We have had over a month to digest the events of June the 1st at Madison Square Garden and the knock on effect it has had on all those involved. Any high profile boxing match involves thousands upon thousands of people working behind the scenes that the public never see. Take for instance the bookmakers that had Joshua a massive favourite going into the bout, forcing all the money onto ‘Hail Mary’ bets for Andy Ruiz Jr to score a miraculous upset. Oops!
No-one out there is ever going to have any sympathy for the bookies, but there are those that have had to take criticism for their part in what must be the upset of the year if not the decade, and some of it will be unjustified, that is the nature of being involved.
In Soccer, the most watched sport on our planet, it is the manager who takes the ultimate blame for what happens on the pitch, ironic really as he cannot actually go onto the playing field and effect events as they unfold. His is blame for the team he puts out and how they perform.
In boxing we blame the trainer. He is the go to guy for everything, day to day preparations, game plan, peaking his fighter for the day of the fight, and those all so important corner instructions, you name it, he’s the guy.
Trainers cannot be effective if they do not have a good relationship with their fighter, mostly, that relationship is very close, personal even. Anyone that has done the job will know that there are trainers out their whose personality will not allow them to bond as closely as others, they are excellent technically and at getting their man into perfect shape, but they don’t have that deep understanding of the demons going through their charges mind while in the toughest battles, it is at these moments that the exact right words, at the exact right time, in the exact right tone can change the outcome of a fight.
Even ex-boxers who have fought at world level don’t necessarily make great trainers and even those that do, sometimes just lack that personality and spark to be able to get inside their fighters mind.
The Psychology involved in training a fighter at the highest level is a huge subject. As already stated, some are better than others, some have their own nerves to deal with when in a huge arena with the lights and camera’s highlighting just you and your fighter, there are so many variables that go to make ‘a good trainer’.
Having never met or spoken to Robert McCracken it is impossible for me to say if he is a trainer that gains that close psychological relationship with his fighter, the likes of Carl Froch or Howard Eastman, both world class boxers trained by McCracken would be the right people to ask.
As seen in the past, when an elite fighter loses his unbeaten record or loses in a huge event, McCracken was deemed by the many armchair experts, and some trainers hoping to benefit, to be the obvious flaw in Team Joshua. Was he good enough to train Joshua to wins against Dillian Whyte, Charles Martin, Dominic Breazeale, Eric Molina, Wladimir Klistchko, Carlos Takam, Joseph Parker, and Alexander Povetkin? Yes he was, and no matter what the opinions of Twitter’s armchair boxing experts, at least some of them, if not all were world class.
McCracken has had a successful career as a trainer, he was head coach to the GB Squad at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and before that was with former champion Carl Froch during his entire 12 year career which included winning the WBC, WBA, and IBF world Super-Middleweight titles. McCracken compiled a 33-2-0 record as a pro during a 10 year career that included winning the British Super-welterweight title, the Commonwealth Middleweight title and challenging for the European and WBC world Middleweight titles.
McCracken knows the boxing business, it is in his blood and he knows you have to hear some harsh views from people who have no background or ring time at top level. Also, you have to hear views you don’t like from some fighters and trainers that you respect. When former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis suggested after the Ruiz defeat that Joshua’s next move should be to sack McCracken, explaining “I say you can’t go to university with your third-grade teacher,” he was suggesting that McCracken was not capable of making the adjustments that AJ needs to learn how to deal with Ruiz Jr’s style.
Did Lewis have the same bond with his first two trainers John Davenport and Pepe Correa that he did with Emmanuel Steward? Maybe that was because they were not the right fit for him. Why stay with Steward until the end of his career? The bond they formed is what brought them so much success as a team. A fighter can only truly believe and follow the instruction they are given from a trainer they totally trust in. Anthony Joshua knows who he trusts and believes in. We may never know if there were other reasons for the events that unfolded at MSG on June 1st, but in an age where loyalty means nothing, Joshua has shown faith in McCracken, and if AJ were to demolish Ruiz Jr in the rematch the same trolls and soothsayers would forget the ‘Brummie’ trainer’s role in the success as fast as they start to say June 1st was just a fluke.