Danny Flexen shares some insight on Angel Fernandez, who joined the camp of Anthony Joshua leading up to his revenge victory over Andy Ruiz Jr
He completed his first ever media interview just last year – I should know, having conducted it in October 2018 – but now it seems everyone in boxing is getting to know the name, Angel Fernandez. When I first met the charismatic Spaniard, he was starting to build a stable of boxers at Raptors Strike Force Gym in Sutton, also dabbling with MMA fighters, improving their striking skills. Recently, Fernandez reached a whole new level of prominence, having been drafted into the team of Anthony Joshua as the Brit prepared for his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr. Given Fernandez’s focus is movement and Joshua employed extensive mobility in order to overcome Ruiz, the new addition is getting a greater degree of attention once again. Here is what we know.
Fernandez first began kickboxing in his native Spain. He was converted to traditional boxing as an adult but, just before he intended to begin competing, Angel fell in love with an English girl and emigrated. He won all 10 of his amateur bouts over here, including representing the Epsom and Ewell club, where he met another young hopeful who would ultimately change his life.
“[Then-head coach, the late] Mick Carney had kicked me out of the Lodge [Fitzroy Lodge] for not paying my subs,” former Southern Area champion Danny Connor recalled. “Angel was a boxer at Epsom and I always stayed in contact with him. He weren’t bad, he coulda been an okay fighter, he had good movement.”
Fernandez proved to have something of a restless spirit and, as life took over with the birth of the first of his two children, his own burgeoning boxing career took a back seat to a new direction as an S&C coach. Angel never returned to active competition, instead focusing on working with sportspeople. As he steadily built up a client base, Connor once again intervened.
“He wanted to get into helping boxers,” Danny told me. “I told him to come up to my gym and he started doing S&C with all the boys at [trainer] Alec [Wilkey]’s gym. He wanted to start training fighters, so I spoke to Al about him taking people on the pads. When I left the gym, he stayed for a bit, kept on helping Alec out. He rang me a couple of months later, wanting to move on. He went down with Barry Smith but said that was too far away and he wanted somewhere closer to home so he could begin to train his own fighters. I knew Wayne at Raptors loved boxing and he said that it’d be wicked to have a stable working out of there.”
Wayne Dudley is a huge boxing fan and was delighted to welcome Fernandez into his facility. Angel trained the likes of unbeaten light-heavy Mark Williams, former Area champ Ben Hall and UFC bantam contender Nathaniel Wood, with the esteemed Alex Stott taking care of the strength and conditioning. When top domestic cruiserweight Isaac Chamberlain chose Fernandez to take him to the next level in the summer of last year, observers started to take notice, a level of interest that increased after the fighter stopped Luke Watkins a fortnight later. “Angel is one of the best up-and-coming trainers,” Chamberlain told me at the time. “Simply because of the detail that he adds, I’m training like a world champion.” Chamberlain has not fought since but recently signed with US guru Al Haymon.
Fernandez had also sought out top Cuban coach Jorge Rubio, gaining an introduction through a Spanish pro boxer and later spending time with him and Luke Campbell in America. The respected veteran’s influence is visible in the protégé’s work. That emphasis on footwork and slick movement is clear but while Rubio was initially set to join Angel in London, complications ensued that allowed Fernandez to fully take the reins. That may have proved to be a blessing in disguise. Angel went on to polish national amateur stars like Sandy Ryan and Jordan Reynolds before Joshua, seeking fresh impetus and already training out of the GB Boxing base in Sheffield, brought him into the fold. Whether or not their relationship continues in the same vein, it has already seemingly paid dividends.
“When I was watching the fight, I saw Joshua was spinning off the ropes and then catching Ruiz – pop, pop,” Connor recalled. “I thought, ‘That’s Angel all over.’ [Head trainer] Robert McCracken would probably have got him the win anyway, but he wouldn’t have boxed like that.”