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Anthony Joshua has gone to a ‘dark place’ to prepare for Oleksandr Usyk rematch, says camp-mate

Anthony Joshua has been to a ‘dark place’ while preparing for Saturday’s all-important rematch against Oleksandr Usyk, camp-mate Frazer Clarke has revealed. 

The Briton lost his WBA, WBO and IBF belts to the Ukrainian mastermind last September, falling to a one-sided unanimous decision defeat that threatened to end more decisively in a damaging 12th round. 

Joshua returns to Saudi Arabia – where he avenged his shock defeat to Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019 – with the opportunity to emulate the likes of Muhammad Ali and Lennox Lewis by becoming a three-time heavyweight world champion.

Anthony Joshua (R) and Oleksandr Usyk (L) go head-to-head for a second time on August 20

Camp-mate Frazer Clarke (R) believes Joshua's hellish preparations will get him over the line

Camp-mate Frazer Clarke (R) believes Joshua’s hellish preparations will get him over the line

The Briton left onlookers bemused last September as he failed to utilise his evident physical advantages and instead looked to outbox the better boxer in a move that proved disastrous. 

Perhaps equally worryingly, however, was the fact that, despite barely throwing a power punch throughout the entire bout, Joshua was out on his feet come the final bell. 

Clarke, who has trained alongside Joshua at Loughborough University throughout the build-up to the career-defining clash, insists the Olympian will be able to implement a more aggressive style without emptying the tank this time.  

‘During training, the plan was to be able to go to those dark places and be able to box afterwards,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘It was well recognised that he needed to be fitter, physically and mentally.

‘The way he’s been training, he should be able to go for broke, and if it doesn’t work, he should be able to carry on boxing.’

‘It’s been a really tough camp,’ he continued. ‘Every fighter knows you have to leave it in the gym. Do it all in the gym, and on fight night you don’t have to question yourself. 

‘I’ve seen him in a bad place, gasping for breath and really having to dig deep, but that’s what any coach would want from their fighter.

‘I think his team have seen enough from him that they know, if it comes to it in the fight, he’ll be able to do it this time.’

Joshua was exhausted by the 12th round of their first encounter despite barely throwing any power punches

Joshua was exhausted by the 12th round of their first encounter despite barely throwing any power punches

The two-time heavyweight champion has been working on his fitness for the rematch

The two-time heavyweight champion has been working on his fitness for the rematch 

Clarke, who is currently out in Portugal preparing for his September bout in Liverpool, insists Joshua is not just better conditioned but also better prepared to match Usyk’s skill. 

The 31-year-old insists Joshua looks better than he has done in recent years, believing coming in as the underdog has added fuel to the fire.  

‘The thing is with AJ, he always looked good, physically he’s always tremendous,’ he said. ‘But as a fighter, we know that looking physically good doesn’t mean a thing come fight night.

‘But what I will say is that on a boxing level, he’s looking very, very good. Forget his physique, in boxing terms he looks better than he has done for a long time.

‘I’ve been really impressed with him. His attitude is second to none, it always has been. For one of the first times a lot of people are now doubting him, and I don’t care what anyone says, that does give you an extra push in training.

‘He’s looked fantastic. I’m nervous and excited for Saturday, but I hope you see a career-best performance.’

Renowned Mexican-American guru Robert Garcia was hired as Joshua's new trainer in June

Renowned Mexican-American guru Robert Garcia was hired as Joshua’s new trainer in June

A crucial difference for Joshua heading into the rematch is that he will have renowned trainer Robert Garcia in his corner, having parted ways with long-term coach Rob McCracken.  

The prolific coach, who has guided 14 fighters to world titles, is working alongside Angel Fernandez, who was also a part of the McCracken setup.   

Clarke believes Garcia will get Joshua throwing combinations, having stuck to single shots throughout the majority of their first fight. 

‘He looks like he’s very focused, very switched on,’ Clarke said. ‘He’s got a spring in his step and the bit between his teeth.

‘Robert, with the Mexican in him and the way his fighters fight, they’re training to put combinations together, to hurt people, and once you hurt them you have to continue.

‘Garcia’s not one for single punches. Once one has gone, the other hand goes as well. It’s definitely more of an aggressive style.’

Clarke believes new trainer Robert Garcia (right) will get a more aggressive style out of AJ

Clarke believes new trainer Robert Garcia (right) will get a more aggressive style out of AJ

Garcia has worked with Angel Fernandez, who was also a part of the Rob McCracken setup

Garcia has worked with Angel Fernandez, who was also a part of the Rob McCracken setup

The general consensus is that if the fight goes late, it will likely be Usyk who comes out on top. 

Clarke believes differently, however, insisting Joshua can steadily break the Ukrainian down.  

‘People are talking about AJ storming Usyk, but I think the first few rounds will be a chess match,’ he said. 

‘Usyk is obviously the favourite to win that chess match, but there will be more aggression from AJ this time. It will be a feeling out process, and I think he’ll possibly get the stoppage late on.

‘With the way he’s been training, I think from six rounds onwards he’ll be better than in the first six. 

‘It’s difficult, he’s a really good fighter, Usyk, but I’m going to go with AJ. I don’t know how, but I know he’s willing to win by any means necessary.’

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