How has it been preparing for a fight in lockdown? How different has this training camp been from what you’d normally do?
It hasn’t been that different if I’m being honest. I suppose, as is happening everywhere, people are a bit more relaxed now than they were at the very start. We’re still wiping our hands and constantly washing hands, temperature checks for people coming into the gym. The place getting cleaned down with antiseptic wipes and sprays. The big difference for me was not getting home every weekend. I used to fly home every Friday, but I haven’t been able to do that and I’ve been on the boat every second weekend. An overnight boat from Belfast to Birkenhead. It’s not ideal but that was my safest option to not pick up the virus. I don’t want to pull out of a fight. So that’s the issue. I’ve been training so hard.
Have you had any issues with sparring partners and getting people in?
We’ve done a lot of in house sparring. I’ve done a lot of skills sparring. Loads of rounds of skills sparring with Jack Catterall and Aqib Fiaz. Kind of like technical stuff, so not open, not free sparring. I’ve got a kid called Reece Mould in. He’s the English champion. So I’ve done less rounds of free, open sparring but I feel it’s benefited me. Because going on performance from my last spar with Reece Mould, it’s probably the best that I’ve sparred in a number of years. So I think less is probably more. I know how to fight.
I genuinely think that’s the way forward. It’s almost like accidental. We were doing that when we couldn’t getting sparring in and Jack’s probably too big for me to do open sparring with. It seems to have worked so that’s one positive that we will be taking out of this whole pandemic.
When lockdown was at its most severe were you just at home?
I was at home training. I’ve got a gym set up in my garage. I was able to tick over. So I was in reasonable shape coming in. I’ve been over here [in Manchester] with Jamie [Moore] probably 10 weeks, it’s been I think a 12-week camp so I’ve pretty much done a full camp. At the very start, I suppose everyone was the same, there was a bit more fear around.
I think I’ve got 18 litres of disinfectant at home that I’ve not used. The missus as well, we went out and ordered this massive industrial fridge with a freezer and stocked it with freezer food, thinking that we were not going to be able to go shopping. It was all a bit mad at the start but we’ve calmed down a bit now.
I laughed at her when she suggested the freezer. We went out one day to try and buy a freezer, we couldn’t get one so everyone was doing it, so I started to s**t myself a bit. Finally we got one, it was a bit more intense at the start!
Everyone went mad for toilet roll more than anything else. That was strange one.
And did isolation give you a bit of taste of life without boxing and what it would be like in retirement?
It probably has. It was the longest I’ve probably spent at home since I’ve been a professional, in between fights. It was good family time, something that I don’t get a lot of because of what I do, because I base myself away from home… We didn’t fight to the death or anything like that, there wasn’t too many wars. It was good to be at home.
So have you been giving thought to the end of your career?
I like to think I’m reasonably sensible. So obviously, you have to have one eye to the future. I know that I don’t have loads of years left in this game. I’ve been speaking to different people. We’ve got this podcast obviously. It’s a pretty new venture, but people seem to have liked it, and we get decent feedback. So that’s something that I’m interested in. I’ve been doing more punditry work on TV and I always get good feedback from that as well. So it would be nice to walk into a job with BT or Sky or someone as a pundit. I do a lot of stuff for Five Live as well. So I’ll be hoping to do something like that in the future and also just see what happens as well just go with the flow. It’s going to be good when I do eventually retire just to not have to worry about boxing and have my life dictated by boxing. To spend a bit of time we’re with Christine and the kids.
Do you have an idea of, if not how long, how many more fights you’d like to have?
I want to win a world title. That’s the objective. I want to have a chance against Jamel Herring. I feel like I can win that fight. It’s going to be a tough ask but I feel like I can beat him, become a three-weight world champion. A defence in Belfast would be nice as well then. Who knows? There’s not too many after that. But we’ll see. I’m just taking it fight by fight. At this stage of my career, that’s all I can do.
The atmosphere at your fights in Belfast is something else, there’s little like that in boxing. Obviously your next fight is without a crowd, the Herring fight would make sense in America, so you must want one big last night in Belfast?
