Tuesday, June 25, 2024  |



Trainer Dave Coldwell relives Jordan Gill’s spectacular title win, looks ahead to Wood-Conlan

Photo by James Chance/ Getty Images
Fighters Network

In late February, Jordan Gill lived up to his nickname, “The Thrill,” by scoring a rousing ninth-round knockout over Karim Guerfi to claim the European featherweight championship.

The 27-year-old Brit boxed well enough early, but he was dropped in Round 7, and suffered two perforated ear drums during the bout. If that isn’t bad enough, Gill entered the ring with a knee injury.

Renowned manager-trainer Dave Coldwell helped navigate his charge through serious adversity.

“When you’re fighting for titles, there are going to be times when you hit these rough spots and you do get hurt,” Coldwell told The Ring. “I drill scenarios where your legs have gone. What do you do then? Do you gamble and fire back and walk onto another shot? Or do you fight smart and use the ropes to prop you up until you get your legs back?

“It’s great going to war for the fans, but you’ve got to ride those patches out and that’s what my fighters work on and practice. It’s one thing practicing drills and doing it in sparring and another to do it in a fight when he’s under duress.”

Although Gill didn’t have his legs under him, Coldwell was always happy with his shape and defense.

“When he came to the corner, I said to him, ‘Ride it out. Do what we do in the gym,’” recalled the trainer. “He was so clear-headed and coherent straight away. It’s different if he was dazed and fuzzy in the head; then you’re not alert. The first wave [of punches from Guerfi], is when I saw he had his defense, [Jordan] was twitching and triggering on the ropes. That allowed me to trust him and he didn’t press the panic button.

“I knew [Guerfi] was going to unload the tank. It was now down to Jordan to keep his defense: block, ride and slip. The riding is very important because shots are going to hit the gloves. If you stay rigid, they can punch through the gloves, whereas if you’re riding them, you’re taking the sting out of them. He did that from the first attack. He picked his moments. I said, ‘Don’t paw a jab. If you’re going to throw it, it’s got to be sharp!’ [Jordan] made one mistake where he threw a shot, came away from the ropes and walked onto a shot. But he was literally getting caught with one out of every 10 punches.”

Gill cracks Guerfi. Photo by Mark Robinson

Gill’s tactics of staying rooted to the canvas in his own corner – for several minutes – appeared suicidal to even the most hardened of ringsiders. However, Coldwell saw signs that the Frenchman was starting to struggle.

“Jordan caught Guerfi with that one shot in the eighth, and I’d seen from Guerfi’s body language that he’d started blowing,” explained Coldwell. “He was a bit more ragged. I told Jordan, ‘He’s going, you can see it. He’s emptying his tank. Stick with it, be patient.’

“In the ninth, Jordan had ridden out the big storm, but we still needed to win the fight. I said to him, ‘I need you to start throwing and winning the round.’ He started slotting the lovely right hands to the body, a couple of hooks to the body, then he switched it over and caught him with that right hand. It was goodnight. It was brilliant.”

Coldwell, who learned his trade at the legendary Brendan Ingle’s Sheffield gym, has enjoyed some big nights in boxing and believes the high drama of Gill’s spectacular triumph is very near the top.

“I didn’t think anything would come close to [Tony] Bellew [winning the WBC cruiserweight title] at Goodison [Park], but I’m very close with Jordan. It’s right up there with my proudest and greatest achievements,” he said.

“When Jordan came to [train with] me, he was going to walk away. I only started training him to help him. There’s been some great moments over the last four or five years, like him winning the Commonwealth title, but he’s had some really low moments. Over the last couple of years, he’s had a lot of injuries and illnesses. There was a point where we didn’t think he’d box again, because he’s got a thyroid issue. For him to come through that and win the European title… it’s an old school, valued title in our gym, and we hold it in such prestige. When he won it, it meant everything.”

Following that incredible victory, the EBU called for Gill to face unbeaten Italian Mauro Forte next.

“We’re happy with that,” Coldwell said. “We looked at [Forte] before we got the European title shot.

“Jordan has been waiting on a hand operation for quite a while. We had about four or five different dates for the European title. Now he’s going to have his hand operation and a scan on his knee . We’re going to get his niggles sorted and see when he can fight. I’d imagine it’ll be summer.”

Wood and Conlan will throw down this weekend in Nottingham. Photo by Mark Robinson

For now, Coldwell and Gill will travel to Nottingham, England, to watch Leigh Wood go up against Michael Conlan on Saturday.

“It’s definitely one of those [you can see going either way,]” said Coldwell, who manages Wood. “People underestimate Conlan. I know he’s not a banger, but he hits harder than you think. He’s very, very spiteful. Also, Conlan’s tougher than people give him credit for. He can box orthodox and southpaw.

“Leigh Wood can also go orthodox and southpaw. He punches very, very hard, and he can box a little bit as well. Both fighters have got strengths that are underrated by a lot of people.”

Coldwell believes that the fighter who deals with the occasion best is likely to prevail.

“I know Conlan has boxed in front of his mad Belfast crowd. He deals with pressure really well, but that’s in fights where he’s expected to win,” Coldwell offered. “This is how his career has been built up. It’s always been about fighting for a world title. Now he’s going into someone else’s backyard. It’s a genuine fight – that’s a different kind of pressure.

“Leigh had a lot of pressure against Can Xu (Wood won by 12th-round stoppage). Everybody, outside of us, thought he was going to get beat and he rose to that, but there was no crowd. Although he’s fought for a Commonwealth title in Nottingham, it wasn’t packed out. It was probably half-full. This time, it’s a real 50-50 fight on his home turf, defending a world title, which is a massive thing.”

Ultimately, Coldwell feels Wood’s extra firepower might swing the pendulum his way.

“Not in terms of one shot, but in a nip-and-tuck fight, the weight of the shots that are landing might soften Conlan up and drain him a little bit,” reasoned Coldwell.

“Conlan is always extremely sharp early, but he seems to fade a little down the stretch. Not to where it looks like he’s in danger of gassing and losing, but he seems easier to hit as the fight goes along. If Leigh can keep his shape and discipline, I think the extra weight of the punches might make [Conlan fade] a little earlier. There is a shift as fights go on, but [Conlan] has not fought anyone who can bang. That might be a difference going into the last quarter of the fight. I think that’s where Leigh takes over.”

Editor’s Note: Wood is defending a version of the WBA featherweight title that is unrecognized by The Ring. Leo Santa Cruz is the WBA 126-pound titleholder.





Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright