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Q&A: Top British trainer Joe Gallagher talks Quigg, Crolla and Smith clan

Fighters Network
Trainer Joe Gallagher (R) with Callum Smith after Smith's sixth-round knockout of Ruben Acosta in 2013. Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images.

Trainer Joe Gallagher (R) with Callum Smith after Smith’s sixth-round knockout of Ruben Acosta in 2013. Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images.


One can’t imagine top British boxing trainer Joe Gallagher getting a wink of sleep.

If the mile-a-minute coach from Manchester, England, isn’t out observing roadwork then he’s holding court within the confines of his gym. If he isn’t writing a boxing column for the Manchester Evening News then he’s diligently studying future opposition for a dozen fighters who are straining at the leash.

The 46-year-old Gallagher has been riding the crest of a wave for several years and won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

Unlike many coaches at the top level of the sport, Gallagher is accustomed to building pros from the ground up. He takes a keen interest in how his fighters are matched and his opinions are valued by promoters and managers when it comes to the intricate process of career development.

Teamwork is also an integral part of life at the Gallagher Gym.

Last month, popular lightweight Anthony Crolla was viciously assaulted, which resulted in the postponement of a WBA title opportunity against Richar Abril. Gallagher, Crolla’s gym mates and the entire British boxing fraternity rallied round the wounded warrior and the positive energy which resonated was visceral.

Crolla, who is already planning his comeback, is now well on the road to recovery and the likes of Scott Quigg, and the entire Smith clan, are eager to show their wares in 2015.

Joe Gallagher spoke to about a group of quality fighters who have a busy year ahead. There have been positive reports about Anthony Crolla’s progress. Can you touch on that first of all?

Joe Gallagher: Anthony is doing great. He’s had the stitches removed from his head and the cast removed his foot so he’s progressing quicker than anyone would have thought. He visited the gym recently and the first thing he did was jump on the scales to check his weight. Amazingly, he only weighed 143 pounds but that’s Anthony Crolla, he just lives the life. When he does come back he’ll be looking for the big fights because he was very active throughout 2014 and was never out the gym. Anthony could conceivably fight for a world title in the summer and he’ll only have been out for six or seven months. He is ranked No. 2 by the WBO and sometimes things happen for a reason. The time off will do Anthony the world of good and he’ll be back stronger than ever.

RTV: How is Paul Smith looking ahead of his world title rematch with Arthur Abraham (on Feb. 21)?

JG: Training is going well and we’re about to start sparring this week. Abraham knows who Paul Smith is now and he’s coming to stop him and prove a point, but that might very well play into Paul’s hands. It’s going to be a great fight and I can’t see the rematch going to points whatever way it goes on the night.

Smith-Abraham_Rose-BongartsRTV: Paul put on the performance of a lifetime last time out and the consensus was that he had just fallen short. What specific areas do you feel he has to improve on to win a world title at the second time of asking?

JG: There were times in the first fight when Paul had opportunities to put his foot down but he was a little timid. He may have given Abraham too much respect, but then again we’re talking about a good world champion. Abraham is very experienced and knew when to take a rest and he bluffed Paul in a few of those rounds. In the rematch Paul will be more willing to go into the pocket and let his shots go and he won’t be safety-first.

RTV: Scott Quigg has been forced to take some time off due to a hand injury. What is the plan for Scott’s first fight in 2015?

JG: Scott will hopefully be back out in May and is itching to face the likes of Leo Santa Cruz or Carl Frampton. Carl obviously has to get past Chris Avalos next month but Scott definitely wants the biggest names in his division. We’ll see who is available for the month of May and take it from there but I’m positive that 2015 is the year that Scott headlines in America, or provides chief support to a big main event.

RTV: Scott was talking about challenging Guillermo Rigondeaux just prior to his fight against Hidenori Otake. I take it that stance hasn’t changed in the wake of Rigo’s bout against Hisashi Amagasa?

JG: Not at all but don’t buy into the hype that Rigo is on the slide. He took a freakish shot that caught him around the ear or the temple and, despite being woozy, dominated every other round before scoring a stoppage. Did you see Amagasa’s face? People say Rigo is avoided but if the paycheck for fighting him resembled what you get for fighting Floyd Mayweather there would be a queue of fighters lining up for that job.

RTV: Callum Smith posted a disciplined win over Nikola Sjekloca last time out. He’s now ranked No. 5 by the WBC at super middleweight and is poised for a big fight. Is there any news on Callum’s next move?

JG: Callum had a minor operation on his hand last week but he’ll be ready to go in April or May. He showed real maturity against Sjekloca, particularly when you consider that his grandmother had passed away on the eve of the fight and he is very close to his family. It’s the first time that he’s gone 12 rounds and that will stand him in good stead going into 2015. There are several options for him while Anthony Dirrell and George Groves sort out what they’re going to do. Maybe Christopher Rebrasse or a European title fight could be next.

RTV: Stephen Smith is ranked No. 2 by the WBC but the talk seems to have died down on a fight with Takashi Miura. Are we at a holding stage at the moment?

JG: Stephen is in the gym but I don’t know what the situation is with Miura right now. I’m unsure as to whether he’s due a voluntary or a mandatory defense but that’s a fight we’re very keen on. In my opinion Miura is the weakest of the champions at junior lightweight and we’re extremely confident of winning.

RTV: Liam Smith is back out on March 6 in Liverpool, right?

JG: Yes he is. Liam is ranked No. 5 with the IBF at junior middleweight and just wants the top opponents now. He was disappointed not to get the fight with Carlos Molina last year but there has been some talk of a matchup against Dennis Hogan, so we’ll see what transpires. Liam is very underrated and rarely gets talked about but he’s a real force in his division. He boxes very well and anytime he’s been at the Wild Card Gym, Freddie Roach and other coaches have been extremely impressed with him. I just want Liam to kick on now and get in the world title mix. He’s said that he wouldn’t mind fighting Cornelius Bundrage or Ishe Smith in the near future and we would be prepared to go to the States for either of them.

RTV: What transpires in the near future and who else should we keep an eye out for in 2015?

JG: As we’ve discussed, several of the lads are ranked within the top five of at least one governing body so there are big fights looming. Add to that Callum Johnson, fighting in a British light heavyweight title eliminator; Hosea Burton, rated No. 6 in Britain; Scott Cardle, holder of the English title at lightweight, and Marcus Morrison, unbeaten prospect. I didn’t think things could get any better for us but everyone in the gym has pushed hard and we’re looking forward to a great 2015.

RTV: If it happens, who wins Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Manny Pacquiao and why?

JG: I fancied Mayweather to win before Pacquiao got knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez but, ironically, Manny has come back stronger since that setback. Floyd hasn’t really deteriorated either with solid wins against Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez and Marcos Maidana. Freddie Roach will be very confident in Manny because he’s a quick, aggressive southpaw with quick hands. On the flipside will this fight bring out the best in Floyd Mayweather? I think they’ll both roll back the years in that fight but I still favor Floyd. He doesn’t know how to lose.

Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and has contributed to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing