Robert Garcia and The Art of Training Superstars

Interview by Declan Warrington

BN: How has learning he’ll soon be a parent affected Jesse Rodriguez?

RG: When somebody’s expecting their first baby, it does change the way they think. His mentality has changed; he’s a little bit more focused and serious about life itself; it makes a big change on any human being. There’s situations where a fighter thinks a little more about risking his health and life in the ring; where fighters hold back a little when they start having a family. It’s something that could work both ways. We won’t see until fight night, but from what it looks like now in training camp and showing us the hunger that he has during sparring, it looks like it’s motivated him in a positive way, where he’ll try even harder. He’s been in camp for almost three months. Some fighters – maybe they’d come to camp a little bit later, or train at home for a few weeks, having a girlfriend that’s pregnant and wanting to be with her. But no, he’s decided to get here [Oxnard, California] for September, and has been focused. That says a lot.

BN: How good is Sunny Edwards?

RG: Great fighter. Very talented; very difficult; fast. It’s a real challenge for us. It’s going to be a great fight. What we’re seeing on social media and what he says in interviews – he’s good for boxing. He’s already a champion who’s defended his title a few times. He backs up what he says, which is good. I’m happy we’re facing him; he’s the one who says more about the way he feels; the way boxing is. He’s gonna listen and he’s gonna fight smart and he’s gonna box [and avoid the ropes]. He’s gonna try and use his feet to move around; we’re gonna have our moments too, but he’s going to have his moments.

BN: As his former trainer, how risky do you consider Anthony Joshua’s fight with Otto Wallin?

RG: One thing about Anthony is he could struggle at looking good, like he has in the past couple of fights, where there’s a little holding back – but he gets the work done. His last fight [against Robert Helenius in August] he had a really nice knockout, where maybe earlier people were saying, ‘He’s afraid’. In the end, he got the work done. He’s an athlete; he’s a very, very talented fighter – probably the most talented in the heavyweight division. People question his heart; his mentality; his problems. But, it could take four, five, six rounds – he’ll get the work done. One punch could change everything around. He knows what’s next. He knows they’re both fighting on the same card – [Deontay] Wilder. Most possibly they’ll fight each other next. So he’s gonna be ready. I actually think he’s going to impress – he’s going to impress to a point where people actually think Anthony Joshua could beat Wilder.

BN: What do you think of him being guided by Ben Davison, and not Derrick James, for this fight?

RG: Honestly, I don’t think there’s any trainer in the world that’s gonna make a big difference. Anthony’s already an athlete; he’s a fighter that’s been fighting for quite a while. Can somebody change his style? I don’t think so. He’s himself. It doesn’t matter who he’s training with. Switch the story around – Ryan Garcia [against Oscar Duarte]. I didn’t see much of a difference in his last fight. He did things I don’t think Derrick James is teaching him. He was dropping his right hand every time he threw his left. When you already have those types of fighters there’s not much to teach. Sometimes it’s better for somebody to work with them in a positive way mentally. Maybe Davison is the right guy to do that. Any trainer being strict and doing their job will have Anthony in great shape – and that’s what he needs. Most of the people around him are “Yes” men. It’s very normal when you have a superstar. Derrick James did a good job – he’s a great trainer.

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