By Terence Dooley
Salford’s Jamie Moore retired with a 32-5 (23) record in 2010 after losing his EBU light-middleweight to domestic rival Ryan Rhodes (L TKO 7) the previous year and then retiring in the corner after struggling with Siarhei Khamitski in his next fight, his first at the middleweight limit that he should have moved to earlier in his career. That wasn’t the end, though, as there was more to come in his story after he hit the headlines following a shooting in Marbella in August 2014. A case of mistaken identify that left him fighting for his life.
Hit in the leg and hip, and bleeding out on a driveway with only the voice of an operator who could not understand him properly for company, the former fighter turned pundit and coach came close to death. Indeed, despite what is outwardly a remarkable recovery Moore has been through various surgeries and utilised his considerable sheer force of will to ensure that this case of mistaken identity did not derail his promising post-boxing career.
Now firmly in place as Carl Frampton’s trainer ahead of a big fight against Filipino rival Nonito Donaire at the SSE Area in Belfast on April 21, “Mooresy” talked to BoxingScene about the long road to recovery after Marbella and revealed that he is still not, and never will be, 100%.
“After the initial operation, they told me that the nerve hadn’t been hit and that the movement would come back, it never did and a year down the line my leg was still a mess,” revealed Moore. “They’d thought that the bullet had passed by my nerve and that the movement would come back within four weeks.
“Because there had been trauma near the nerve, which they thought wasn’t severe, they said I’d get about eighty-percent of my movement back—that sounded alright. Four weeks down the line and there was nothing. Then nothing after four months. I was in bed in my living room for about six-weeks after Marbella, I even couldn’t get up the stairs.
“For the kids’ sake I wanted to get up and about, despite the fact I couldn’t even get to bed, and Tommy Coyle had a fight coming up so I’d go to the gym with him even though I couldn’t do anything. I was just sitting there watching the training while [his friend, former fighter, and fellow trainer] Nigel Travis was doing stuff—I’d just talk to them. I wanted my mind to be occupied with other stuff.”
Many boxers develop, and then hide, injuries within the confines of the gym, for Moore it was the opposite case as the ceiling-to-floor mirrors were a constant reminder that he had a pronounced limp. Many would descend into a pit of self-pity and despair; Moore, though, decided to use the constant reminder of his injuries to his advantage.
“There are large mirrors on the wall so I could see myself walking towards them,” he recalled. “For months, I could tell that I wasn’t walking properly so I had to basically retrain myself to walk. I was correcting myself every day to make myself walk properly to the point where you can barely tell that I’ve done something to my leg. You could really tell for the first couple of years.
“I’ve trained myself to do it. I’m very fortunate to be in the job that I’m doing. Without those mirrors I wouldn’t have been able to see how I was walking, so loads of little things have fallen into place to get me to the stage where I am right now.
“Because of the way I’d gone about this, not feeling sorry for myself and cracking on with my life normally for the kids’ sake, no one had knew how bad it was. A foot support helped as well as it could with the walking. Then I started jogging again, people actually thought I was making a comeback and sent me messages of support on social media. I thought: ‘Wow, if only they knew what I’ve come through’. I took it as a compliment, because if no one knows what is going on, and only [his wife] Colleen and I know what I’ve been through then it shows what you can achieve.”
The aforementioned foot brace and sharp shoots of pain—often brought to his attention when raking over the horrendous event—is a lingering reminder of the legacy of that painful and almost tragic night in Marbella. Things eased somewhat after a visit from friend and hand specialist Mike Hayton led to a meeting with nerve injury specialist Dominic Power.
An operation to clear up some lingering scar tissue in turn led to the revelation that his nerve was almost served, prompting an emergency operation to rebuild it using some nerve tissue taken from his leg. This partial rebuilding exercise meant that it was then up to Moore to do the rest, he would concentrate on his injured limb every evening for two years to try to eke out and encourage a brief bout of movement. Eventually, patience prevailed and there was some movement. Moore used this improvement as a building block for what become a remarkable turnaround.
“I had to wear the brace constantly (after the shooting), when I got into bed I’d have to change the one I was wearing because I had to sleep in one that lifts your foot slightly,” said Moore. “I had one on more or less constantly and they said that would be the case for the rest of my life, whereas now I only wear a small sock thing at night time.
“It is a message to people to let them know that if you have problems or setbacks that effect you it is all about your mind-set, you can either sit around thinking ‘Woe is me’ or think ‘I’m going to give this the best effort I can to make it as good as it can be’.
“My mind has changed for the better. I appreciate every single morning. I’ve been the closest you can come to actually dying and am still here, it is a revelation to you. I’m a glass half full sort of person. That could be my defence mechanism telling me: ‘Don’t let this get the better of you’.
“In the past, someone might have done something good and I wouldn’t have given it a second thought, now I think: ‘Fair play and good luck to you’. More positives than negatives came from it. Every single good thing that happens, and not just to me and my kids, but to other people too, makes me feel good. I’m enjoying my life so much more as a knock on effect of what happened.”
Moore’s recovery reached the point where he managed to take part in and complete the Great North Run last year. It shocked the few who knew the extent of his injuries. For everyone else, it was just Moore being Moore, refusing to buckle under pressure and recuperating at an advanced pace. His ability to hide his pain from so many for so long were the hallmarks of a good actor.
This ability to put on an act was honed by years of struggling to get down to 154 while also contending with shoulder injuries. It was a balancing act that was blown aside when he hit the wall trying to make weight for his showdown with Rhodes. A WBC world title shot was finally in sight for Moore, so he went to the well again in the hope he could still make a statement at the weight.
