By Terence Dooley
Manchester’s Bob Shannon has had an extra spring in his step since being announced as Ricky Hatton’s trainer ahead of the former linear light-welterweight champion’s November 24 comeback against Ukraine’s recently deposed WBA welterweight champion Vyacheslav Senchenko, who lost his title to Paulie Malignaggi in April. Hatton, 45-2 (32), is facing a twofold return as he has come back to the sport that defined him and will also fight at Manchester’s MEN Arena for the first time since his summer 2005 win over modern day legend Kostya Tszyu.
Shannon is a tough taskmaster; his Sunday morning hill runs in the Greater Manchester countryside are the stuff of legend. The veteran coach revealed that “The Hitman” has been getting into the spirit of those grueling Sunday morning sessions.
“It is exciting for my other fighters to train alongside Ricky and to see me working with someone of that caliber because it reflects on them as well,” said Shannon when speaking to BoxingScene about Hatton’s progress.
“I think my other lads are really pleased that I got this job and they know I’m the man for it now that [Hatton’s former trainer] Billy [Graham] is not around. I’m doing my best by Ricky, so we’ll see the results on the night. The other lads are inspired by it all because they see Ricky working hard and see him on the Sunday run — it is a bit surreal for them to run alongside him. It just goes to show you how seriously Ricky is taking this comeback because he’s putting himself through it in training to make sure that he shows people why he’s decided to return.
“Ricky’s picked a lively opponent in Senchenko, but that’s typical of Ricky Hatton and the way he approaches things, so when he gets past this one, as I know he will do, he will sit down and have a think about the next one.”
Hatton and Shannon split their time between Shannon’s inner-city basement gym and Hatton’s state-of-the-art facility in Hyde. Despite requests from fans who want to take in a training session or two, Shannon is believes that it is only right that they take place behind closed doors.
“I walk into the gym on my own, no entourage, so we’ve kept things low-key — once Ricky’s in the gym the door gets closed and he can just do his work,” he said. “I think Ricky’s enjoying that privacy. The fans just need to remember that Ricky’s getting his eye back into it after a long time out.
“Everything is going really well, the other lads are inspired by Ricky being in the gym and I just hope that Denton [Vassell] and ‘Barnesy’ [David Barnes, who has returned to the place where he trained when he won the British light-welterweight title in 2008] can kick on now. David has told me that he feels like he’s back home now — being back at our gym has made him happy and given him his confidence back. David needs that assurance because he’s a confidence fighter. A lot of fighters are like that.”
Barnes, 25-2-2 (11), had been scheduled to fight Ronnie Heffron in October only for a car crash to put paid to that clash. The former British welterweight champion will now feature on Coldwell Promotions’s December 7 bill at Manchester’s Bowlers Venue as he bids to get into British title contention.
“Don’t give up on David Barnes, he’s very, very talented and is at the point where he has to kick on, so I’m expecting big things from him next year and am expecting big things from Denton, who Ricky himself has picked for the top,” he said. “I’ve got three great welterweights in Ricky, Denton and David. Denton is undefeated [19-0 (9)] and holds the Commonwealth belt, so he’s moving in the right direction and has put a lot of personal hurt behind him in recent years. His time is coming — it is all there for him as long as he wants it.”
Shannon also had some positive words for the much-maligned Audley Harrison. Shannon was brought in to be Harrison’s cutsman for the former Olympic gold medalist’s showdown with David Price in Liverpool, in which Harrison was obliterated in a single round. This heavy loss led to intense criticism of the 41-year-old yet the trainer was quick to point out that Price’s shots would have felled anyone in the division.
“Audley looked pretty focused from what I saw in the dressing room, but Price is a big powerful man so if you get caught from him then you’re going to go,” argued Shannon. “Audley’s nose was broken at the very top, you could see the blood pouring into the back of his throat, so you can’t say he didn’t take any hurt. After the fight, there was a huge hole at the back of his nose. Those punches would have knocked anyone out. There was no shame in Audley going down from them.”
Shortly after we ended our conversation, word of Emanuel Steward’s untimely death came through and Shannon called back to praise the Kronk’s head honcho and boxing legend, who died from complications when having surgery for diverticulitis. The Detroit-based coach worked with a who’s who of boxing, from Tommy Hearns through to Wlad Klitschko with other top-tier names such as Lennox Lewis and Gerald McClellan sprinkled amongst his 40+ champions.
“I was so sorry to hear about the loss of Emanuel Steward,” stated Shannon. “Deepest sympathy goes out to his friends and family. My family will light a candle for them and to honour the memory of a true legend of boxing.
“All boxing trainers dream about unearthing that one special fighter, Emanuel developed and worked with many, many special fighters. When you look at the careers of top men like Hearns, Lewis and, more recently, Klitschko you can easily see that they benefitted from Manny’s approach and knowledge. We’ve lost a true legend.”
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