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Ricky Hatton advises Anthony Joshua to KEEP Rob McCracken for his Oleksandr Usyk rematch

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Anthony Joshua has reached a crossroads moment in his career: beat Oleksandr Usyk in their fascinating rematch, regain his titles and hop back on the ‘road to undisputed’ – or lose and watch the 6ft 9in figure of Tyson Fury fade into the distance.  

And with that comes a rather poignant question. Should he stay or should he go now? No, it’s not what The Clash were referring to in their 1982 hit, but it’s a message that perhaps rather suits the occasion. 

Sticking with long-term coach Rob McCracken – who received widespread criticism after the Brit’s one-sided unanimous decision defeat to Usyk – could lead to trouble. But forging a brand-new relationship just months prior to the most important fight of his career? Well, that could lead to double. 

As of yet, nothing is set in stone. Promoter Eddie Hearn has quashed – but not categorically ruled out – talk of a new trainer, while Joshua is yet to comment. But with the former champion embarking on an American tour, visiting four famous trainers across the country to date, it looks as if a new era could shortly be upon us. 

Ricky Hatton, a former two-weight world champion and now a trainer, acknowledges the benefits any of Virgil Hunter, Eddy Reynoso, Ronnie Shields or Robert Garcia could bring Joshua.

Anthony Joshua fell to a one-sided unanimous decision defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in September, but will go head-to-head against the Ukrainian again early next year

Anthony Joshua fell to a one-sided unanimous decision defeat to Oleksandr Usyk in September, but will go head-to-head against the Ukrainian again early next year

The future of long-term trainer Rob McCracken (left) is now largely up in the air

The future of long-term trainer Rob McCracken (left) is now largely up in the air

‘They’re obviously good trainers,’ Hatton told Sportsmail. ‘They’re proven in their achievements; as a coach myself, they’ve achieved what I’m aspiring to do.

‘When I went with Floyd Mayweather Sr, he showed me a few little moves and bits to add to my game. It was all new and different, it raises your confidence and I think that’s what AJ needs.

‘He’s been with Robert since day one, and though they and the set-up at Team GB have done a momentous job, he might just want to reinvent himself.’    

McCracken, who also enjoyed success while coaching three-time super-middleweight champion Carl Froch, has been in the spotlight for some time now, particularly after Joshua fell to a shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr on his US debut.    

Many implored Joshua to part from his familiar mentor at the time, but he ignored the noise and instead chose to expand his team by adding coaches Angel Fernandez and Joby Clayton, before delivering an impressive boxing display as he regained his belts in Saudi Arabia.  

Hatton believes Joshua should go down a similar route once more, instead of bringing his long-term relationship with McCracken – which predates his Olympic gold medal in 2012 – to an end.   

Joshua visited Eddy Reynoso, the trainer of Canelo Alvarez, during his time in America

Joshua visited Eddy Reynoso, the trainer of Canelo Alvarez, during his time in America

He was also filmed talking to Ronnie Shields, Mike Tyson's former coach, during the trip

He was also filmed talking to Ronnie Shields, Mike Tyson’s former coach, during the trip

Joshua visited Robert Garcia in America as his search for a new trainer continues

Joshua also visited, Virgil Hunter who memorably trained Amir Khan and Andre Ward

The former champion also visited Robert Garcia and Virgil Hunter during his time Stateside 

He said: ‘If he wanted my advice, why doesn’t Rob go to American with him and work together? Rob can describe to the coach AJ picks how he ticks, how he likes to operate.

‘Let’s get it right, if he goes to a new coach, they’re starting from scratch. A coach has to know a fighter, what he prefers, what he doesn’t like. If Rob goes over with him, I think that’s the smartest move they could make.’  

Particularly those within boxing understood the task at hand for Joshua ahead of his eagerly-anticipated bout against Usyk, with the Ukrainian already deemed a pound-for-pound No 1 contender following his historic feats at cruiserweight.   

The prospect of an upset was never ruled out, but it was the manner in which AJ fell to defeat which left many – including Hatton – somewhat perplexed. A good big man beats a good smaller man, as the old adage goes. And Joshua, a 6ft 6in Adonis with concussive power and evident boxing ability, certainly had the attributes to make things more difficult for Usyk.  

