BOXING has an old school feel. But fighters going for long jogs in work boots or chasing chickens Rocky-style are increasingly distant from the reality of modern boxing training.
As a professional Callum Smith has won Commonwealth, British and European super-middleweight titles in quick time, guided by Joe Gallagher in his elite gym in Manchester. Callum tried out CORNER from an Atheltec, a small device that tucks into your handwraps and records statistics from your training session on your own smart phone.
“It’s good. I think Joe will be a big fan of it. We do sessions where he counts your punches and it [CORNER] can’t really lie. If you think you’re working hard and you’re not, Joe says you threw that many punches in this session and you only threw that, it’s there in black and white. So I think it is a good tool and good to see what your workrate’s like at the start of camp to the end of camp, so I do think it’s very good,” Callum said. “Joe mentioned in one of the rounds I seemed to take my foot off the gas at the end. So it’s good for that, it’s not just your punch output in the round, it’s when you’re working well and when you’re not. So it’s good. It’s advanced but that’s the way sport’s going, it’s getting more advanced. You’ve got to keep up with the times.”
Smith is used to taking a high tech approach. A stellar amateur he came up through the advanced GB Boxing programme in Sheffield that supports its boxers with a range of sports scientists from performance analysts, to nutritionists, physios and conditioning trainers.
“I think [in boxing] they’re always looking for ways to improve,” Callum said. “I do agree with your basics that were there, years ago. The old stuff, the fundamentals but you do need to move with the times. A lot of the sport [science] side stuff’s coming, I’ve done quite a lot when I was on the GB team, they were very advanced. Stuff I see trainers doing now with boxers, they were doing five years ago. It does work. The proof’s in the pudding and people are getting better results. Now British boxing’s flying.”
He agrees the scientific element has added a new dimension to his boxing. “Most definitely, I think boxing was always a hobby to me and I think when I got on GB it became a job and you have to do everything right. If you don’t you get found out and you fall short. Being up there full time taught you how to live like a professional, train three times a day, eat the right stuff. It’s a bit easier up there because you don’t have to do it yourself. You’ve still got to stick by it, your strength and conditioning, your diet, your runs, everything, they always seem to be a bit more advanced than your average people and it was good. I still say now I improved a hell of a lot, I think it was just under three years I was on GB, I’ve got a lot to thank them for where I am today,” he said.
His trainer Joe Gallagher brings real precision to the way he trains his boxers, analyses their performance and is open to using the latest equipment he can. “Joe’s very good at that, Joe studies a lot of your opponent and a lot of your fights. Before the [Rocky] Fielding fight he made me stop, didn’t really watch Fielding that much, he made me go away and watch a lot of my early fights. At first I thought it was a bit strange but more it was a case he was saying the fights where I went the distance, the fights with [Nikola] Sjekloca and [Christopher] Rebrasse, I sort of boxed as if I knew I was going the distance. Whereas early on I used to go in and regardless of who was in the opposite corner I used to basically take the handbrake off and let it flow. He wanted me to be a bit more like that. So I watched a lot of the early fights. It kind of looks better now because of the way the Fielding fight went. [Callum stopped him in the first round.] But I did agree with him at the time. I thought it was good and even after that fight, whether it’s a one round win or a 12 round win, Joe likes to sit down with you and pick out what you’ve done good and what you didn’t do so good. He’s good at that and it’s very similar to GB. You could go anywhere in the world and fight any boxer in the world and 99% of the time they’d have video footage of him. It’s very good to have and very lucky really. You don’t get that anywhere else. You can study your opponent. We used to do sessions in the gym and beforehand we’d watch one of our own fights and pick out good points and bad points and again it’s just moving with the times, a lot more advanced. I can’t imagine four years ago when you got given a foreign opponent sometimes you wouldn’t get any footage on him and it must have been a lot harder. It’s a lot easier nowadays to get that type of stuff and I do think it’s a big benefit.”
Analysing yourself in training and in combat is just as important as knowing your opponent. “Joe always makes you bring your iPad in to film the sparring. He films all the sparring. It’s sometimes easier if Joe says you’re doing this wrong, you’re doing that wrong. Sometimes you think he’s just being a nag and saying it for the sake of it but when he gets you and shows you and you see it yourself, it’s a lot more easier to take in and easier to understand. It’s when it’s there in front of you and it’s not just Joe saying it. Joe doesn’t give many compliments to be fair. He compliments me to other people but he’s constantly picking out my bad points. Sometimes when he does criticise me I think he’s just saying it for the sake of it, then he’ll show you it, and you go away and try and work on it. Joe’s a big believer in studying and studying yourself and studying your opponent. I’m doing well at the minute so it’s beneficial,” Smith continued.
When he comes to analysing your own efforts, he said of CORNER, “The trainer can see whether his boxer’s working and he can show it to his fighter and there’s proof there that you’re not working hard enough, or you were working harder last week than you are this week. It’s good for the boxers to see that. First week in camp they’re not going to be throwing so many punches a round, now they’re throwing this many. It’s good mentally to know you are improving and you are getting fitter. Although you feel it, it’s good to see it.
“You might think you’re working well one day and not so well the next day but the proof’s there, if you’re throwing a lot of combinations or if you’re not. It’s good from the trainer’s point of view, although it’s good to watch you and watch for your mistakes – your punch output, you can’t hide, you can’t get away from it so you’ve got to put the work in. You can’t hide behind a bag and tell Joe you’ve been working hard if he’s watching a spar, you’ve got a busy gym, if we are on a bag Joe doesn’t get to see it all. But you’ve still got to put the work in. I do think it’s good. It’s very, very technical. It doesn’t just show you how many punches you’re throwing, it shows you what you’re throwing, a lot of jabs, a lot of right hands or your combination punches and it shows you what part of the round you’re working and what you’re not. I do think it’s a very good tool and I would like to keep using it.”