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Anthony Joshua has had five trainers in two years with Ben Davison in his corner for his 'Day of Reckoning' clash with Otto Wallin… but will it be fifth time's the charm or will AJ's coaching cull continue?

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For a long time, Anthony Joshua was the rising force in boxing, the one who seemed destined to unite the heavyweight division for the first time since Lennox Lewis. 

Between 2013 and 2019, quite literally nobody could stop him as he weaved, bobbed and hooked his way to the top, picking up belts here, there and everywhere. He now finds himself in a very different position ahead of the much-anticipated ‘Day of Reckoning’.

In that six-year run before Andy Ruiz Jnr shocked Joshua, the world and even perhaps himself, it was 22 wins and 21 knockouts since turning professional – there looked to be something special going on in the Joshua camp. 

Of course, there is an astounding athlete blessed with the right mix of genetics and drive behind the gloves, but much of Joshua’s stardom came from a seemingly unflappable stability in his corner. 

From 2016 to 2021, that ever present figure was Rob McCracken, the man in charge of Team GB‘s boxing efforts when Joshua won gold at London 2012.

Anthony Joshua (right) will have Ben Davison (left) in his corner on Saturday at the 'Day of Reckoning'

Anthony Joshua (right) will have Ben Davison (left) in his corner on Saturday at the ‘Day of Reckoning’

He spent six years under the stewardship of Rob McCracken, picking up numerous world titles

He spent six years under the stewardship of Rob McCracken, picking up numerous world titles

He has since been partnered with Derrick James, who will not be in Saudi Arabia for logistical reasons

He has since been partnered with Derrick James, who will not be in Saudi Arabia for logistical reasons

Together they very nearly conquered the world until that first hiccup against Ruiz was followed by an Oleksandr Usyk-sized hurdle just two years later, which spelled the end of their relationship. 

The Ukrainian outclassed, out-thought and outboxed Joshua on the night in a fight that saw a few eyebrows raised in the direction of the Brit’s corner. Despite being clearly down on the cards, it didn’t seem as though that was being relayed to Joshua, who continued apace, seemingly confident in his own standing on the scores. 

As a result, it was a very surprised Joshua that absorbed the bruising news that he had once again lost his belts, for the second time in two years.  

‘I was being told things like, “Double jab, right, left hook”,’ Joshua would later reveal. ‘It wasn’t like, “Take the fight to this f***er, listen you’re losing the fight. You’re down by two rounds”. I didn’t get that.

‘A trainer needs to tap into that psychological aspect now because if you can overcome your mind, you can give more.

‘I’m not blaming anyone by saying that but I didn’t get any impression that I was losing the fight. I thought we were well in it. That’s why when they announced the name I was kind of like “huh?”‘

In his defence, McCracken wasn’t used to having his back up against the wall with Joshua, having steered him through the likes of Wladimir Klitschko, Joseph Parker and Ruiz Jnr at the second opportunity – albeit with the help of Angel Fernandez – but out he went and in came Robert Garcia. 

Garcia, however, lasted just the one camp – preceding Usyk’s second victory – before Derrick James was drafted in. Although he remains Joshua’s full-time coach at the time of writing, he will not be in attendance at the ‘Day of Reckoning’ due to logistical reasons. 

Defeat to Oleksandr Usyk first time round saw the end of Joshua's partnership with McCracken

Defeat to Oleksandr Usyk first time round saw the end of Joshua’s partnership with McCracken

For the rematch with the Ukrainian Joshua teamed up with American Robert Garcia (right)

For the rematch with the Ukrainian Joshua teamed up with American Robert Garcia (right)

In his stead will be Briton Ben Davison, who was in Tyson Fury’s corner on the night he was taken the distance – via 41 stitches – by Saturday’s opponent Otto Wallin. 

The Swede takes on a Joshua that is fallen from his best, but hoping to claw his way back up that mountain to what he was just a few short years ago, albeit carving through trainers at a prodigious rate. 

The inconsistencies in trainers has translated as you might expect into somewhat laboured showings, with a points win over a hardy but unimpressive Jermaine Franklin and a less than convincing one-punch knockout against Robert Helenius. 

What Joshua had with McCracken was a more intimate relationship built up on years of trust and insight – and that’s not something that he can build over one, two or even three camps, but takes a long time to develop – something upcoming foe Wallin knows all too well. 

‘I think it’s a problem for him, for sure,’ he told Mail Sport’s podcast The Hook. ‘I’ve had my trainer now for 10 years. 

‘We know each other really well. We trust each other in and out of the ring. He’s been with me for all of my pro fights except two, so it’s really been a good journey together and it’s fantastic we get this chance now to prove to everyone what we’ve been working on.

‘For Joshua, it’s hard. When you keep changing trainer, it’s usually a bad sign and I think it’s a bad sign for him too.’ 

The evidence would seemingly side with Wallin in this; it is hard to think of an example not just in boxing but in sport as a whole for continual chopping and changing yielding any type of positive results. 

Wallin spoke of how remaining with his own trainer for 10 years has helped his career

Wallin spoke of how remaining with his own trainer for 10 years has helped his career

Davison was in Tyson Fury's (right) corner when he went 12 rounds with Wallin back in 2019

Davison was in Tyson Fury’s (right) corner when he went 12 rounds with Wallin back in 2019

Look at Chelsea, who have not just changed their head coach five times in 15 months, but have more or less bought two new squads in the same period. Emma Raducanu is another great example – changing coaches after every hiccup or poor result does not necessarily result in progression. 

Ultimately, Joshua will be the favourite on Saturday, and it is likely that he comes out on top against a strong challenger, but one who comes into the bout unfavoured. 

But a win for the Briton will not justify his scything through coaches in recent years, which has perhaps unsurprisingly seen an extended transition period for Joshua where he seems never to truly be far from the edge of fading from the top tier of the heavyweight division. 

Whether it is an unwillingness from AJ to accept that his poor performances might not be down to who is putting him through his paces is another matter, but if the Brit is to reach the pinnacle again and be able to test the likes of Deontay Wilder and Fury, then he surely needs to build up some stability and consistency.