the sport is also very grueling, especially at heavyweight, but we’re always looking at ways to improve his longevity.’
Though faced with the disappointment of another delay to his eagerly-anticipated bout against Fury, a win on September 25 would propel the mega-fight one step closer once more, providing Fury completes the job against Wilder the following month.
Pulseroll are leaders in the next generation of fitness training recovery & wellbeing products by utilising vibration massage technology
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