Leigh Wood hints at Anthony Joshua change that fans have craved

‘AJ’ has joined featherweight champion Wood in training under Ben Davison, a former coach of Tyson Fury

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Friday 01 December 2023 17:23 GMT
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Featherweight standout Leigh Wood has explained why Anthony Joshua will be different in his next fight, as the heavyweight prepares for his first bout under coach Ben Davison.

Joshua split from his longtime coach Rob McCracken in 2022 before fighting once under Robert Garcia, then teamed with Derrick James this year. “AJ” has gone 2-0 under James but has been training at Davison’s gym in recent months, with a bout against Otto Wallin due on 23 December.

Under Davison, a former coach of Tyson Fury, Wood won the WBA featherweight title in 2021, before losing and regaining the belt in back-to-back duels with Mauricio Lara this year.

And Wood, who has since vacated the title and is now a teammate of Joshua, has revealed that his fellow Briton should be “more clear and decisive” against Wallin than he has been in recent fights – a change that fans have longed to see from AJ recently.

“I’ve seen him in the gym quite a lot,” Wood told Boxing News on Friday (1 December). “[He’s] just a down-to-earth, humble guy [...] He’s always got time for people. I feel like he’s still got that same focus and mentality.

“The approach he’s got with Ben, he’s like a sponge – he’s absorbing all the information. A lot of people look at it and think, ‘He’s training with Ben, is he mad?’ But like I’ve said, Ben [is] way ahead. I’ve said this many times, and people can quote me, because I know in 10 years’ time they’ll be like: ‘Leigh Wood told us.’ I didn’t have to tell you. Look at my fights I’ve had; I’ve been underdog time and time again, [but] I’m getting these results. Is it because I’m superhuman, or is it because I’ve got a mint team? Do the maths.

“I can see a lot of similarities between AJ and myself in the way he’s learning. He’s always asking questions and wants to know how it works. Sometimes you’re trying to learn something and it doesn’t click straight away, then it’s a good feeling when you get it.”

Wood was then asked for a prediction on Joshua’s fight with Wallin, which takes place in Saudi Arabia on the same card that pits Deontay Wilder against Joseph Parker.

Wood with his coach Ben Davison, who is now working with Joshua
Wood with his coach Ben Davison, who is now working with Joshua (PA)

“He’s on the right path, and I can’t wait for his fight in December,” said Wood, 35. “I think you will see AJ be more clear and decisive with what he’s doing in there, because I feel like he’ll know what he needs to do – whereas in previous fights, he’s [seemed] a bit apprehensive. [It’s like he’s] thinking, ‘It don’t feel right,’ or half-guessing and not confident in what he’s doing but just doing it anyway.

“I know for this fight he will be clear and decisive, knowing what he needs to do and going out and doing it. A lot of people will say, ‘AJ’s looking more like his old self,’ and that will be because of these things he’s doing [with Davison]. Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s an AJ knockout [against Wallin].”

Joshua, 34, split from McCracken after losing the unified heavyweight titles to Oleksandr Usyk in 2021. Under Garcia in 2022, AJ suffered a second straight decision loss to Usyk.

While training under James this year, Joshua has bounced back with a decision win over Jermaine Franklin and a knockout of Robert Helenius. The latter result marked Joshua’s most recent outing, having taken place in August.

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