By Terence Dooley
Rumours that Kerry Kayes has evicted Joe Gallagher from his Denton-based Betta Bodies gymnasium have filtered across the Internet in recent weeks prompting Kayes to outline the reasons for the split and put to bed a number of assumptions.
Gallagher and Kayes joined forces in 2008. Kayes worked the corner with Gallagher for John Murray’s British title win over Lee Meager in July of that year, the nutritionist and strength coach teaming up once again with Mick Williamson, Ricky Hatton’s cuts man, in what he believed would be a long-term partnership.
“The truth is the that Joe’s strengths will eventually be his weaknesses. Joe puts more energy and effort into training his boxers than any coach I’ve ever met. But because he puts so much effort in, and to use a football analogy, he wants to be the goalkeeper, centre-half, centre-forward, linesman, winger and referee, it makes it hard to help,” revealed Kayes when mulling over the split.
“I felt there was no room for me in Joe’s work apart from the part where I supply a gym free of charge and knowledge to Joe about nutrition. Joe wanted to do everything himself and as Sylvester Stallone said in Rocky, ‘I’m not a bucket carrier’. I wanted to be involved in boxing but it is a hobby for me. By that I mean I don’t directly make any money out of it, it does CNP no harm, I’ll be the first to admit that, but I just felt there wasn’t room for me in my own gym.
“Joe pulled a couple of stunts that were well offside. There were little things that on their own might not read too badly but they accumulate to the point where you say, ‘He’s at it again’, and they all add up.”
There were claims that Kerry’s fees were too much for Gallagher, who mixes his training duties with full-time work, only for Kayes to explain that users of his boxing gym need not worry about overhead costs as long as they agree to fully promote the CNP brand.
“I never charged Joe a penny for the use of the gym – I paid the rates, bought the equipment and spent nearly twelve thousand pounds refurbishing it when Billy Graham left. I changed all the signs from ‘The Phoenix’ to ‘Gallagher’s Gym’ and it was me that had the final decision to call it that because I could easily have called it ‘The CNP Boxing Gym’. I wanted Joe to have a place to call his own,” stressed Kayes.
“I have never charged Joe a penny for rent, gas or rates. I’ve never charged any boxer under Joe’s guidance or other camps for advice. Joe’s quality of wanting to do it all meant there was no room for me in the dressing room or the gym. I took a step back and told Joe and everyone that I was too busy doing my other things but the reality is that I didn’t want to work with him anymore.
“Joe is good at publicising the gym but he wasn’t as good at pushing CNP, who sponsor the gym through me. I remember one article for the MEN that he was very proud of, he told me he had made sure everyone was mentioned, the Burtons and the amateurs were in there as well, but I read the story and there was no mention of me. Joe just didn’t see it. I didn’t want to have it out with him because I didn’t want to burst his bubble.
“There was also an article where he asked people to spare a thought for him being at the gym on Christmas Day with John Murray [ahead of the January 2009 British lightweight title defence against Lee McAllister], he didn’t mention that I was with him over that Christmas period. Joe never gave back the publicity he was supposed to for me and CNP.”
The trainer will argue that his recent success, a run of Ws that stretched to 49-0, brought Sky TV exposure to the CNP brand courtesy of him wearing t-shirts bearing their logo and ensuring that the boxers had CNP badges on their shorts. Kayes, however, feels that the benefits of holding down a spot in his gym requires a more proactive approach to the promotion of the company.
“Yes he wears the t-shirt and that but how many trainers do the same?” he asked. “There was also an incident with GNC, who have a heath shop in the Arndale (shopping) centre, when they wanted to have the Murray brothers do some pad work outside the store for a CNP promotion one Saturday. Jamie Moore has done it for me in the past, we’ve had bodybuilders come and do it as well as it is just a little ten-minute spot.
“My accounts manager came down to the gym to ask Joe if he’d do ten minutes and he didn’t say he wouldn’t or would. Eight days later we was still waiting for a yes or no from him and lost the date. I couldn’t say anything when this type of thing happened because the lads had fights coming up.
“I’ve waited and waited; eventually I pulled the trigger. It was something I had decided months in advance but couldn’t do anything until Anthony Crolla and the Murrays had their fights. When I finally did it there were no dates lined up.”
As soon as the decision was made stories filtered through of Crolla’s aborted September 17th contest with Mexican legend Erik Morales. A development that prompted doubts, Kayes accepted advice from a friend in the sport.
