Managed by Luke Campbell, Hull Boxer Connor Coghill, 23, has his first fight as a professional coming up on Friday 2nd March in Leeds.
He invited FanaticHull into The Temple Health & Fitness Facility in Hessle, where he undergoes strength and conditioning training, to have a chat about his background, training and the transition to the pro ranks. Here’s what he had to say.
1.. Where are you from?
Hull. I live near the town centre. I was brought up on Beverley road, grew up around Fountain road area and then I moved in with my girlfriend and we live on Spring Bank now.
2.. Do you have any Kids?
No, no kids.
You cant have them in this game. When you’re a boxer and everything is training, training, training, you don’t have time for them.
3.. What School did you go to?
Endeavour. (laughs) can we cut that out?
4.. Have you always been a fan of boxing?
Well, I wasn’t when I was younger. I only started doing it when I was 10. When I was younger I never used to be interested in football or anything.
5.. How or why did you get into boxing?
My best mate used to fill me in at primary school so my stepdad took me and my mate to the gym and I sparred with my mate and brayed him. I enjoyed it and stuck at it, he fell out of love with it and didn’t want to do it anymore so I ended up just doing it on my own and sticking at it.
All my mates started doing it but there was only me who ever stuck to it.
6.. How many amateur fights did you have?
I had about 60, early 60’s. I lost count when I got to so many. I won about 45.
7.. Did you do any tournaments as an amateur?
I’ve only been in two tournaments. I didn’t really go in them, I was just fighting on club shows and stuff like that. I boxed my first year in the championships, I got to the national finals, and I lost in the national finals. That’s when I was 11. Then I didn’t go in them after that until I went in them in my last year as an amateur about two years ago and I got to the quarter finals but I was in the elites and that’s not an easy tournament to be in. I had a lot of time out and then got straight into it and got beat in the quarters.
8.. Do you have another job, or do you see Boxing as your full-time job?
Boxing is full-time now. I left my job and I’ve just gone at it full-time now. I can’t see me going far, or as far as I could do, if I worked because it’s just too much hard work. I’d rather just do it now, start now and be full-time. If you’re fighting, you need to be full-time, it’s not good been part time that and part time this, especially when you’re learning. Some people can, but I prefer to just train full-time.
9.. What do you like to do away from Boxing?
I just train. I do a lot with kids as well, a lot of coaching for the kids, I spend my weekends travelling getting them sparring or if they are in tournaments we are in the corner. I put a lot of time into the kids on a night during the week and stuff. So it’s just coaching and training really, and a bit of snooker on a Saturday.
10.. Without the Alcohol?
Yeah without the Alcohol. I cant remember the last time I had a drink!
11.. Do you have a nickname?
Not yet. I’m gonna let the fans decide I think. I’ve had a few people call me a few things over the last few years, but I think I’ll let the fans decide that. I think it’s better when you do that because it’s all right giving yourself a nickname but before you’ve actually had any fights you might look like something else – they’re not gonna call me the aggressor if I’m not aggressive!
1.. Where do you train?
I train here (The Temple Health & Fitness, Hessle) twice a week. I do my runs, go swimming, and then I train full-time at Stevie’s, Hull Boxing Centre. I’m there most of the time.
2.. Who is involved in Team Connor?
Dale does my strength and conditioning with me. Stevie (Smith) is my coach. Luke Campbell is my manager. And that’s it – and me!
3.. What is Stevie Smith like as a coach?
He’s good, yeah. In his ways he’s strict, he tells it as it is but we’re like family, we’re like brothers. I’ve known him for like 6 years now. I stopped boxing when I was about 16 for a year, I didn’t want to do it any more I just thought “nah I don’t want to box anymore”, and then Steve messaged me and asked me if I’d do down to his gym.
I was at St. Paul’s originally and then I stopped for about a year. I had messaged him about a box-fit session because I wanted to get fit again. I was a bit out of shape and stuff. I wasn’t interested in boxing, I just said that I want to get fit again. Then Steve messaged me saying “I’ve seen you box at St. Paul’s, you’re a good kid and you’ve got talent, come down and train with Tommy and Billy Dawson”. So I went down there and I trained for ages, about 3 or 4 months, and I started to get fit and started to get sharp. I was looking good and he said “look, why don’t you box for me” so I started boxing for him as an amateur.
I didn’t do too well as an amateur. I don’t know if it’s because I took a lot of time out and I wasn’t active enough. I’ve never really been active, like fight after fight. I’ve always been like a fight, then 3 or 4 months off and I think that was my biggest downfall – taking too much time away from it. I’d train but I wouldn’t be 100% because I knew I wouldn’t be fighting for like 3 or 4 months. It was only about a year and a half ago when I lost in the championships that I thought that I’m going to have to find the love again by going pro and making it a full-time job. I do love it but it is a frustrating sport.
4.. What was it like having somebody like Stevie Smith who has been there and done it telling you that he thinks you can do it? Does it give you confidence or belief?
Yeah. I think most boxers work hard but unless someone tells you your gonna be this and your gonna be that, somebody who knows their stuff, I think you don’t really believe it. It might just be me but when I was fighting and I’d have a fight or I would spar, my friends and family would tell me I’m good but you shrug that off because that’s just your friends and family and they don’t know what’s good and what’s bad. But Stevie has actually been there and the thing with Stevie is that if I was bad, he would tell me I was bad. He tells me as it is. For him to have been a world champion and a good pro, and to tell me that I’m gonna go far and do well if I stay dedicated, it gives you that fire in your belly to go on to good things because you know that he believes in you, so it makes you believe in yourself.
5.. When you are training, do you have a strict diet?
I have a strict diet during the week (laughs). Cheat meals on the weekend. It all depends what people class as strict because at the minute I’m doing 4 rounds and I’m on my weight. I eat a lot but I don’t tend to go home and have a pizza.
6.. So you don’t struggle for the weight then?
No. I never struggle for the weight, ever. I always make weight. I always fight what I’m comfortable at. I don’t see the point in killing myself and living off eggs and chicken when there’s no need. At the minute, I need to eat plenty. Obviously, I do eat eggs and chicken, but it’s not all that I eat! I do enjoy my food, I’m not gonna lie and say that I eat like a rabbit 7 days a week because I don’t. I eat like a rabbit 5 days a week and then on Saturday I’ll have a little cheat meal and on Sunday I’ll have a full cheat day. It might be a Sunday carvery or whatever.
7.. Does your coach keep on top of your diet?
To be honest, he’s been a bit laid back with it but last week he said he wants me to start writing everything down and showing him, so it’s give me a bit of a kick up the backside. I’ve got to start writing it down and making sure everything is 100%. Like I say I do like my food, everybody loves a curry on the weekend don’t they! I’m a big fan of Chinese too. It’s hard, I’ve trained like 6 days and I’m starving when it gets to the weekend, if I don’t need to lose weight I’ll have a good day’s eating. If I started fighting 12 rounders in world title fights and British title fights, it’s totally different. But at the minute I am on a 4 rounder and I’ve been training hard and getting good sparring so I don’t really need to eat nothing for 8 weeks, it would just depress me, I’d get frustrated.
8.. How did you meet Luke?
I met Luke when I was younger when I was at St. Pauls. He was at St. Paul’s, he used to train there. He was on the England team. We used to train together but he was always heavier and a lot older than me, so we never sparred or anything like that.
9.. Do you train together often?
Yeah, we train together 2 or 3 times a week now.
10.. Do you spar together?
We don’t open spar because he is a lot heavier than me, but we do a lot of technical sparring which is good for me because when you open spar you just go hell for leather trying to get the better of each other and it doesn’t really teach you anything. Luke has got a lot of world class experience, especially been an Olympic Gold Medallist, so he helps me in regard to tactics and footwork and drills so we do a lot of that 2 or 3 times a week and he is helping me a lot.
11.. How much of a benefit is it having somebody like Luke around to train with?
