By John Evans
It’s that time of year when people look to escape their daily routine and head off for a change of scenery and a bit of rest and relaxation. The lads from Gallagher’s Gym are no different and this week Anthony Crolla, Scott Cardle, Liam Smith, Paul Smith, Callum Johnson, Callum Smith, Scott Quigg and head coach Joe Gallagher jetted off to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks in the sun.
Don’t expect to be hearing tales of rowdy nights on the Sunset Strip or lazy days strolling up and down Santa Monica’s famous 3rd Street Promenade though; Gallagher has more of a Busman’s holiday in mind for his charges.
“There are a couple of big shows coming up in Vegas and there will be lots of kids there sparring,” said Gallagher when speaking to BoxingScene. “We’re not there for a holiday — we’re there to graft. We’ll be doing the Santa Monica steps, swimming, track work and runs.”
The squad will be basing themselves primarily at the renowned Wildcard Gym in Hollywood and Gallagher is hoping that a couple of the younger members of his team get to sample some of the ferocious sparring the gym is famous for.
“There are a couple of fighters that I’m taking over there that I want to see what they’ve got,” said Gallagher. “Callum Johnson and Liam Smith might be six and eight round fighters at the moment, but I’m expecting them to break into championship class this season and they need to sink or swim here at the Wildcard. That’ll tell me if they have Scott Quigg’s mentality, which is to bite, down on the gumshield and show that hunger or if they’ll kop out.
“I need to know that when we’re ready to go to war, these boys can go to war. It’s not gonna be all out sparring everyday and everybody getting battered, but there will be a couple of spars that will be lively. It’ll take a couple of kids out of their comfort zone and we’ll see how they react.”
With so much boxing discussion currently centring on the Olympic Games, Gallagher is hoping that the trip will be of particular benefit to another medallist, 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Johnson. The 26-year-old light heavyweight, 5-0 (3), has endured a frustratingly stop start beginning to his paid career and Gallagher is hoping that “The One” will be reinvigorated by his visit stateside.
“The thing is to get Callum Johnson out there. We have a new season coming up and I want him to come over and be part of the team building and get his head right. Sooner or later he’ll get given a date [to fight] and he needs to renew his belief, pick his hopes up and have some confidence” said Gallagher.
“Boxing is a waiting game, but hopefully when he gets back he’ll have the opportunities. Nathan Cleverly [WBO light heavyweight champion] was up at the gym last week sparring with the lads and it gives me confidence in what we’re doing that they’re in there with a world champion and they’re doing ok.”
Upon returning from their American sojourn, it will be business as usual for the Gallagher’s Gym crew. The gym is packed with both established names and those aiming to make their names in the sport. British super bantamweight champion Scott Quigg is readying himself for a rematch with Rendall Munroe, Former British champions Crolla, Stephen Smith, Paul Smith and John Murray will be looking to climb the mountain again and the likes of Johnson, Liam Smith, Hosea Burton, Joe Murray, Scott Cardle and Callum Smith will aim to continue their development and make a real impact on the professional scene. One name springs from Gallagher’s lips when he is asked if there is somebody who he feels can be the gyms next breakout star.
“Liam Smith” he said. “He’s a kid that nobody is talking about or getting too much credit but he’s shown improvements while he’s been in the gym training all summer. He’s getting his man strength now, punching well to head and body and his power is coming on. “Hopefully [Ajose] Olusegun will be at the Wildcard and hopefully he’ll get to spar with him. The British Welterweight division is hot right at the moment. There’s Junior Witter, Frankie Gavin, Colin Lynes, Matthew Hatton, Lee Purdy and Denton Vassell. You could put any of the top ten in — bar Kell Brook, and I think there are a couple of styles there that could give Kell a problems — and get a different result every time. It’s hard to pick just one because although he’s yet to turn over himself, I think Callum Smith could go through the gears and division very quickly. With the pedigree Callum has, I think he could fight for a British title within twelve months.”
Returning to the gym’s more established names illustrates just how busy Gallagher can expect to be in the upcoming season. Not that he would have it any other way. “Paul Smith’s training and shedding the weight and he knows there’ll be an opportunity for him between now and Christmas” he said.
“Anthony Crolla’s got Prizefighter coming up and Scott Quigg’s waiting for the Rendall Munroe rematch. I wanted him out before the end of the last season and I’d love him out at the beginning of the new season. Scott’s no stranger to the Wildcard [he has travelled over to the U.S. for sparring before] so it’ll be good for him, motivate him and keep his tools sharp. We’ll look forward to the rematch and we’ve got to finish what we started last time.”