Ruiz v Joshua II: Pressure on McCracken and Robles as the men in the corners

By Dom Farrell 5 December 2019 6
Ruiz v Joshua II: Pressure on McCracken and Robles as the men in the corners

When Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua clash in their rematch for the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight titles, the tactical battle should prove to be intriguing.

Ruiz shocked the world when he decked Joshua four times on the way to a huge upset win in New York in June.

The Briton will be out to prove that setback was just a bump in the road and bring his superior physical attributes to bear, while Ruiz will aim to show that stunning result was no fluke.

The men calling the shots from the corners will have had their plans in place for some time now. But will Joshua's coach Rob McCracken or Ruiz's cornerman Manny Robles be celebrating?

Here, we look at the two steadying influences behind the big men.

ROB McCRACKEN

Record

A former British light-middleweight champion and middleweight world-title challenger, McCracken rose to global prominence as Carl Froch's trainer – a calm and astute voice in the corner as 'The Cobra' enjoyed a thrilling run at the top of the 168lb division. He also oversaw Great Britain's amateur squad in the build-up to a triumphant 2012 Olympic Games, bringing him into contact with Joshua, the gold medallist he guided to world honours in 16 professional fights.

Career highlight

When London 2012 arrived on the heels of Froch's underdog shellacking of Lucian Bute, there was a strong case to be made that McCracken was the finest British coach operating across any sport at that time. Three-time world champion Froch enjoyed many memorable nights, but his dismantling of feared southpaw Bute at a fervent Nottingham Arena marked a thrilling high for both boxer and trainer.

Career low

The ever-laconic McCracken appears to have taken most of the noise in his stride since Joshua's world came crashing down. Nevertheless, luminaries such as Lennox Lewis openly questioned his credentials, while McCracken's subsequently retracted claim that he let his fighter box on while "concussed" drew widespread criticism. Joshua insists he never considered parting company with his head trainer but has brought additional help into his camp, adding Angel Fernandez and Joby Clayton to the team.

What he said

"I think my reputation should speak for itself and my first concern is always for the fighters. That should never be questioned," McCracken told reporters this week, before expressing unexpected solidarity with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. "At this level, you're going to take stick. It comes with the territory and I've got a thick skin. The Manchester United manager is going to take stick if they lose and this is the equivalent in boxing."

What they said

"I feel like where we come from, loyalty means everything," Joshua told BBC Sport when discussing his coach's position. "I'm not perfect, Rob's not perfect but we're definitely trying. If I have the attitude to change Rob, then I might as well have the attitude to stop boxing after I've lost."

MANNY ROBLES

Record

Robles followed in his father's footsteps by stepping into a boxing gym and picking up the pads. Like McCracken, he honed his pedigree among elite amateurs, coaching the United States’ national team. In 2016, he led Oscar Valdez and Jessie Magdaleno to world titles on the same bill in Las Vegas – serving notice of a burgeoning world-class stable.

Career highlight

Allowing for his previous successes, masterminding one of the biggest world-title shocks in the history of the sport stands alone. Ruiz did not simply beat Joshua because of the discombobulating "punch from the gods" in round three, but systematically took a befuddled champion apart – bringing intelligent footwork and under-rated hand speed to bear, while also attacking clinically to the body.

Career low

Ruiz's toppling of Joshua chimed so satisfyingly because of what came before. Valdez, Magdaleno, Dominic Breazeale and Michael Conlan all left his stable in relatively quick succession for differing reasons. Former WBO featherweight king Valdez remains undefeated, with Robles saying their split was down to the fighter's manager, Frank Espinoza.

What he said

"Andy's the world champion, so we have to make sure he stays disciplined and grounded. My job is to keep him in line and remind him what got him here," Robles told the Guardian after he and his pupil enjoyed their night of all nights. "I know Andy will listen. We've been through too much to give it all up."

What they said

"Manny, you’ve been by my side since day one," Ruiz told Robles at a recent workout, as reported by The Athletic. "Only you understand where I am and what I've been going through."

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Dom Farrell

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