BEING an amateur boxer was way more professional than being a professional boxer!
For me and most of the GB boxing team anyway, this was something that I never thought about until I’d actually turned pro and seen it.
When I was amateur, I won seven national titles, a European gold medal and an Olympic bronze medal. Before qualifying for the Beijing Games I was on the Great Britain boxing team. The way the GB boxing team have it is probably the best in the world and over the last three Olympic Games, I think you can see it in their success there. This program is so professional. We got the best support you could ever imagine; world class boxing trainers, S&C trainer, physios, nutritionists, psychologists, everything you can think of we had and everything paid for and even our travel, it was all paid for… They brought all the champions from around the country together to Sheffield to train at their world class facility where they put us up in a nice hotel.
They say the better people you train and hang around with, the better you will become and this is the reason for GB success. The people we would train and spar with were other champions. My number one sparring partner for the Olympics was James DeGale, we brought each other on so much … being around each other and another 10+ national champions every day really took us all to the next level.
We ate the right foods at the right times, trained on Terry Edwards’ fantastic training program that was designed just for us. Training three to four times a day. We had it great.
After the Olympics when I turned professional, I never really knew what to expect. It didn’t take me long at all to realize that promoters didn’t really do anything for you, you had to do everything yourself … and pay for it!
I had to find my own trainer. I had to pay him. If I had to travel to train with them I had to pay for that. I trained with Joe Gallagher for my first pro fight then moved to Bobby Rimmer for my next seven, both of them in Manchester, so I stayed there, rented an apartment which again was a big expense that I wasn’t used to. If I got injured and needed a physio, I would have to find one, then pay him.
Nutritionists, medicals, massages etc. I had to sort all that out myself with no real experience of finding the right people, and because I had to pay it was often the cheapest stuff or go without.
Training partners were tough to find and I wouldn’t want to spar with some of the high-level champions that were at my weight because they were in my sights to end up fighting. To get other high-level sparing to come to me, I had to pay them, plus all of their travel expenses. Also as a pro I trained or didn’t train when I wanted to train to, I set the times, as I was the boss.
After my eighth pro fight I moved to the USA to train with Tommy Brooks where I was in training camp with Evander Holyfield. Here’s a video of Evander and I training:
Again this expense came out of my pocket, at the time I was getting around £15,000-20,000 a fight which was amazing, and I could afford all this stuff, but I had to find it all and learn along the way… The thing with amateur boxing compared to pro boxing is, in the ams no one is really in it for the money but more of the passion, whereas in the pros that all it’s really about so it’s harder to trust people.
Turning pro was a big shock to the system. Until I did it, I didn’t realize just how good we had it in the amateurs.
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