By Terence Dooley
Callum Johnson came home from last year's Commonwealth Games with a Gold medal tucked under his arm after a barnstorming tournament. Callum is based in Lincolnshire yet was eligible to box for ABS, the Scottish Amateur Boxing organisation, due to a Scottish grandmother. Callum netted the 81kg medal over in Delhi then secured the services of former featherweight world champion Naseem Hamed in a managerial capacity before turning professional in December of last year with a second-round TKO over Phillip Townley at the Braehead Arena.
'The One' defeated Jody Meikle in his second outing, a point's win over four-threes, before deciding to join up with top trainer Joe Gallagher. Since making the move the Frank Warren-promoted prospect has benefited from sparring sessions with the likes of former British 168lb champion Paul 'Smigga' Smith and WBA world middleweight title challenger Matthew Macklin, citing the experience picked up during these rounds as crucial.
“It is good to be in the gym, learning from lads like Paul Smith and Matthew Macklin. You can't ask for more. Just being in there sparring with these guys is a big thing for me because they're so sharp and fast. Paul is a former British champion who is teaching me new things,” enthused Johnson.
“I've been doing the [Dovestones Reservoir] hill runs, they are killers but I have to compete with these lads on the track and in the gym so it is the best thing for me. There are not many people in the world as good as Matthew so to be able to spar him is a brilliant experience for me. I think I am getting better through the sparring. I have improved so much here – I'm sharp and firing on all cylinders. I feel really comfortable, I settled in straight away. I knew I wanted to be with Joe from the start because I knew I'd get conditioned and learn quickly.”
Gallagher guided Callum to his third win courtesy of a decision victory over Lee Duncan at Liverpool's ECHO Arena on July 16th. Callum weighed in at 177lbs for that one, the lightest weight of his nascent paid career. Joe believes that Callum will soon be contesting for domestic titles.
“This time next year he'll be seven or eight and 0 and we can put him in for titles,” predicted Gallagher. “I didn't want to put loads of pressure on him as soon as he got to the gym so I just told him to adjust a few little things. Callum's a Commonwealth gold medallist so the main thing is that he had trained for years as an amateur and is now training with experienced pros, top ten ranked fighters. If you cannot improve with these lads around you then you never will do.”
Indeed, the coach feels that the jump from amateur to pro is fraught with difficulty; he has pledged to make sure that the 175lb prospect learns the trade before moving into the deep waters of title action. “It is a big shock coming from an amateur to a pro gym. You can win medals in the amateur ranks but you come into the professionals with a clean record and have to prove yourself as a pro. Callum is part of a thriving stable. He is going to be humble, learn and watch the other guys. He has to soak in their work ethic and how they do things,” he explained.
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