“Over a three-year period, I gradually got used to being in pain with my leg and coped with it better,” he said. “It was the same with the weight, I kept getting bigger but got used to the pain of making the weight. It is crazy when I think about the things I used to do to get down to the weight. I know for a fact that if people knew what I’d had to do—like [nutritionist] Kerry [Kayes], [manager] Steve [Woods], [trainer] Oliver [Harrison] or Colleen—they’d not have had anything to do with what I was doing, it was too risky.
“In the end, I did 20lbs in 20 hours (for Rhodes). It was horrendous. Before Marbella, that was the closest I’d ever felt to dying. I hadn’t seen Colleen for over 20 hours so bear in mind that the last time she’d seen me I was 20-22lbs heavier.
“I walked in the house and she said ‘Oh my god!’. I told her I didn’t need to hear that, but it was just a natural reaction. Then I nearly passed out at the weigh-in. I was lay on a stretcher in the medical room and my mum came in to see if I was alright and just started crying when she saw me, I looked horrendous.
“People miss the weight in boxing, I was adamant that I wouldn’t do that that. Plus I knew for a fact that Ryan and Dave [Coldwell] wouldn’t have gone through with it if I missed the weight. They kept mentioning it in the build-up, so I gave myself enough time to make the weight. I check weighed myself the night before (the weigh-in) and was over 19lbs over. Kerry nearly killed me when he found out. I wasn’t lazy—my body fat was nearly four percent—it is just that I was literally too big for the weight I was fighting at.
“We did it the best way we thought we should do it by taking weight off that night then using electrolytes and body salts to rehydrate. It is not by any stretch of the imagination ideal, but it was the healthiest way to do it when you’ve got to do it. I don’t think I’d have ever made it without knowing the science behind how you do it and without help from Kerry.
“Early in the fight, I went back to the corner thinking: ‘I can’t believe you are still in this and winning the first few rounds’. After the fight, I was real conscious of not taking the applause away from Ryan because I’d made the decision to fight at a weight I shouldn’t be fighting at and it was my responsibility. Ryan had just come in, done his job and did what he had to do.”
Boxers are duplicitous by nature, and often not in a malicious way. They hide injuries, niggles and other concerns behind walls of bravado or displays of strength—an injured animal does not want the rest of the jungle to know that they are vulnerable. However, Moore knows fighters inside out, especially the little lies they will tell themselves and others to avoid scrutiny as well as the struggles they go through mentally before and during a contest.
“I did it (lied about weight struggles) and I know for a fact that it has helped me as a trainer,” mused Moore. “I can look outside the box now. When you are a boxer, you live in a little bubble, but I am a trainer now and can look at a boxer and see when they are struggling or trying to crash the weight. I know how much of an effect it had on my career.
“I’ve got to say that I honestly have no regrets about my career. Steve and I made some bad decisions, going down one path when another could have progressed my career better, but I firmly believe that whatever I didn’t achieve I was maybe not meant to achieve. All those lessons I learned in my career are now putting me into a better position to guide other people in their career.
“I can tell people not to make the mistakes I made. I’ve helped lots of fighters make the right decisions now, when I probably wouldn’t have been equipped to do that if I hadn’t made my mistakes. I remember the problems I had with my shoulders, and sparring when I shouldn’t be and making them worse. Now I know that the way to do it is not to do as much sparring as I was doing.
“I know exactly what fighters are like, they’ll tell you they are alright even if they are carrying an injury in sparring. I tell them not to be brave in the gym, be brave in the ring on the night of the fight, which is when they have to be brave. I won’t let them be overly brave, though, and I won’t be overly brave in the corner. I make sure they are smart in the gym and make the most of the experiences I had when I was a fighter. I don’t think that every trainer has to have been a fighter, but it does help.
“You can tell if their mind is not on the job. Boxing is 70 to 80 percent psychological, you can be fit, have the tactics nailed down, but if you are not mentally focussed and listening then you won’t win the fight, you need to be in the zone and if you are you will perform.”
“For instance, I knew that Rocky [Fielding] was going to perform when we were in the dressing room last time because of his focus [a first-round KO over David Brophy in September when Moore was covering for Oliver Harrison]. On the other hand, you can sometimes see fighters starting to think and to get a bit glary because those moments in the changing room before the fight can be lonely. You can go into the changing room convinced you are going to win then within an hour convince yourself that you are going to get knocked out—that is how strong the mind is.
“You either have to be mentally strong yourself or have a coach who recognises when that starts to happen. If I see someone getting that stare where I can see they are over-thinking I will pull them out of it. Staring usually means they are thinking a negative thought. I’ll start a conversation about something else then subtly turn it around to what they are going to do and make it positive.”
It was this positivity both in front of the cameras as a pundit and in the corner as a trainer that brought the 39-year-old to the attention of Carl Frampton’s father. When “The Jackal” decided to split from former coach Shane McGuigan his dad recommended Moore as a wildcard choice. They spent some time together, gelled on a personal and boxing level, and Moore was in the corner for the two-weight title-holder’s 10-round decision win over Horacio Garcia in November, which set him up for the meeting with Donaire.
“Donaire is a great fighter, he’s a four-weight world champion and has been involved in some great fights over the years, and although he’s 35 he’s still got plenty left,” enthused Moore when asked about the fight.
He added: “Carl at his best is the best featherweight in the world. At this stage of his career he needs to be in against the best fighters to get the best out of him, and Donaire is certainly in that category.
“What I’ve noticed with Carl is that he is his emotionless when it comes to his boxing. Outside of boxing, he could be here talking about his family and he is different then. Get him in the gym and he is steely, there is no emotion there. Once he is in the corner he is focussed.”
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