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Talking Boxing

Interviews, opinions, features and news from the greatest sport in the world!

December 13, 2016

Looking forward

Joe Gallagher

Joe Gallagher has plenty to think about, but a lot to look forward to in 2017.

by John Wharton

2016 may not have been the year Joe Gallagher was hoping for. Entering the year, the Manchester trainer had three world champions in his gym but, with 2016 now almost over, all three have lost their titles. In ordinary circumstances, you’d be forgiven for thinking Gallagher would be glad to see the end of this year but, unlike many people, the man himself is only looking at the positives.

"You can either look at the glass as half empty or half full and to me it’s definitely half full," Gallagher told Talking Boxing the day after what was a busy night's work for him in Manchester.

"People just want to look at the negatives. Ok, we lost six fights but we also won around thirty fights and we had some real standout moments, Crolla beating Barroso, Callum Smith beating Mohoumadi, Hosea Burton beat Shinkwin for the British (light heavyweight) crown and Callum Johnson won the Commonwealth belt. We’ve had Paul Butler join us and win a couple of fights.

"But you look at the lads who lost the fights and they didn’t lose to average fighters. They lost to top quality fighters like Canelo, Linares and Frampton. When you’re in fights of that magnitude, you can’t expect to win every fight. So, in my eyes there’s a lot of positives to be taken from 2016 and the gym is looking to get more world title belts next year."

On Saturday, Gallagher was a busy man, as four of his fighters appeared on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s IBF heavyweight title defence against Eric Molina at the Manchester Arena. The night started off with a points victory for young prospect Marcus Morrison, as he gained valuable rounds against journeyman Harry Matthews.

“Matthews is one tough kid and it was great for Marcus to get some rounds under his belt," Gallagher said. 

"The last couple of opponents were meant to get him rounds but he blasted them out early. Marcus looked sharp, had the experience of going the distance and we’re hoping 2017 will be his breakout year."

The toughest fight of the night for the Bolton gym was Hosea Burton’s British title defence against Essex fighter Frank Buglioni. The two had previously fought in the amateurs and, going into the bout, there was a bit of needle. What followed was one of the domestic fights of the year. Burton, now (18-1, 9 KOs), was ahead going into the final round but was stunned and stopped by Buglioni, who improved to (19-2-1, 15 KOs) and picked up the Lonsdale Belt on the way. Despite the defeat, Gallagher remained philosophical and believes Saturday’s fight will be the making of his man.

"I knew beforehand we were going to be in a tough fight. Buglioni was a good amateur and now he’s a good pro. He’s been fighting at a higher level, and his experience showed. Last night was a breakout night for Hosea despite the defeat. I thought the referee got it wrong in the eleventh when he scored a knockdown. I felt Frank pushed him over. That was the turning point as it gave Buglioni a new lease of life and a bit of fire in his belly.

"Hosea was winning the fight and in the twelfth, he landed a straight right flush and went after him. He walked into an overhand right that landed on the top of his head. It was a great fight though and we’ve had lots of tweets saying they want to see a rematch. I’m sure we’ll be able to make it. Hosea hadn’t been past seven or eight rounds before and that was the difference."

Saturday also saw the return of Scott Quigg. The Bury fighter had been out of the ring since February’s mega-fight with Carl Frampton, in which he suffered a broken jaw. Now fighting at featherweight, he made his bow at the weight against the tough Tijuana fighter Jose Cayetano. The Mexican was entering the ring on the back of three consecutive wins since losing on points to former world champion Leo Santa Cruz.

After a tentative start, the former WBA super bantamweight champion began to exert control of the fight and was cleaving vicious body shots and wicked head shots into his opponent before a big shot flattened Cayetano in round nine. It’s the first time the Mexican had been stopped, and Quigg improved his record to (32-1-2, 24 KOs), whilst Cayetano fell to (20-5, 9 KOs). The return of his charge at the higher weight division is something that clearly has Gallagher excited. He believes he can bounce back from the defeat to Frampton and win a world title in a second weight division.

"There was pressure on Scott We tried to protect him from it during camp, but he does tend to put the pressure on himself anyway. I told him to go out and enjoy himself. He was fighting a kid who was coming off a career best win [against Alexis Santiago], he’d never been stopped and was an awkward switch-hitter. He certainly wasn’t your straight forward comeback opponent.

"I told him to not let him get close and into a rhythm, that Cayetano knows what he’s doing and to let him know what he’s all about by ripping in those body and head shots. I thought he did well and it was a clinical finish with the left hook – right hand combo. The time out has allowed him to develop into a featherweight and it’s been a natural progression. Hopefully we’ll get him out once or twice more before summer and we can assess the world title situation then."

WBC super middleweight number one mandatory contender Callum Smith was hoping to make it four wins out of four in 2016, as he made the first defence of his British title against Commonwealth 168lbs champion Luke Blackledge.

2016 has been a strange year for Smith beginning the year with a stunning first round KO of Frenchman Hadillah Mohoumadi, which won him mandatory contender status with the World Boxing Council. Since then, however, Smith has been treading water and uninspiring victories over Cesar Hernan Reynoso and Norbert Nemesapati have added to the frustration.

Blackledge was coming into the fight on the back of an eight-fight winning streak, since being knocked out inside one round by Smith’s fellow Scouser Rocky Fielding. In a one-sided contest, Smith won every round and floored his opponent in the seventh before finally ending the bout with a vicious one punch KO in the tenth to improve his record to (22-0, 17 KOs). Blackledge saw his record dip to (22-3-2, 7 KOs). Gallagher was pleased with his charge’s performance in what he believes were difficult circumstances.

"The fight was a local derby of sorts, as Blackledge trains just down the road from us [in Bolton] with Alex Matvienko and Oliver Harrison. With it being for the Lonsdale belt, it meant something. We had to make the weight and there was something at stake for both fighters. I felt Callum did well. He won every round, landed some good body shots and scored one of the knockouts of the year.

"We’ve got the winner of the [Badou] Jack v [James] DeGale unification bout and I’m not really bothered who we face. It’s a great fight for Callum Smith and a great achievement for the whole Smith family, as it means all four brothers will have fought for world titles."

The past 12 months may have seen setbacks for Gallagher's fighters but in the modern age, where some boxers are more interested in padding out their undefeated records than face serious challenges, it was refreshing to see a group of fighters willing to put their belts on the line against high calibre opponents. The year ahead is one that Gallagher believes will see his stable of fighters show their mettle and bounce back stronger.

“We’ve got Paul Butler looking to win another world title, and Scott Quigg will definitely be looking to get into the featherweight mix. Liam Smith will be looking to regain his WBO belt and we’ve got Crolla’s rematch with Linares sorted. Paul Smith will be looking for another shot and, as we’ve said, Callum Smith will fight for a title next. [Scotty] Cardle and Callum Johnson will be looking to move up to Euro level and Hosea Burton will come again and regain his British title. So, we’re looking forward to 2017 and, why shouldn’t we?”