Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury have 'opposite' attitudes in training camps - so whose is better?
Okolie: "As long as you put in the work, the end result will be the same"
Last Updated: 18/01/20 12:32pm
The Anthony Joshua approach and the Tyson Fury philosophy to pre-fight training camps are worlds apart. They are different paths that end at the same destination.
The current IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Joshua has a methodical, military-like plan but the former holder of those belts, Fury, works on a whim.
These major contrasts in attitude reflect the wider differences between Joshua and Fury - the intrigue is that both methods have led to world heavyweight championship success.
Lawrence Okolie, the cruiserweight contender, is one of few souls to have spent extensive time behind-the-scenes in a training camp with both Joshua and Fury and has experienced their respective idiosyncrasies first hand.
"They are complete opposites, with everything," Okolie told Sky Sports. "But good opposites.
"Personality wise? They are both funny, AJ is slightly funnier! They are both cool.
"AJ is very meticulous, in terms of training. 'We're doing this, this and this'. Plan and execute.
"Whereas Fury is quite free.
"As long as you put in the work, the end result will be the same."
European champion Okolie, undefeated in 14 and hoping to finalise a world title shot against Krzysztof Głowacki soon, is managed by Joshua and they have shared plenty of sparring rounds in preparation for many different fights.
So it was pretty surprising when, 14 months ago, he received a request to help prepare Joshua's great rival Fury.
"I had reservations because I'm Team AJ," Okolie explained. "I actually called AJ just to say: 'what are your thoughts?'
"AJ said to me: 'Mate, go out there'.
"For AJ it's not just about him vs Fury, it's also about my progression."
Okolie was identified by Fury's team as able to replicate WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. Fury eventually fought to a draw with Wilder and has invited Okolie back for his current preparation for the rematch on February 22.
"Size-wise and stylistically I'm similar to Wilder," Okolie said. "I'm 6'5'', long arms, I punch hard. I understood why they would call me."
Well-programmed to the forensic detail of a Joshua camp in Sheffield where Team GB's Olympic boxers hone their craft, Okolie found himself in the California mountains alongside Fury at the iconic Big Bear venue. The training schedule was different, to say the least.
"It was a case of however Fury was feeling," Okolie remembered. "There was some structure but Fury would say: 'Today I feel like sparring this person, or not sparring at all'.
"Sometimes he was chilled. It depended on the day. But, when it was time to spar, you can't spar someone like myself if you're relaxed. You've got to be on the job because I always pushed him. He pushed me too, I always made sure to have a good night's sleep before and was really switched on.
"Some days Fury was happy, some days he wasn't. Every day he would put in the work, but it would be different.
"It was good to see someone take initiative but still put the work in.
"It is different, definitely. I can see the pros and cons."
Okolie insists Fury's team "were brilliant" with him despite his status as a Joshua protege.
He reflected on sparring Fury: "Certain stuff that I'm used to doing to people wouldn't work with him. I'm sure certain stuff that he does to people didn't work on me. There was a level of respect - he told me that I'd go onto do amazing things."
The fundamental difference in Fury's preparation for next month's rematch with Wilder is his new trainer, Sugarhill Steward, who has replaced Ben Davison. Fury has insisted this change is with a view to knocking Wilder out inside two rounds.
Was Okolie surprised by Fury's decision?
"Not really. He was up and down, when I was there," Okolie said.
"He's the type of person who needs constant change to keep himself motivated and excited. If you need that, get that.
"[Being a boxing trainer] is a job, at the end of the day. As long as you end on good terms and don't promise people the world, then hire someone for this camp or that camp.
"The pros are staying fresh and learning new stuff. The cons? Someone else has to relearn you."
Joshua, after losing to Andy Ruiz Jr, rejected the criticism of his own trainer Rob McCracken and together they hatched a plan to win the rematch. A very different philosophy to Fury's.
So whose is better?
The proof will only be when Joshua and Fury settle it in the ring.