The reigning Trainer of the Year is up to the task of reshaping the career of Anthony Joshua.

Derrick James is confident there is still work to be done with the former two-time unified heavyweight titlist, whom he has welcomed to his intimate training stable. The union was confirmed by England’s Joshua just prior to confirmation of his upcoming April 1 bout versus Jermaine Franklin at The O2 in London.

“Definitely looking forward to April the 1st,” James said. “I feel the world hasn’t seen the best of Anthony Joshua, especially with the guy I’ve been working with in the gym.

“I know that Jermaine Franklin is a very good fighter and is taking it seriously.”  

The sport’s only active trainer to boast two current unified champions, James emerged as a top candidate to land the services of Joshua (24-3, 22KOs) who has changed up for his second straight camp.

The hulking Brit from Watford, England spent the bulk of his career serving under Robert McCracken, a former middleweight contender who helped guide Joshua to an Olympic Gold medal in 2012 London and two separate unified heavyweight title reigns. Their union ended after Joshua turned over his WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles to Oleksandr Usyk in their first fight in September 2021.

Renowned cornerman and former IBF junior lightweight titlist Robert Garcia was brought into Joshua’s camp prior to the rematch with Usyk (20-0, 13KOs), who scored a repeat points win last August 20 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Speculation ran rampant that a change in trainers was on the horizon ahead of what marks Joshua’s first non-title fight since his December 2015 knockout win over Dillian Whyte.

Joshua was already a rising star prior to his April 2016 second-round knockout of unbeaten IBF heavyweight titleholder Charles Martin. The win was his first of twelve straight title fights, during which he surfaced as the leading gate attraction in the UK and among the best performing pay-per-view headliners.    

It is now back to basics for Joshua, who will spend his full training camp in the U.S. for the first time in his career. With it comes the teachings of the 51-year-young James, the 2022 Trainer of the Year as recognized by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Voting members recognized the Dallas-based coach for his work with unified welterweight titlist Errol Spence (28-0, 22KOs), undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 19KOs) and rising lightweight contender Frank Martin (17-0, 12KOs).

James was a 16-year pro and barely a year removed from the sport before transforming from boxer to trainer. The journey began with a teenaged Spence, whom he helped guide to the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team and now three welterweight titles through 28 pro bouts. The stable was always intimate, even with the addition of Joshua who is already showing signs of being on the right track ahead of the next act in his already storied career.

“I think it’s so much about Anthony being the fighter he wants to be and needs to be,” noted James. “It’s all about him. It’s not about anybody else. It’s about his legacy and him trying to improve on it. At the same time, it’s us building and for him to be the best version of himself that night.

“The time we have, three months is not a lot but it depends on what level you’re working on. We’re working on a high level. He’s a very intellectual fighter. He can do it. He’s maintaining and understanding everything I’m asking him to do.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox