ANTHONY JOSHUA wants to get back to slicing up the faces of his opponents after ripping up his training team.
The 32-year-old Watford hero lost his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight world titles to Oleksandr Usyk in September in a one-sided unanimous decision.
The heavyweight star was guest editor for the day
With the fight and his belts slipping out of his grasp, fans watching on TV were surprised to not hear ten-year mentor Rob McCracken urging him to turn the tide and go hell for leather.
And they were even more baffled to hear assistant coach Joby Clayton heaping praise on the Olympic 2012 icon – despite him getting convincingly outboxed.
But McCracken has been the casualty of that Spurs showdown and – after getting up-close-and-personal with 35-year-old Usyk on Wednesday – AJ spotted a scar on the Ukraine legend that got his juices going for the new-look team and gameplan.
Barely an hour after being a media darling at SunSport HQ, AJ flicked a switch and became a very different beast.
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“I saw he’s got a slice scar on his eye, from me,” AJ grinned moments after their lengthy staredown.
“I was thinking back, I have cut up a few people’s faces in my career; Paul Butlin, Usyk, I split Kubrat Pulev’s lip.
“I just grazed Andy Ruiz, he doesn’t count ‘cos I mean properly smashing faces in. I like that stuff.
“One of my strengths was my power but I always wanted to go down that path of being a clean boxer, ‘hit and not get hit’, especially if I want to have a long and successful career.
Anthony Joshua split from long-time coach Rob McCracken after the defeat by Usyk
“You need to have good defence but I moved away from the ferocious side of boxing where I knew I could hit and stun people.
“And I do miss the days of slicing people’s faces open and hurting them, for sure. So I am looking forward to getting back to that.”
Joshua likes a military mentality around his training team and McCracken was always known as ‘The General’.
But, after the 2019 loss to Ruiz Jr, AJ added Clayton and Spanish coach Angel Fernandez, with McCracken being labelled the ‘Alex Ferguson’ of Team AJ, charged with overseeing things.
And Joshua admits he felt let down by McCracken’s advice – or lack of – in the Usyk loss, when he desperately needed a Churchillian speech to inspire him.
When asked if he regrets not getting that rousing rollocking, he said: “It was more like ‘double jab, right, left hook’ it wasn’t like ‘take the fight to this f***er, listen you’re losing the fight’, no.
“A trainer needs to tap into that psychological aspect now because if you can overcome your mind you can give more.
“Not always but at times you can be told, ‘we’re losing a world championship fight’ and sometimes you need to tell your fighter that.
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“Throughout the fight I thought I was winning but, toward the end, I knew it was close.
“I thought at that stage I was well in the fight because it didn’t seem like there was any real communication as to where I’m at, like ‘you’re losing this fight… you’re down by two rounds’. I didn’t get that.
“I’m not blaming anyone by saying that but I didn’t get any impression that I was losing the fight.
“I thought we were well in it. That’s why when they announced the name I was kind of like ‘huh?’ The advice was all just ‘that’s it, keep on going.’”
Joshua went on a whistlestop tour of some of America’s best boxing gyms after the Tottenham humbling and has settled on Mexican-American Robert Garcia, 47, who will work in tandem with Fernandez.
AJ fans concerned that Garcia’s high-pressure attacking style will clash with Fernandez’s more technical methods have been told not to worry this time around.
He said: “There were only two voices in my corner for the first fight and I respect them both.
“But this time, whoever is talking, it won’t be like the last time. I’ll leave them to sort that out.
“There was a lot going on in the corner and that didn’t help.”
Without a boot up his backside, Joshua felt like a million dollars in the ring.
But the heartbreaking loss means he now knows exactly what he has to do in the scorching Jeddah heat.
“I swear I thought I was winning,” he said. “I thought I was looking like Muhammad Ali in there.
“It was hard to accept afterwards. Now when I watch it back I think he won by three rounds, that’s probably from the 9th onwards.
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“I wanted to grow, I didn’t want to leave. I had three options: change what I had completely, keep what we have and don’t make any changes, or add to what we had.
“At that stage in 2019 (after the Ruiz Jr loss) – I said let’s just add to what we had and we did.
“Now Rob is no more and we have brought in new people. A complete change is the last piece to the jigsaw. That’s where we are now.”