Anthony Joshua has fought just two left-handers ever since turning professional in 2013 after winning the gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics.
In 2016, Joshua won his first world title when he knocked out southpaw Charles Martin in the second round. Last September, Joshua fought the only other lefty on his 26-fight resume when he suffered a unanimous decision loss to Oleksandr Usyk.
Joshua (24-2, 22 KOs) admitted that unorthodox fighters like Usyk (19-0, 13 KOs) give him fits.
“I need adjustments to deal with a southpaw because to me these lefties are a nightmare. I swear that if Oleksandr wasn't a lefty I would have smoked him. One hundred percent,” Joshua told Daily Mail.
To better prepare for Usyk’s slick style ahead of Saturday’s rematch at the Jeddah Superdome in Saudi Arabia, Joshua separated from longtime coach Robert McCracken and instead bestowed training duties to Robert Garcia.
“Robert breaks things down more,” said Joshua. “In one round of sparring I'm told to perfect that f------ jab. In another round, to tilt more when throwing the big right hand. It's more tactical [to deal with a southpaw]. Reasoning to the method. It's a lot to remember.
“It's not so much about me being confident. That's up to my team. I respect Robert highly but I can only gain confidence from my preparation and my sparring. A coach can tell a fighter a million good things but if he doesn't do them on the night then it's pointless.
“So I've handed over control. I used to spell out the two or three things I wanted to work on. Now I listen. Soak up information like a sponge. Let my guys make the decisions.”
In addition to rebuilding his boxing skills, the Brit needs to repair his psyche as well if he plans on regaining his WBA, WBO, IBF, and IBO titles for a second time.
“Training camps are so challenging. So draining. So brain-fatiguing. I need to be better conditioned,” said Joshua.
“That's just how it usually is with me. Calm. A lot of people understand the physical side of boxing. But what about the psychological element? A fighter has to be trained to keep his head screwed on as he goes into the ring. Not drift away mentally because someone's shouting abuse, or even being positive, or seeing your mum on the ring-walk. Now I need tunnel vision.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com.