Robert McCracken says he wasn’t surprised when people started pointing fingers at him after Anthony Joshua lost his world heavyweight title in June.
As Joshua’s head trainer, McCracken knows he is not above criticism, neither is his naive to know that when Joshua was beaten by Andy Ruiz Jr in New York, some were going to sniff an opportunity.
McCracken has trained Joshua since his amateur days, when the future world heavyweight champion first arrived at the GB Boxing gym in Sheffield as part of Great Britain’s development squad. After claiming Olympic gold in London in 2012, his decision to remain with McCracken, training in a gym funded by UK Sport, annoyed some.
The Ruiz fight was the first serious bump in the road in all their years together, however, it did not take long for some to advise Joshua to seek alternative help.
“It was very predictable, unfortunately,” McCracken said. “Where he has been successful and earned a lot of money, people will look to blame anybody and, in some cases, blame me, but I’m not really bothered.
“I keep the pro boxing world at arm’s length. It is a business and it is money-based, so they can jump on an interview and criticise anybody.
“Every weekend fighters win and lose. It’s a fight and things happen. You have seen all the great fighters get beaten. I think it was going to be predictable in the UK that you were going to get that from a small number of people – ‘blame the coach’. Maybe they might get an opportunity.”
Joshua made it clear straight after the defeat that he would not be dumping McCracken, lashing out notably at Lennox Lewis, who had suggested that he should change trainers. But there was history with Joshua and Lewis.
After Joshua won Olympic gold in 2012, Lewis flew him out to Jamaica in an attempt to sign him. Joshua went with Eddie Hearn instead. Except for that night in New York, it has surpassed all possible hopes.
McCracken and Joshua met up the day after the fight in their New York hotel to discuss what had gone wrong and met up ten days later back in England, when it was decided to enforce the rematch clause in the contract. That rematch takes place in Saudi Arabia on December 7.
Both McCracken and Joshua believe the result will be different this time.
“People have rewritten history,” McCracken said. “They forget that Ruiz was down and in a vulnerable position and Josh went in to finish him.
“[After Joshua knocked down Ruiz] I was shouting at him to take his time, break him down, but he didn’t look at the corner. He was fixated on Ruiz and he has rushed in. I take nothing away from Ruiz, he is a good fighter, he is dangerous, and he landed a big hook and Josh didn’t recover from it.
“All you hear is ‘he should have been told to do this, he should have been told to do that’, but he just didn’t recover from it.
“In those cases, 99 percent of times the fighter gets knocked out. He was able to get back up and get through a bit of it, but he was never back in the game, it was always difficult. You are trying to get him through each round and just do enough to keep him in there, but he wasn’t back in the fight.”
McCracken was a useful boxer himself, challenging Keith Holmes for the WBC middleweight title in 2000. He made his name as a trainer by working with Carl Froch, before being appointed as performance director for GB Boxing. Under his guidance, Great Britain had its best performance at an Olympics in more than a century in London in 2012.
“I’ve coached a lot of world title fights and done OK, but I never tried to take any credit for them, because I believe the fighter does it,” McCracken said. “If you are working with an average fighter, they are probably going to stay average and if you are working with a good fighter, he is good.
“You can make adjustments and work on finer points and teach them a bit, but ultimately, they do things in the ring that they think will work. In some cases they listen, in some cases they do things themselves.
“That is just part of fighting and anyone who thinks the boxer does exactly what the coach says from round 1-12, it’s not realistic. Things happen, you get caught with an elbow, they charge in with their head, they move funny, they move differently to how you planned, their punches come differently, it’s a fight, anything can happen. Boxing at its heart is reactive.”