Of course. I’d love to do one more in Belfast. But I think the Herring fight most likely happens in America now. I think it probably happens wherever we can get spectators in a stadium first and foremost. I think that will dictate where the fight happens. Because the promoters won’t want to lose revenue through the gate and I always draw a decent crowd. Even a fight with Herring on the East Coast, it would do good tickets. Most likely it’s going to happen in America, but I would like one more in Belfast before I hang them up.
‘It will be frustrating for him if he is being outboxed by a midget’Carl Frampton
When do you think the Herring fight could happen, assuming you win on August 15?
I know as much as what people are saying on social media. November is a potential date that Top Rank are looking at. Someone else suggested that it would be a good chief support to Wilder-Fury which apparently is pencilled in for December 19. I know as much as everybody else. I would like to get it in before the end of the year.
How tough a fight is Herring going to be?
The main thing is his size. He’s massive. He’s a huge guy. But I think there’s ways to beat him. I think I have better feet than him. I think I have faster hands than him. He’s a good all round fighter. I think in fights he has rounds off in the middle. I think that’s down to how dedicated [he has to be] and how hard it is for him to make the weight.
I think that they all come into effect. I’m going for a steak today. I’m not struggling about making weight at super-featherweight, albeit my next fight is going to be at lightweight but super-featherweight will be easy as well. There’s loads of things that I can use to my advantage. But I think that his sheer size causes its own problems. But I’ve fought bigger men my whole career. Not as big as Jamel Herring but I’m used to it.
It excites me, the prospect of that, and overcoming such a challenge. People will see the head to head and they’ve seen us in the ring in Las Vegas and it just looks unrealistic. But that excites me, overcoming such a task, becoming a three-weight world champion.
People look at our attributes and look at our physical size difference and think that I have to get into him and I have sit on his chest. I don’t see it like that. I feel like I could outbox this guy and distance control is one of my best attributes.
It will be frustrating for him if he is being outboxed by a midget. I always think that when I’m fighting these big guys. How frustrating it is when I’m landing my jab on them and they can’t get out of the road of it. And I would look to do that against Herring.
How difficult has it been these past few days when you’ve had your expected opponent (Vahram Vardanyan) fall out and a new guy (Darren Traynor) brought in?
I can’t lie, it has been frustrating. But I’ve always known that I’m going to get a fight. [MTK] have had Traynor on hold now for a number of weeks, three or four weeks, paying him to train, foreseeing that there would be an issue for this opponent, either visa issues or a ban on Armenians coming into the UK.
Traynor’s probably a better fight than Vardanyan. He’s certainly fought at a higher level. Vardanyan’s record looks pretty but in my opinion Traynor’s a tougher fight than him and he’s a bigger guy too.
You’ve had a few weird build ups to fights too, you had the guy falling over in the shower, you versus heavy ornament.
They’re all going to be good chapters in the book I think eventually. It’s all part of it. It’s all part of the game. There have been some mad ones recently. I walked into a glass door at Kerry Kayes’ house last week. I gave myself a mouse in the head. If I had walked in a little bit faster the fight could have been off. People wouldn’t have believed that one either.
What are the final things you want to complete your legacy?
The third world title is the main thing and that is the legacy defining fight. If I didn’t fight again, when I reflect on my career I would be happy that I became a two weight world champion. But three-weight world champion, that puts you in the Hall of Fame. That’s huge.
I’m having this fight now, which isn’t a legacy defining fight, because of the current situation globally with coronavirus. Ideally I would have like to be fighting Jamel Herring, which was meant to happen on June 13. I just want big names, big fights, I’d love to unify in a second division. That would be huge.
Another fight that excites me is [Oscar] Valdez and he’s not a champion. I think that’s a great fight and another fight that could be easily made.
You’re thinking about the end game, how your career is going to close, how does that effect your drive?
The motivation is the third weight world title and my kids are my motivation as well. I don’t want to put in bad performances to get laughed at or people to talk about me saying I’m over the hill. There are people saying that already and I suppose that’s a motivation too, I want to prove them wrong and show them that I have a lot left to give and I can become a world champion again.
There’s an argument that you could call me Ireland’s, Northern Ireland’s greatest ever fighter right now. There’s an argument for it. I think that if I win a world title in my third division I’d be happy to call myself it. I would cement that as the greatest fighter ever to come from the island of Ireland. So that’s the motivation.