Yet, he opted to box the slick southpaw, rather than using his evident physical advantages, continuing with his questionable approach from the first bell right to the last, which he just about made it to. 

Hatton, who insists he ‘thinks the world of AJ’, says this will have to change in the rematch.  

Joshua failed to utilise his physical advantages against the pound-for-pound contender

Joshua failed to utilise his physical advantages against the pound-for-pound contender 

‘He never changed anything, what wasn’t working,’ Hatton said. ‘I always say in boxing that you’ve got to have a Plan B and he just looked like he didn’t have one.

‘Usyk is a master-boxer, moves fantastic, moves his head well. But it looked like a 12-round, high-quality amateur fencing match. His main attribute is his movement and skill, but AJ’s got great boxing ability and movement as well – and he can also mix it up and get stuck in.

‘If Plan A’s not working, you try Plan B. And if Plan A’s not working, you don’t carry on doing Plan A for the rest of the f***** fight.’ 

Though admitting it’s perhaps easier said than done, Hatton’s game plan for the rematch is straightforward.   

Hatton says: ‘I’d keep the tactics dead simple: “He (Usyk) outboxed me last time, this time I’m going to f****** bash you”. At this level, it’s probably not as simple as that, but I just think there’s so much AJ’s got to offer.’

There are many, including the likes of Fury’s duo of promoters Frank Warren and Bob Arum, who have already written Joshua off in the rematch, with the latter insisting Usyk is simply ‘too smart for him’.  

Hatton takes a different stance. The physical advantages that Joshua possesses, for the British great, remain a prevalent factor – it’s just down to Joshua to utilise them. 

Eddie Hearn (right) has confirmed Joshua has activated the rematch clause to fight Usyk again

Eddie Hearn (right) has confirmed Joshua has activated the rematch clause to fight Usyk again

Ricky Hatton (left) insists Joshua has all the tools to emerge victorious in the must-win bout

Ricky Hatton (left) insists Joshua has all the tools to emerge victorious in the must-win bout

Hatton said: ‘In the rematch, a lot of people say Usyk will do the same again, only he’ll put his foot on the gas a little bit earlier and might stop AJ. I think the opposite.

‘You’ve got to be able to adapt, and if it’s one thing AJ has it’s that adaptability. He can box, as he proved by winning Olympic gold and regaining the heavyweight title. He can mix it up; he was involved in a brutal fight with (Wladimir) Klitschko, so he’s not scared of having it out. He can fight at a tempo, relax and box.        

‘AJ has all the advantages: the size, the reach, the power, the strength. The only chance Usyk has is if he can box him or walk him onto a punch. So when AJ has so many strings to his bow, why did he use just one string? It was really mind-boggling.

‘But he’s an intelligent fighter, he’ll watch the last fight back and learn from it. I think he’ll perform better next time.’

Though Hatton believes Joshua can become a three-time world champion, he also thinks the naysayers can have a positive impact on the Brit.  

‘My advice if AJ was listening to me now: they’ve all written you off anyway, they all think Usyk is going to win the fight even more comfortably – use that as your fuel to ram it down their throats.

‘If they think you’re going to get beat anyway, you’ve got nothing to lose, son. F****** go and grab it by the balls.’

Hatton spoke to Sportsmail on behalf of FightZone, a new broadcast app focusing on small-hall professional boxing

Hatton spoke to Sportsmail on behalf of FightZone, a new broadcast app focusing on small-hall professional boxing

Previously retired heavyweight Dave Allen chose FightZone over DAZN for his comeback win

Previously retired heavyweight Dave Allen chose FightZone over DAZN for his comeback win

Hatton was speaking to Sportsmail on behalf of FightZone, which is a new broadcast app that focuses on British small hall professional boxing, showing a live show each week and aiming to help future champions build their careers. 

Fightzone has already shown Area Titles and a British title fight, and will be showing two world title fights in November.

‘Dennis Hobson is one of the Fightzone partners and it’s great to be working with him,’ Hatton said of his work with FightZone. ‘I had some of the greatest nights of my life with him. 

‘During lockdown, he opened the outdoor shows and people who might not get an opportunity on BT or Sky got their chance. With shows like that, even though they’re small, with social media these kids can make names for themselves.’

 For LIVE boxing action every week – visit Fightzone 

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