EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Joshua thinks he’s found what he was looking in new trainer Derrick James

Anthony Joshua believes he found what he was looking for by setting up training camp in Texas ahead of his London return against Jermaine Franklin.

Joshua, who would have been back in England for more than two weeks after having the bulk of his training with new trainer Derrick James in the USA, admitted: “It was challenging but that’s what I was searching for, so no complaining at all.”

Joshua admitted he felt he had lost his way in sport and said there has been a back-to-basics approach.

That is what Joshua felt he was no longer working on.

“I was on the search for improvement, I was an amateur for three years and within those three years you’re talking about ABAs, Europeans, Worlds, Olympics, [then] pros, British title, world title… it was kind of like never preparing, always preparing for a fight, never preparing so along the way, even though I was winning, I was thinking I need to get better. I fight Dillian [Whyte], he puts up a bit of resistance, I fight [Wladimir] Klitschko, he puts up a bit of resistance, I started realising I need to improve as a boxer so I got on a search and this coach now, I feel like he’s not trying to make sure everything is perfect, he’s saying do the right things at the right time. Basics, basics, basics. Do the right things at the right time and you will be victorious.”

Speculation away from team Joshua implied that Joshua has been the ones calling the shots in camp, that he’s been giving instructions rather than taking them. Joshua said that when he heard about that for the first time, he was shocked.

“It would be good for you to ask Derrick what I’m like in the gym,” Joshua said. “In all the years I’ve trained with different trainers, Sean Murphy, Johnny Oliver, Robert McCracken, all the GB lot, maybe you could ask Richie Woodhall, Angel Fernandez, Joby [Clayton], Derrick James and [Robert] Garcia, that’s the first time I’ve heard that about me in the gym. I was like, ‘I didn’t realise I was that bad.’ It would be good for you to ask Derrick what I’m like in the gym.”

Joshua can see the rest of his career playing out working with James, who also works with welterweight star Errol Spence, who Joshua has not spent any time with outside the gym but whom he has plenty of admiration for.

“I understand why he [Spence] is where he is, being in that environment,” AJ said of his new stablemate. “I can definitely understand why he’s successful in the boxing ring and how he manages to break opponent’s down over the rounds, he’s got his own philosophy which I buy into and I respect as well.”

Now Joshua is buying into James’s philosophy and he contends there is the one main voice in the camp now, which has not always been the case. Even with Robert Garcia – who was in camp for the Usyk rematch – the team had splits.

“I think it was difficult for Garcia in that camp, because he was working alongside someone, and he let them kind of be one of the lead voices in a way,” Joshua said. “Angel Fernandez brought in Garcia, Angel brought him on as like a main assistant, someone with more experience, so Derrick James… He’s the main guy, that’s the main voice. I’m speaking directly to Derrick James. With Angel, it was like, ‘Speak with Garcia, speak with Angel.’”

In pursuit of imposing those basics Joshua referred to, the amount of sparring he has done has increased. The intensity is enhanced by the introduction of fresh sparring partners as James tries to drill good habits into Joshua under pressure and under fatigue.

“We spar a lot more,” Joshua added. “Sparring is one of the most challenging parts of boxing, it’s the closest thing to a fight, you’re sparring three-four guys, fresh guys coming in the ring, but the good thing is when I’m not sparring the training he [James]’s putting me through makes my sparring easier because I’m so well-conditioned, but to get to that stage is the torture. You have to go through a lot of pain to be in a position where you can do those things easier, [so] you can beat up your opponent. They do three rounds apiece and you’re winning each round no matter who comes in, even the fourth sparring partner,

you’re still on top of your game, but to get to that position you have to go through a lot. Derrick’s an ex-fighter, so he knows what it takes, he knows what being fighting fit is about.”