Massive. It goes back to the confidence boost. When you know somebody like that is backing you and is saying that you’re looking well and looking good in sparring, it gives you that extra bit of confidence. He obviously thinks something of me and he has boxed some of the best in the world so him to think I’m gonna go far and support me with it, it’s massive and it gives me that confidence and makes me believe more in myself.
12.. If you had to pick one key thing that you have learnt from people like Luke and Stevie Smith, what would it be?
The key thing I have learnt from them is dedication. Practising things. When we are in the gym and we are practising things, we don’t just practise for 10 minutes and think “that’s that”. We’ve been doing a lot of footwork drills like moving my feet more because when I first started doing some stuff with Luke he would back me into a corner and I would stay there but now I’m learning to move my feet and get around him and when he pushes me back, I step aside from him. I manage to deal with it now whereas before I never did. And that was only because we didn’t just practise it for 10 minutes. At every session, we’d spend 20 minutes at the beginning and 20 minutes at the end 3 times a week just practising that same movement in my feet. That all boils down to dedication – when your dedicated to practising and learning, it perfects it.
Debut / Pro Ranks
1.. Your professional debut is coming up on 2nd March. Are you ready for it?
Yeah I’m ready.
2.. Are you nervous?
Erm, I am nervous yeah. If it was my third fight I wouldn’t be nervous. I think I’m nervous now because it’s my first time, I’ve got 100 people going to Leeds to watch me, its out of town, I’m fighting a decent fighter, and I haven’t boxed in 18 months. I think it’s more rust than anything. I feel a bit rusty and I feel under pressure.
3.. Do you have a promotional contract?
No, I’m not signed to any promotions, I’m signed to Luke as my Manager and then I’ll just go on peoples shows.
4.. What weight will you be fighting at?
This one is at Super-Featherweight but I’m going to be fighting at Featherweight, maybe even Super-Bantamweight depending whether I can get down to it or not.
5.. How would you describe your boxing style?
I’d say it’s quite mixed. I think that I can hold the centre and be aggressive, but I can also box.
6.. Do you like a tear up?
I don’t mind it, I wouldn’t say I am better at it. It all depends, I can do it but I’m better at boxing. I like to mix it up. If I needed to, if the kid was tall, rangy and on the back-foot, then I might need to be like that, but I’ve just got to stick to winning the fight and that’s all that matters.
7.. Do you think your style will be better suited to the pro ranks?
I’d say so yeah. I’d say it is more suited to the pro’s. It’s a lot of point scoring and stuff in the amateurs and it’s all high work-rate and high tempo and it didn’t really suit me. I prefer the slower pace and the more controlled pro game.
8.. What has changed since you turned pro in terms of training and how you live, if anything?
My diet has been a lot better. I’ve cleaned up my diet and training. Before, when I was an amateur I was training 4 times a week. Now I’m training twice a day 6 times a week, so 12 sessions a week. I’ve been getting better sparring, sparring some good lads, and I’ve been learning new things rather than sticking to the same thing. I’ve been tightening my guard up instead of dropping my hands and blowing out. In the pro game you have to be more composed. I need to control it more and keep it at a slower pace.
9.. Is the pace or the length of the fights a concern?
I don’t know yet. I’ve been sparring really well. I’ve been doing 5 rounds, but some spars I have been doing 4 rounds and some I have been doing 6 rounds. I feel good in those rounds but sparring is a lot different to a fight and it all depends on the night.
10.. What would be the best possible outcome for your debut?
The perfect night would be to go in there with a tough fighter, somebody who is going to teach me something. I don’t want to get in there with somebody who is going to put their hands up, get caught with a shot and then they’re knocked out. The crowd would love it, but I wouldn’t because I’m not gonna learn from that. I want someone who is going to put me on the backfoot a bit and give me a bit of a fight. If I win on points, great. If I win by knockout, I’d rather it be late. I want to get the ring rust off and I want to enjoy it, I’m not going to enjoy knocking someone out or stopping them in the first round, I want to enjoy the full fight. I like to look good and when I am looking good and I’m picking my shots, and everybody is liking the way I am boxing, I’d like to go on for as many rounds as I can – I don’t want it to end. So long as it’s like that and it’s not some tough kid who’s gonna knock my head off!
