Angel Fernandez believes the best is still to come from Anthony Joshua – and largely because of his confidence in Derrick James.
The influential Fernandez was Joshua’s assistant trainer from his victorious rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr until his successive defeats by Oleksandr Usyk, after which Joshua relocated to Dallas to work under his new trainer.
Across his four fights with Joshua, Fernandez therefore worked under both the respected Rob McCracken and Robert Garcia, and he remains in contact with the heavyweight having previously recommended James’ services as a consequence of the American’s success with the Charlo twins and Errol Spence.
On Saturday at London’s O2 Arena Joshua fights under James for the first time, against Jermaine Franklin. Fernandez also considers America’s Franklin, 29, to be a suitable opponent for his former fighter after three defeats in five fights, and dismissed the suggestion that at a time when Usyk and Tyson Fury are regarded as the world’s leading heavyweights, Joshua – widely considered to have peaked when retiring Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 – has little left to give.
“It’s absolute nonsense,” Fernandez told ProBox TV. “AJ always carries that negativity, [with] the public. He lost against the pound-for-pound [king]. The best of Usyk hasn’t been seen yet. I also think the best of AJ hasn’t been seen yet. I hope he reaches that potential with Derrick James.
“It’s a good opponent for Joshua, coming back. After two losses to Usyk it’s the right opponent – fast, but AJ is going to win.
“Derrick James seems a very smart guy in terms of game plans. We’d been in Texas before with Ronnie Shields; [Joshua] could walk around without getting stopped by people; when he was here he was pretty much in one place ‘cause if he come out everyone [would have surrounded him]. That takes a lot of energy from you. That didn’t happen in America.
“AJ’s definitely a combination puncher, and that’s something we tried to bring on the last fight with him, but you’re fighting a guy that’s got great footwork. Usyk’s a great champion. He’s unreal – one of these fighters that people will talk about for years to come.”
Spain’s Fernandez, who trains Frazer Clarke and Richard Riakporhe out of Loughborough University, has spoken to Joshua about his progress under James, and revealed that he also recommended the 33-year-old heavyweight attempt to avoid the distractions that come with his status in the UK.
“We [still] talking about training,” he said. “How’s things in camp and things like that; what Derrick James does differently to me, for me to grow as a trainer as well.
“He’s a busy man, and I’ve been with him for a few years, so I wanted him to be out there focused on what he needs to do. Learning as much as he can with a new trainer.
“I could have been there in America but I’ve got those guys over here. He’s got a great trainer – [James'] results speak for themselves, and I hope to see some improvements.
“I had conversations with the team. I mentioned Derrick James; I mentioned Virgil Hunter. Derrick James, I’d read a lot about and seen interviews and the work that he did with [Jermell] Charlo; with Errol Spence. He’ll be the right fit for AJ.
“From what I heard he done a really good camp. Trained hard, and I look forward to seeing the improvements.
“I can add this thing; that trainer can add something different. It’s not wrong or right. It’s how you click with that person – you see the results as the sparring goes, and if what you’re actually doing is working or not.”