Fitness Training

Rob McCracken on how attitude is just as important as talent

Rob McCracken
Rob McCracken is the GB performance director and coach of pro heavyweight Anthony Joshua
In a column for Fighting Fit GB performance director Rob McCracken outlines what it takes to get to the top

WHEN selecting boxers to come for GB try-outs, you look for the obvious really: their natural talent, their ability, fitness levels, you look at how they cope in running, in sparring, in all forms of the physical side of it. Also, you have a talk with them, you get to know them a little bit, and see how they are around a group of boxers over a weekend. Some boxers in the past have shown to be great at a club, but being away from home in a championship environment with a group of people, sometimes it isn’t always for them.

There’s a big jump between the domestic level and the international level. There have been some boxers that have come for assessments and been late for sessions, haven’t been anywhere near the weight they were supposed to be at and some have been disappointing. Natural talent is one thing, but all the rest of it is what you need to get you to the top. You get some boxers that will have all their kit, they’ll be on time, they’ll train hard, they’ll work really hard, they’ll be positive, they’ll want to learn, and once in a while you’ll have the opposite, a boxer who’s not disciplined and not overly good at listening to instructions from the coaches. You can work out who are the better boxers, the ones with more talent and the right attitude, over a little period of time. You can spar them against people of their own standard and development boxers within the programme.

It becomes pretty apparent after two or three weekends, the boxers who have something about them and have the talent to move on; they get into international boxing and get onto the programme.

The key to it is sparring. You need to look at boxers sparring with each other so you can work out the levels of ability, and how close or how far away they are from being a GB boxer. For example, sometimes you do a bleep test in the morning, and we’ve had boxers who’ve looked outstanding on the bleep test, yet in the sparring they’ve looked awful, so they go through a whole group of things and they’ve got to deliver in all of them.

Even on the bag you see how they operate, how they move, how they use their selection of punches, how they think. They do pad work, technical sparring, strength and conditioning sessions; they do what the GB boxers do.

Ben Whittaker
GB light-heavy Ben Whittaker impresses at the European Games Lumix/Team GB

The sparring is monitored, but it isn’t as high-level or as tough as it gets sometimes with the podium athletes when they’re sparring. You have a look at if they can learn, can they adapt, what are they like under pressure, what are they like with instructions, are these the kind of boxers that could box three, four, five times in five or six days.

You show them international styles of boxing on the screens and they practise it in the gym. You can have boxers with lots of talent that you know will come through but they’re fairly inexperienced domestically, but then there’s other boxers who are pretty much ready to move straight in because they’re so good.

They need to be individual, show a bit of flair when they’re boxing, have the right attitude, be open to criticism and instruction, work really hard, enjoy their boxing, and show that they want to be there and become very good at what they’re trying to become good at.

It’s going to take a lot of hard work, discipline and listening from them, and then obviously they’re in with a shot.

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