Saying, “Crolla’s news got announced after I’d made the decision and let people know so I was then very concerned about Crolla. I even phoned a close friend to confide in them and was told that if I waited for a date in time when there were no fights coming up then I’d be waiting forever.
“I contacted Joe on the Sunday after John’s fight [with Kevin Mitchell on July 16th] to ask him for a meeting. It went to answer machine so I left a message to say I was sorry that John had lost but that the gym was finished. I wished him luck for the future but made it clear that his future wouldn’t be under the roof of Betta Bodies.
“I kept trying to ring through but got no answer until the following Friday when Joe contacted me. Joe asked me if he could pay to use the premises but I thought back to a recent event concerning some filming at my gym.
“Sky TV sent a cameraman down to film a promo for Matthew Macklin’s fight on the Magnificent Seven bill in September. The Sky guy asked me if I’d do a spot for them. I said that I was no longer involved in the day-to-day stuff but he pointed out that it would just be about the upcoming bill. They left without speaking to me and the cameraman, who is also someone I know well, explained that Joe had asked him not to interview me that day for one reason or another.
“There was also a situation recently when Sky filmed a Ringside report with Jamie Moore from the gym. I knew about the filming through Sky and Jamie but there was no word about it from Joe, which isn’t right. I knew I wanted Joe to leave by then but didn’t want Jamie or the lads not to do the piece so I took Joe to one side that day and told him that as a courtesy I should have heard about this from him and not anyone else.
“I had told him he couldn’t carry on like this and he did thank both myself and Mick that day. I had considered charging him to use the gym but I had changed my mind by the time John fought because if he was treating me the way he did when not paying for the gym then what would it be like if he was a tenant?
“I’d like to make it clear that I told the boxers before John’s fight that it was the last time that Joe would be using the gym. I’ve seen the lads since then, they’ve come to the gym and I value their friendships. I also don’t wish Joe any harm at all – I hope he finds whatever it is he’s looking for.”
Kerry’s decision to go public with the reasons behind the split may be viewed as a case of sour grapes over losing a thriving stable. Joe has told Boxing News that his group of fighters has expanded so there was a need to find an environment less ‘cramped’ before thanking Kayes for his help. Subsequent rumours that the split was down to finance or the potential comeback of Billy Graham presented two areas that Kayes felt needed to be addressed.
“It is not about money for me. Some of my fondest memories are from this gym. I’ve got memories of great times with Billy, Ricky and Matthew Hatton, Arnie Farnell, Michael Gomez, ‘Smigga’ [Paul Smith], ‘Big’ Al [Stevenson] and the lads, plus all the guys like Pat Maxwell and Stephen Bell who moved on. Then it all went tits up with Billy and Ricky to leave an empty building.
“What people don’t know is that Joe used to train John and Joe at Champ’s Camp, where he said he didn’t have keys to the gym, and he likes to train the lads in the evening coming up to a fight. Joe had approached me years ago to help John with products and strength work, which I did, and he then asked me if he could use the gym on occasion. This was when Billy and Ricky were still here. I asked Billy if it was OK and he had no problems with Joe coming in the evenings.
“When the gym became empty Joe was a lodger at Champ’s Camp [in Mosside]. I offered him the use of my premises as long as he agreed to CNP sponsorship. I could have kept the Phoenix Gym name, which is known worldwide, and we all sat down and said, ‘Here we go, another nice journey is about to start’, but it wasn’t to be.
“With Billy it was a case that Billy would say to the fighters, ‘Don’t talk to me about strength work, nutrition or weight, that is Kerry’s role’, and he’d do the same with Mick Williamson over cuts or tell people that Big Al dealt with filming and helping Billy, he knew how to delegate. It allowed him to just think about the boxing whereas Joe wants to do everything, which is his prerogative, and in that case there’s no need for an assistant so I took a backwards step.
“Boxing is a hobby to me, it is a career to the boxers and to Joe and I didn’t want to burst their bubbles but there are rules that you have to abide by. Joe forgot that he was at a gym sponsored by Kerry Kayes and CNP. If you turn up at your own place and see cameras and media days then you think it would be nice to notified in advance.
“There is no nice way of explaining it all but, and a lot depends on how Joe views this article, I still hope I can see Joe at boxing matches, shake his hand and wish him well. I don’t want to fall out with anyone, I wanted to make things clear because otherwise you get all these rumours floating about the Internet,” he reiterated.
