June 23, 2016
June 23, 2016
Joe Gallagher

Athletec

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“YOU can’t hide, you can’t rest.”

This is not an audition for the latest Taken film, Joe Gallagher, the reigning coach of the year, is describing the unrelenting attitude to training that has helped his gym produce world champion after world champion.

Gallagher is a forward-thinking coach, who for instance uses heartrate monitors on his fighters when they do their running, to make sure breaks are minimised to only the recovery time they need and no more. He’s even been known to count punches during a training session himself. CORNER, the new device from Athletec that slots into a boxer’s handwraps, measures the number of punches, type thrown, intensity and more.

Gallagher’s charge, the new European super-middleweight champion Callum Smith tested CORNER out, first shadowboxing, then on a bag (in fact punching a heavy bag off its hook, just to serve a reminder of his now well-known power).

“I don’t know about other coaches, that [CORNER] will be a great tool for me. It counts the punches thrown for the fighters, it recognised what type of punches that are thrown, which is paramount and it also has intensity, it can tell what type of power was put in them shots, so effort. That’s a great tool to have. Instead of sitting over someone and doing it one-on-one I can have three kids working on the bags at the same time and seeing what they’re doing, and not necessarily be watching them, concentrating on the sparring and have to turn round and look at what they’ve done. That will tell me everything,” Gallagher said.

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It’s the kind of scientific support boxing ought to have. “It’s about time boxing came up to date with something like this. When you look at swimmers, athletics, runners, the Polar heartrate system I’ve been using since the early 90s and not many people were using it then, it’s about time something like this came. We’ve got everything to monitor the running and the swimming and the cycling and everything but it would be great to finally have something for the boxing and I think that item and that piece of kit will be invaluable to any coach. I think it’s a dream for a coach but it’ll be nightmare for a boxer,” Joe continued. “There’ll be no hiding with that.”

It can be a tool to analyse work during a session too. “When I’m studying opponents I watch fights and I count the amount of punches the fighter throws. I’ll give you an example, [Anthony Crolla’s recent challenger, Ismael] Barroso,” Joe noted. “I studied him. For a southpaw I recognised for being a southpaw he didn’t have a very good jab. It was all backhands, backhand left hook, uppercut. As a jab, I didn’t think he had a very good jab. The amount of punches he threw and everything else. He’d throw three or four and go for a walk. That type of kit, that we’re talking about can get people out of habits, where they like to go for a rest.”

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The information it collects gives a fuller picture of a boxer’s style. The unremitting surveillance also means a boxer couldn’t coast through parts of a session, if he were so inclined. “A lot of coaches rely on their hearing, we’re finely tuned to how hard a bag’s being hit or the amount of times it’s being hit, sometimes when there’s sparring going on in the gym, the lads are on the bag – I can hear them watching the sparring. I can hear the intensity on the bag has dropped, the amount of shots, it isn’t getting hit enough, and I have to turn round and give a bollocking and make sure I’m on it – I call it hiding behind the bag,” Gallagher said. “But with that type of kit, I’ve got it there without looking. I can turn round at the end of the day, go home and look at it [the data for the session]. Very much like a heart rate monitor on a running track, you get how much effort they were putting into it, what their heart was at the end of it, how much to recover. Same with that.

“You can’t beat having that scrutiny on you because there’s no room to let up.”