Angel Fernandez was sitting at home relaxing with his girlfriend in the summer of 2019 when a notification popped up on his phone – “Anthony Joshua has started following you.”
At first, the relatively young and inexperienced boxing coach suppressed his excitement, adamant this automated message wouldn’t make any sense. Little did he know that this was the notification that was going to change the whole direction of his life in the future.
“It was before the first [Andy] Fight against Ruiz,” Fernandez told JOE remembering the moment.
“I remember I was scrolling through Instagram and all of a sudden Anthony Joshua started following me.
“I’m like, ‘No, that can’t be true.’
“I got excited, [but] I thought, ‘This guy is going to unsubscribe me two days later.’
“I started by saying [via DM]’Enjoy your tracking champion, good luck in the fight.’
“He said, ‘Thank you very much.’ He was very welcoming to me.
In the end, Fernandez’s wish for luck didn’t help Joshua as he was knocked out by Ruiz Jr and lost his unified world heavyweight titles in one of the biggest upsets in recent history. boxing.
That’s when things suddenly got very real for Fernandez.
“A few days after the fight, he contacted me [again] and said, ‘Can we sit down? My team will contact you.
“I was in permanent talks with the team and I went on a Saturday to do a session with him, then I went on Sunday and that was it.
“He broke the news, he said, ‘Listen, we want you on the team. “”
At first, Fernandez joined AJ as an assistant coach and was brought in alongside Joby Clayton to help current boss Rob McCracken.
Together, the trio of trainers crafted a boxing master plan for Joshua to outclass Ruiz Jr in the rematch and win back all three of his titles.
They then guided him through a mandatory defense against Kubrat Pulev but fell short in AJ’s last fight against Oleksandr Usyk.
The Briton was beaten and dethroned for the second time in his career after naively trying to out the Ukrainian master.
Now, he has made more changes to his practice squad as a result.
Although Joshua hasn’t given full details on how his new camp will go ahead of his next fight, he has now clarified that Fernandez will take over from McCracken as head coach.
Fernandez was born in Cangas, Spain – in the northwest of the country.
He first learned to fight on the streets as a teenager and moved to Lanzarote at 18 to work in hotels in nightclubs.
It was there that he started boxing before following his girlfriend to the UK four years later.
At 22, he began training at an amateur club and built a 10–0 amateur record.
However, he started to really excel in this environment when he switched roles and ended up holding the pads rather than hitting them.
One of Fernandez’s main strengths seems to be his ‘don’t ask, don’t get’ philosophy.
In 2015, the Spaniard got in touch with legendary Cuban coach Ismael Salas via Instagram.
Soon after, he did the same with Salas’ Cuban coach, Jorge Rubio. The pair became a major influence on his coaching career.
Fernandez told Boxing News: “I met Salas on Instagram. He said, ‘Yeah, come on.’
“I went to the hotel [in London before Jorge Linares vs Kevin Mitchell] and met Salas and Linares. wow.
“I asked questions, and if I could come back to continue learning. He said, ‘Yes, no problem.’ I could not believe it.
“I wanted to be one of the best coaches and to learn more, ‘How do you plan your sessions? How did you train the Cuban team?
“It was one of the best days of my life. We had a good relationship and I always texted him to wish him luck.
“He was very friendly – treated me like a king. But out of the blue, for no reason, he blocked me.
“Talking to a couple of boxers, they said, ‘He did the same thing to me.’
“I met Jorge [Rubio] when I came back from vacation. He was training Luke Campbell.
“I texted him on Instagram, he replied, we started talking.
“I left my house at 3am to arrive in Hull for 8am at Jorge’s apartment. He treated me really well.
“He used to make videos for me, like how he was wrapping fighters’ hands – and he gave me access to his cameras in Miami.
“I could watch whatever I wanted and I started to learn a lot from what he was doing. I consider him my father figure in boxing. This man opened the doors to where I am today.
Explaining his boxing philosophy, Fernandez told JOE: “Yes, I learned from Cuban coaches, but I took what I think is right and [didn’t take] which I didn’t think was right.
“I learn everyday with so many coaches. If I like some of the things I do, ‘I could implement that in my training’.
“You kind of have to adjust new things in order to [suit] the style of the boxer really because I don’t really have a style to speak of.
“I consider myself a very technical coach, I like angles, balance, footwork, movement.
“I really just sort of have the basics with each individual and then build from there because each boxer has a different style.”
After completing his education with the Cubans, Fernandez found his first major assignment with Isaac Chamberlain in 2018.
After Chamberlain’s disappointing loss to Lawrence Okolie, the pair worked together for their comeback fight in which they looked vastly improved against Luke Watkins.
The boxer then took time out of the ring, delaying the development potential of this partnership, but Fernandez had already made his mark.
It was from working with Chamberlain that Joshua first heard about Fernandez’s talent and because of this he approached him the following year.
“I get on so well with him,” Fernandez said of Joshua.
“My job, yes it’s the boxing coach, but I go beyond that, I need to have that connection with them and it has to be to enter into a friendship.
“Some people might not agree with that, but for me it has to be like that, I have to have a connection.
“I learn a lot from the man on a daily basis, how he speaks, how he behaves, how he is as a human being.
“You see him from the outside and you’re like, ‘Oh, he may be like a different person than you actually meet in person,’ but he’s exactly the same.
“The man you see on the cameras is exactly the same.
“He calls me sir, just sir. He’s a very polite guy and a guy by that name and how tall he is, to speak to you with that respect, wow.
“By teaching him, I’m learning myself and the man is an absolutely amazing human being.”
It’s currently unclear whether Joshua’s next fight will be the rematch with Usyk or an interim bout, but either way Fernandez faces the toughest task of his career to date as he’s now loaded to bring AJ back to the top of the heavyweight division.
Time will tell if he is up to the task.
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