Finding Anthony Joshua’s sparring partners to prepare for Oleksandr Usyk was a ‘nightmare’ but David ‘KD’ Ghansa reveals how he selected high-class contenders…
Who are Joshua’s sparring partners?
“He was on our list for a very long time,” David ‘KD’ Ghansa, part of Joshua’s management team who sources sparring partners, told Sky Sports. “He was in Australia but I randomly got a call saying: ‘He’s in the country’.
“He’s a big guy, he’s strong, he fights well going backwards and forwards.
“He is ranked No 10 with the IBF so is a potential contender. So we are gauging a guy who could become a mandatory challenger as well.”
The Australian, unbeaten in 19, has been sparring up to 15 rounds consecutively with Joshua. He told Sky Sports: “I consider myself a technical fighter. I like to be nice and sharp. I’m quite fast and explosive for a heavyweight. Those are definitely my strengths. I like to showcase my speed.”
“Bernd Boente [the former manager of Wladimir Klitschko] sent me a phenomenal gem,” said Ghansa.
“He is 21. He is unbelievable!”
Germany’s Jurk is an amateur awaiting the chance to turn pro.
“Everybody loves his character and his boxing ability. He is a kid who can do everything and anything, even though he’s still growing.
“He is baby-faced but 6’9”!
“He is light on his feet, powerful and strong. He is so confident and has been doing really well. He is one to watch, he’s going to be amazing.”
“Funnily enough, I just saw a kid smashing pads on Instagram! He was like a little Mike Tyson,” said Ghansa. “Then someone else mentioned his name.
“We dissect attributes from fighters. We are not looking for the complete fighter.
“We wanted to have strength. Vartan is a powerhouse even though he’s only 6’2”.
“His power is phenomenal.”
“He is definitely very good,” said Ghansa. “He recently fought Frazer Clarke in the amateurs, which Frazer won.
“So Rob McCracken [Joshua’s trainer and the Team GB Olympic coach] has obviously seen Marko up close.
“He was coming over to spar with Alen Babic. I said: ‘We’d love to bring you here for two weeks’. He stayed for five.
“He is a switch-hitter – he’s a southpaw who can switch it up and apply orthodox as well.”
“Great guy, very good. He’s Irish so you know he is a warrior,” said Ghansa.
“He came and put in a real shift and gave Anthony that work.
“People need to tune in to Carty – he will blow up, he will cause these guys problems, and his chance will come.”
Carty told Sky Sports about being a southpaw heavyweight: “It’s a tactical advantage but only if utilised properly. I don’t have an extra arm or leg. But I do see the benefits. So many orthodox guys have only boxed orthodox fighters.”
“Nobody wants to fight him. He’s a man of many styles and is an all-round professional who trains very hard,” said Ghansa.
“He’s a cruiserweight who was in Derek Chisora and Lawrence Okolie’s camps as a sparring partner.”
Parwani told Sky Sports how he is able to mimic Usyk: “I have a little bit of the same style. I work more with my feet. I am a slick guy with a lot of movement. Usyk is also a slick guy, he isn’t a puncher.”
The Russian-born heavyweight represented his adopted nation, Bahrain, at Tokyo 2020. He sparred with Joshua before and after the Olympics.
The ‘nightmare’ to find sparring partners!
The job description changed from 6’9” colossuses to southpaw tricksters overnight. The “nightmare” of logistics made the sourcing of Joshua’s sparring partners even more difficult.
Joshua was initially preparing to fight Tyson Fury before attention turned to Usyk.
“It has been really difficult,” Ghansa told Sky Sports. “Look at the top 10 across every governing body, there are basically no southpaws. In the top 20 there are one or two and they don’t all possess what we need.
“Charles Martin has already fought AJ. Otto Wallin we contacted but, due to travel restrictions, we couldn’t bring him in.
“Lenroy Thomas and Mike Perez couldn’t come due to injuries.
“It has been a nightmare sourcing the correct guys and getting them into the country.
“Now, AJ is getting the best work possible. It has been a mix of guys with experience.
“Derek Chisora and Tony Bellew [Usyk’s former opponents] have been telling the sparring partners what to do. We spoke to Chisora and Bellew and, no matter what people might think, Usyk can hit.”
Sky Sports Boxing schedule
September 25 – Sky Sports Box Office
Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk – IBF, WBA, WBO heavyweight titles
Lawrence Okolie vs Dilan Prasovic – WBO cruiserweight title
Chris Eubank Jr vs Sven Elbir
David Avanesyan vs Liam Taylor – European welterweight title
Richard Riakpohre vs Krzysztof Twardowski
Mikael Lawal vs Steven Ward
Savannah Marshall vs Lolita Muzeya – WBO middleweight title
Hughie Fury vs Christian Hammer
Jamel Herring vs Shakur Stevenson – WBO super-featherweight title
Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall – undisputed super-lightweight title