“I’m not going to be a face at the window in my own gym so rather than cause embarrassment I took a step back,” his response to questions of why he had announced his hands-on retirement in April 2010. “It is hard because I really love the Murrays, the Smiths and Anthony Crolla, in fact I love all boxers, they are very special human beings.
Kayes also moved to allay claims that Graham has been waiting in the wings to replace Joe. “That is ridiculous, typical of the sport and paints me as a shallow man,” blasted Kayes. “That is like someone saying, ‘I’m going to get rid of my wife because she’s got stretch marks’. Betta Bodies Boxing Gym can be used by anyone for slots of two hours at a time and Billy knows this.
“In fact the rumour that Billy was coming back was started accidently by me because Billy phoned me up to talk about it. We went through the whole court case scenario with Ricky together, because as people know I stood for Billy in that case against Ricky and his dad [Ray], which made me look the baddie to them even though I just turned up and told the truth.
“Billy went to a dark place during that case, it nearly destroyed him, then he had his day in court, was on the mend and said to me that he had the hunger again and was watching boxing on TV. That shows how bad it got for him because he couldn’t even watch the sport at one point. I told Billy that he has to do something with his life and that boxing is the only thing he knows. Billy then said he was making a comeback, I told Ed Robinson of Sky Sports and they announced it with Billy’s consent.
“Joe never asked me about it but I know he was concerned that I’d use some of his boxers for Billy. That is the wrong thing to think because Billy is going through a long process and won’t be back this side of Christmas.”
As for the gym itself, the future is uncertain, the empty space and raw materials are still there. “There’s a ring, the bags and equipment, it is a famous gym so Stephen Bell has been using it to do personal training for people,” stated Kayes.
“One day it will have to pay for itself but I’m still not charging for its use right now. In London, New York and LA there’s boxing gyms that are shared by lots of trainers. If a trainer approaches me to use it then we’ll sit down because I’ll never have it as a one-man gym again so we’d have to work things out.
“I won’t make a statement about it but if someone needs it then it is there. In fact, Bob Shannon had problems with the building he is in years ago, I asked Billy if Bob could train here and Bob came over for a period back then so it can work. It is an empty gym, available to anyone who is in trouble and needs a place.”
The nutritionist has joined forces with Bobby Rimmer; the two men worked together during Hatton’s climb through the rankings and are now behind crowd-pleasing boxer Danny Randall’s return to the sport. Kayes revealed that Rimmer has asked him to assist him in the corner during the upcoming season.
“Bobby Rimmer has Danny, Jon Kays, Brian Rose and Kieran Farrell, he brings his kids to see me and I do most of their nutrition. Bobby is one of the most enjoyable men to be around. To be truthful I think he’s missed his vocation in life, if he was ever on a TV chat show they’d double their ratings because he’s the funniest man on the planet. I’ve known Bobby for thirty-odd years, he asked me to work the corner with him and that came about because Joe had asked Danny to leave the gym.
“Danny asked if he could train in Betta Bodies with his old amateur coach, I told him to make a fresh start, move on and join up with Bobby. Danny’s really enjoying it now; he’s going to work with [VIP Promotion’s boss] Steve Wood and is looking to be back on October 1st. Bobby said that his other lads might want me to help out. It is very important that people recognise that I’m there as an assistant, I’ve never wanted to be a full-time boxing trainer – I’m there to help out.”
Ironically, Kayes’ reputation in the sport rests on his ability to defuse tricky situations. His role in the Hatton team helped maintain relationships long beyond their natural lifespan. “Oh wow, I was trained by the best in Billy,” laughed Kayes when asked about his reputation as a good middleman.
“Billy will always stand up for his fighters. There was always conflict between Billy, managers and promoters, and there were problems towards the end of his career with Ricky and his team on one side and Billy on the other. I often found myself with my finger in the dam. I can bring that to the table with anyone and could have done the same with Joe because I’ve got good relationships with people in boxing.
“I don’t think I’ll need to do that with Bobby, he’s prepared to stand up for his fighters but is the first person to admit that he is a trainer, not a manager or matchmaker. Bobby will stand up if he thinks someone is getting a bad fight but not by burning any bridges. If you were marooned on a desert Island and you could take one person to keep you company you’d take Bobby, especially if Cheryl Cole wasn’t available!”
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