11.. What would be the worst possible outcome?
The worst possible outcome is that he comes running at me with big Hayemakers and he catches me and hurts me! But as long as I stick to my boxing and keep it long and rangy, use my skills and not go into a war, I’ll be ok.
12.. How far do you want to go in the sport?
When I got beat in the championships I thought, right I want to turn pro now. But I don’t want to turn pro because I want to earn the money, I don’t want to turn pro because it is all I know, I want to turn pro because I want to be known for been a good boxer. I want to be known as a champion. I want to walk in a pub and someone says “he was a good boxer”, I don’t want someone to say “he could have been”.
I said I would retire happy if I was a British champion. But if I got to British level and become British champion, I won’t rest until I get to commonwealth, European, and then world. The ambition is there but I don’t want to set myself a world title before I have even won the British. It’s a nice belt, it’s a lovely belt and a lot of people have boxed for it. I thought Samir won it, I thought Tommy came close against Tyrone Nurse, I thought he could have won it then. Nobody has won it in the City and I think that would be a nice belt to win.
13.. Is there anyone out there now in the pro ranks who you look at and think that you could face one day?
All the top-level fighters now in Britain, by the time I get to that level in my opinion they are near enough retired so the only ones that you have to look out for are the ones who are starting now with you. They are the ones that you are going to meet, and they are the ones who are going to cause you problems when you get into the top 5 at some point. The ones that are up there now are not a worry, the only ones that are a worry are the ones at the bottom with me, but I haven’t seen anything of these yet because they haven’t established themselves. I don’t think anyone is a problem until you get 3 or 4 years down the line and there are some good kids out there and you could be fighting them, I think that is when you should be worrying about your opponents.
1.. Who is you favourite current Boxer?
Manny Pacquiao. There was something about him that I really liked.
2.. Who is your favourite boxer of all time?
Pernell Whitaker.”Sweet Pea” Whitaker. I loved him. He was never about when I was a kid but when I used to watch him on Youtube I thought he was just class.
3.. What do you think is the most important asset a boxer can have?
I’d say all round defence. Your feet and your guard. I would say footwork is your foundation because it creates the power for your punches and it gets you out the way of punches.
4.. How far do you think Luke will go? Do you think he will get the world title?
Yeah. I think he will definitely get the world title. Most definitely.
5.. What did you think of Luke’s performance against Linares?
I thought he boxed really well.
6.. Was you surprised at how well he boxed?
I wasn’t surprised no. I was expecting it. I didn’t expect the knockdown and I thought without that, he would have won the fight. I thought he was strong and sharp, and he showed a lot of bottle. I don’t think he was hurt throughout any of the fight, and he boxed really well towards the end. If he had done that from the beginning, he would have won the fight. His hands were faster than Linares. He was keeping Linares away.
7.. How do your family feel about you boxing?
They are really supportive. My mum doesn’t really like it. My Dad is really supportive. My Stepdad got me into it, he’s really supportive. My friends and family love it, they are always encouraging me to get fights and let them know when it is so they can come and support me. My sisters don’t like it either.
8.. With the recent news that boxer Scott Westgarth sadly passed away after his fight against Dec Spelman, how does this sort of thing make you feel about the sport? Does it give you any doubts about what you do?
I wouldn’t say it gives you doubts but it makes you realise what you are actually putting yourself into because I just see myself as getting into the ring and having a spar or getting into the ring and having a fight and I don’t really think about it. But when you hear a story like that it makes you think “I am really putting myself in danger” and it just makes you more switched on I think. I don’t think it scares me, but it makes me more aware of the danger that I am putting myself in.
I think it gives you more motivation to make sure everything is right. It is not something that happens every week, but it just makes you realise that it can actually happen.
9.. Between now and fight night, what is the plan?
I’ve eased off the training from today. I had a punch session yesterday, I’ll make sure I make weight and have a little sharpening up on the pads tomorrow. Then I’ll rest Thursday and I’ll be ready for Friday.
Connor Fight Details
Banquet Suite, Elland Road
Tickets from £40