Billy Graham's Preacher's Corner: Destroyer Joshua needs to stop trying to be Holmes

When Joe Louis lost to Max Schmeling he got systematically taken apart. 

Louis carried his left hand low and that left him open to the right hand. Schmeling knew that; he planned to exploit it and carried out his plan perfectly.

Louis didn’t sack his trainer and he didn’t change his style. He went away and became a better Joe Louis. When he took Schmeling apart in the rematch, he was the same fighter with the same trainer and the same style – but he was an improved version.

I hear people talking about how somebody got knocked out because they dropped their hands when they threw a right hand or left themselves open when they went to the body. Fuck off. Every time you throw a shot you leave yourself open.

The only way you can stay safe in a boxing ring is if you don’t throw a punch. Why do you think journeymen can turn up week in and week out and not get hurt? It’s because they’re focused on staying safe. If you’re trying to win, you’re putting yourself at risk.

Boxers have always looked to change trainers after a bad night. There are a few reasons why it happens.

Just imagine you’re a 15-0 fighter and get done in a fight you’re supposed to win. Losing a fight is a different thing to losing a football match or losing a race. It’s a blow to the manhood. It hurts deeper. You’ve just lost a fist fight in front of thousands of people. It suddenly becomes very easy to forget all the good work a trainer has put into you and all the success you might have enjoyed and push the blame on to them.

Sometimes a fighter is just naturally gifted and too good for the trainer. They have an aptitude for it. They naturally understand the sport and could get to a certain level with pretty much anybody in their corner. There will become a point when they end up in a tough situation and really need a trainer, though. They’ll remember what advice they were given or how the trainer handled themselves in that moment and they’ll know it’s time for a change. That can work the other way, too. A trainer can be too good for the fighter. The boxer might just not be able to grasp what the trainer wants them to do.

I also fully understand a fighter leaving if they feel they’ve been talked into a fight they weren’t ready for or pressured into getting into the ring when they’re injured, ill or dead at the weight.Once that trust has gone, it just won’t work anymore. This is probably the most common reason. 

Billy Graham's Preacher's Corner: Destroyer Joshua needs to stop trying to be Holmes
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Boxing is a short career, and sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

When they’re looking around for a new trainer, they have to be careful. Usually, their last memory of being in the ring will be a hard one and there’s a temptation to either change too much or fixate on one tiny detail. By doing that they run the risk of losing the attributes that made them good in the first place.

The new trainer has to be the voice of reason and remind them that there’s a drastic difference between changing and improving.

Obviously every trainer has their own style and I doubt there’s a trainer in the world who wouldn’t believe they can add something to a boxer – it’s choosing what to add that’s important. If by doing that you sacrifice some of the things that made them special, you have to work out if it’s a price worth paying. I don’t think it is. 

Anthony Joshua is looking for something and he can’t find it because it doesn’t exist. He is a predator. He hunts you down. He can take you out from either side, with either hand and he’s a ferocious combination puncher. He’s holding himself differently. He’s standing straighter which brings his chin in the air.

No matter how hard they try and turn Joshua into a stand-up boxer, he’ll never be Larry Holmes. It just isn’t natural to him. He could have been a great destroyer, though, and all it would have taken is a couple of tweaks. I’d have liked him to improve on his body punching and to show a bit more head movement and more caution as he moves in.

These subtle changes should have been made after the defeat by Andy Ruiz but because Ruiz turned up for the rematch in atrocious condition, Joshua got away with beating him by standing up and staying away.

Now, after so many changes of trainer, he is caught between styles and seems to believe that that is the way to go. When he fought Kubrat Pulev with that straight back and chin up in the air, I couldn’t believe it. When instinct took over and we saw the real Joshua, he took Pulev out brutally.

Joshua has been great for boxing but now we’re going to find out whether he still has time to become what he should have been.

One more thing – Naoya Inoue is my favourite fighter. He’s right up my street. Stephen Fulton is a sharp shooter and a clever fighter but Inoue showed his skills and outboxed the boxer. Then he took him out. He’s got fantastic balance, tremendous anticipation and he’s a murderous puncher. He also fights in one of my favourite weight classes. Terence Crawford has to be rated as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but Inoue is my favourite.