Trainer James mapping out his final four or five years as a coach and says AJ is growing as a fighter

Trainer Derrick James is hoping heavyweight contender Anthony Joshua shows improvements when he faces old rival Dillian Whyte in a rematch on August 13.

Joshua stopped Whyte in their first tussle in the pros back in seven rounds back in December 2015 and they meet again at London’s O2 Arena with Wilder in the frame to face Deontay Wilder in a Saudi Arabian showcase in January if he is successful.

“It's great because he’s been growing as a fighter and his understanding is amazing,” James said of AJ. “He’s shown some things that have had his sparring partners like, ‘Man, you’re getting better.’ So they can tell. He’s throwing punches he’s never really thrown before so that’s a good thing.”

James has had a busy year, taking on Ryan Garcia, training Frank Martin and coaching Errol Spence for his recent bout with Terence Crawford. 

Before Joshua’s London fight, they had a long camp in Dallas, moved to Las Vegas for three weeks for the Spence fight and they have two weeks in London. For James, it’s been about planning.

“Different schedules and different times,” he said. “AJ would work in the afternoon in Dallas, so he works in the heat of the day. Errol works at 9 in the morning, 9.30 in the morning, but AJ wanted the 3 o’clock spot. He wants to push himself. He’s been doing 12 rounds in 105-110 degree weather and in humidity. In Las Vegas, it was not about humidity, it’s about heat. Texas is about humidity, so he was able to push himself to spar 12 rounds, which was amazing.”

Some have said Joshua is caught between ring identities, that he is still capable of being the destroyer of old but he wants to fight technically. James said his heavyweight knows himself what he is and he is confident who he is as a fighter.

“I think he does,” James added. “I think he knew who he was, I think he felt he could grow a bit more also. I think he always knew who he was, but knowing who he was he just wanted more, so we were able to get more, present more and have him understand more and have more depth.”

While James has worked on adding to Joshua’s game, the two have become close, so much so that Joshua can envisage seeing out the remainder of his career with James in his corner.

“That’s cool because I like him,” James said of Joshua wanting to continue working together. “Because when we retire – I say we – I’m going to want to be able to come to the UK, spend some time, hang out, maybe do some boxing exhibitions, but I’ll retire in the next four or five years. I’m 51. Four of five years, I’ll be 56. My shoulders have had it, with big punches from AJ and it’s really Ryan [Garcia] and Frank [Martin] will be the ones I’ll be working with until the end of my career.”