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Shane McGuigan: "A lot can go wrong three hours before a fight"

For the latest in our series of boxing innovators, we speak to one of the best young trainers in the game – Shane McGuigan. Get inside one of the sharpest minds in boxing

Shane McGuigan

Shane McGuigan is widely recognised as one of the most intelligent coaches working in boxing today. 

The son of legendary fighter Barry McGuigan, Shane helped guide Carl Frampton, George Groves and Josh Taylor to world titles by his early 30s. His current stable includes the likes of Daniel Dubois, Lawrence Okolie and Chris Billam-Smith. 

The young trainer embraces innovative coaching techniques, whether measuring the glycogen burned by his fighters before a bout or refusing to allow Lawerence Okolie to throw his right hand in sparring. 

We caught up with McGuigan for a fascinating conversation that covers his coaching inspirations, his fighters past and present – and much more besides. 

Listen to the conversation below and check out more Boxing Innovators here.

On importing the America gym culture to the UK

In England, we don't really have what Robert Garcia has in America. He has 50 people lining up to spar, three days a week. The gym's booming! Over here, everyone has four, five fighters, max. I thought, why don't we try and create an environment and an atmosphere? I won't train everybody but my assistant can have a few of his fighters and everyone can bring each other on.

On the use of statistics in boxing

I had Carl Frampton box Leo Santa Cruz in Vegas. Met Shawn Porter and his dad Kenny Porter. They're hugely into stats. Having these punch counters in his gloves, etc. Everything he was doing was just data, data, data. If it was me, I wouldn't necessarily be looking at how many punches had been thrown. Where's my fighter being based in the ring throughout these 12 rounds of sparring? I take as much data as possible from a physicality standpoint but boxing is very much a skill sport, and I'll monitor that part myself.

On coaching different weight classes

Everyone's got different variables. A lower weight division might throw 100 punches a round; a heavyweight might throw 45-50 punches a round but they have to be set up more. It's the difference between 5 a-side football and 11 a-side football, it's completely different sports. When it comes to coaching, you have to analyse the stats but also work out how to fill the gaps when it comes to heavyweights. Feints go a lot further than they do in a flyweight fight. It's two different sports, essentially.

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On his coaching inspiration

My favourite pair was Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach, when I was younger. I used to watch Max Kellerman shows, they used to put up these 15 minute training videos. I'd sit there and watch the pad work all the time. Combinations, pad work. There wasn't as much footage on Emmanuel Steward but he did a lot more on the singular pads. Not as much hooks and rotation, much more straight shots, much more footwork.

On learning from other fighters

I would have loved to have worked with Andre Ward. I look at his style and I just love the way he's physical on the inside, he can hold his own there, he can shut people down. I would have learned a lot from him, training him. You pick things up from different fighters. All the fighters I've worked with, I've picked things up from.

On challenging his fighters in training

I've put so many conditions on Lawrence Okolie in sparring. Right, you can't throw any right hands – because he was so trigger happy on the right hand! We did 12 rounds of sparring with one hand, and I gave the other guys the bonus of £500 if they dropped him! It sounds a bit crazy but it's one of the best things that we could have done. He relies on his power and his right hand to keep people at bay. Right, let's take that away then. Where are you gonna go? What happens if you break your hand in the first round? Are you gonna lose? Or are you gonna find another way to win? 

On finding talent through sparring partners

Sometimes you can get a couple of gems who hadn't had the right exposure. Chris Billam-Smith is one of them. I brought him in to spar George Groves, then I used him with David Haye. Every spar he was coming back and getting better. That sparring was bringing him on, and he had the capability of learning. You can find absolute gems when you open your mind to not just thinking, 'are they on Team GB? Have they won a multinational?' 

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On managing fighters' nerves

Reassurance in boxing is a big one. There is a lot that goes wrong, I'm not even gonna say in the last 48 hours before a fight – literally the last 12 hours before a fight, the last 3 hours before a fight. We test whether a fighter is running off fight as fuel at rest or whether they're running off glycogen. Now if nerves come into play and they're a high glycogen burner, they're spent by the time they're in the ring. You can't manage that. You can only give them reassurance. 

On being a young trainer

It has been a worry in the past. When I was working with David Haye, he's eight years older than me. That's a lot of age. He gave me a lot of time and respect. We would sit and talk boxing, and he was always listening. But I think it was a little bit too far. He would always listen: doesn't matter if you're 50 years of age, if you can't hold someone's attention then you're not gonna get their respect. But when it comes to coaching in boxing, you have to have to final say, and if you're not getting that then you're in the wrong place.

On his father's influence

I really respect my dad's opinion. My dad was not the most talented boxer. He was so successful because he was an unbelievable worker. He worked harder than anybody in the room. Everything he did was reliant on pace, work ethic. He boxed as a featherweight – when he breaks things down he thinks 'gotta overwhelm them with pace!' I'm like, David Haye's not gonna overwhelm someone with pace – he's a counterpuncher. He's got a great boxing brain and he'll always give his ideas to me. He's such a great asset for me to have.

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