Boxing

Trainer Rob McCracken brought Anthony Joshua back to earth after Wembley win

Anthony Joshua returned to training four weeks after his heavyweight world title showdown with the recently-retired Wladimir Klitschko
Neil Loughran

ANTHONY Joshua's trainer criticised his performance in the victory over Wladimir Klitschko on the fighter's first morning back in the gym.

Despite winning what was widely considered the finest world heavyweight title fight since the 1990s so conclusively that Klitschko has since retired, Rob McCracken sought to maintain Joshua's focus.

The 27-year-old WBA and IBF champion got up off the canvas to force an 11th-round stoppage victory in front of a 90,000-strong crowd at Wembley, and has since largely experienced only praise.

He returned to the gym only four weeks after the April 29 date in an attempt to "tick over" until confirmation of his next fight, expected imminently against Bulgaria's Kubrat Pulev for either October 28 or November 11.

When he did so however, McCracken, also Team GB's performance director, immediately told him he needed to improve.

"It was like I was a novice," said Joshua.

"We ticked the entertainment factor, but from a coaching point of view there was a lot of mistakes made, and a lot of things we could do better, and that's what he looks at.

"He was straight up: 'Yeah, great, whatever, but that was four weeks ago; we've got to start preparing for the next three years. Not only are there tougher fights in front of you, there's other people gunning for you to beat you, so you've got to get serious'.

"'You've got to get back on it now. Your left hook was bad'. I was still living off the adulation, thinking: 'What? This guy's taking the Mick'. But I'm over it now.

"Let's say you've painted something and you think: 'Yeah, that was great', and then someone sees it and they're like: 'Yeah, it's all right'. Everything you thought it was, someone told you it wasn't. The fight's done. No hype, let's get back to business.

"That's why I went with him when I turned pro, because I knew I needed a lot of experience, and he knew me for who I am in the gym. After the Olympics certain people would have thought: 'This kid's unbelievable' but Rob was like: 'No, you're a novice, you've done well, but...' - he's always been grounded."

April's victory was the second of significance McCracken has experienced at Wembley after he also trained the retired Carl Froch to his 2014 defeat of George Groves.

Joshua had hoped to fight the 41-year-old Klitschko again in Las Vegas, but since the Ukrainian's retirement Pulev, 36, has become his focus.

"The confirmation of the fight will come from us," he said. "The best thing I've done is maintained; you can have a rest and feel worse than you did while training.

"I actually feel decent because I've been ticking over. I need to improve, get better, and the only way to do that is keep training, sparring."

Maydown Olympic's Cahir Gormley landed a bronze medal at last month's European Schoolboy Championships, and has been tipped for a big future

EUROPEAN MEDALLIST GORMLEY CAN GO ALL THE WAY INSISTS COACH

A TALENTED teenager from Derry has been tipped to go all the way to the top after an impressive showing at last month’s European Schoolboy Championships in Romania.

Cahir Gormley is already well known in boxing circles, having starred at underage level since first lacing up gloves, and he showcased his ability in Valcea en route to landing a 44.5kg bronze medal.

The 13-year-old is one of a crop of potential stars boxing out of Maydown Olympic ABC, and coach Sean Devenney insists Gormley has set the bar for the rest to aim for.

“We have some great talent in this club at the minute but Cahir’s a unique individual – very disciplined, very dedicated. He would train seven days a week if you let him,” said Devenney, who has coached Gormley since he was eight years old.

“He did really well out in Romania but, the kind of wee lad he is, he was disappointed because he would never settle for anything less than gold.

“But then the day he came back I picked him up from the airport and told him he was going to rest up for a couple of weeks, take it easy, but his first thought was to go to the watch the cadet finals in the stadium on the Friday night.

“He lives and breathes boxing.”

Gormley’s long-term dream is to become an Olympian, but both coach and fighter know a long road lies ahead.

But Devenney is convinced his protégé has the right attitude to succeed.

“Cahir’s a naturally talented young fella, but he works so hard with it,” added Devenney.

“He’s relentless, looks after his own diet. I don’t have to push him – he’s self-motivated. In the ring, he has a very astute boxing brain, he’s very adaptable, he can box front foot, back foot, orthodox, southpaw. He’s not afraid to try things, and he’ll keep trying them until he gets them right.

“Cahir’s a great student of the game, he’ll watch the likes of James McGivern, Aaron McKenna, the Tuckers [Jake and Kane], he’ll go home and watch videos of those boys and look for wee things they do that he could try in training.

“For a young fella of his age, he’s achieved a lot already, but there’s much more to come.”

Michaela Walsh secured at least a bronze medal at the EU Championships yesterday. Picture by Hugh Russell

WALSH SECURES AT LEAST BRONZE AT EU CHAMPIONSHIPS

MICHAELA Walsh is guaranteed at least a bronze medal after progressing to the last four of the European Union Women’s Championships in Italy yesterday.

The Monkstown fighter, boxing at 54kg, followed up an impressive opening victory over England’s highly-rated Ebonie Jones with a unanimous win against Moldova’s Julia Coroli in the quarter-final.

2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Walsh meets Sweden’s Helena Envall in the last four tomorrow.

Hoping to join her in the medal stages is fellow Belfast boxer Kristina O’Hara.

The St John Bosco light-fly marked her first appearance on the international stage since 2014 with a convincing victory over Saru Lehtonen.

O’Hara detonated all the power shots during the contest, with one judge giving her two 10-8 frames and another handing her one 10-8 round against the Finnish southpaw. She meets Italy’s Roberta Bonatte in the quarter-final today.

Middleweight Christina Desmond also looks to continue her recent form against Nouchka Fontijn from the Netherlands in the last eight this afternoon.

In the 57kg quarter-finals, Dervla Duffy faces a tough test when she faces Germany’s Ornella Wahner tomorrow.

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