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Boxing clever: We profile sports coach Shane McGuigan

Published 18/07/2015

Carl Frampton and Shane McGuigan
Carl Frampton and Shane McGuigan

He is the scion of a famous prizefighting dynasty - the son of our greatest world champion. But tonight, in El Paso, it will be Shane McGuigan's strength and conditioning skills that will determine whether his protege Carl Frampton retains his world super-bantamweight title.

When Shane McGuigan laced on a pair of gloves, it was always going to be hard to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, but he has found his own successful niche just outside the ropes.

Tonight, at the Don Haskins Centre in El Paso, Texas, Shane will once again be presiding over the preparation and execution of another Carl Frampton world title fight - not only his first champion, but also now a very close friend.

The relationship they have developed is special, with both having full trust in each other's ability, having travelled the path through Commonwealth, European and then world title glory on that memorable night last September on the Titanic slipway in Belfast, when Frampton soared to a new level before 16,000 fans at a purpose-built outdoor venue - taking the IBF super-bantamweight title from long-time rival Kiko Martinez.

At 26, Shane is two years younger than Frampton and their paths crossed long before the successful coach-fighter partnership flourished.

In April 2008, both walked into the Andersonstown Leisure Centre for the Ulster Senior Amateur Championships finals and on this night Shane was the one in the spotlight, with dad and former world champion Barry in his corner as he sought to land the welterweight title.

Following a tough battle, Shane was triumphant and Carl was able to sit at ringside and watch, having earlier picked up his first Ulster senior title as well at featherweight.

Neither man could have foreseen just what would happen only a few years down the line.

Shane's amateur career seemed to be on the rise, but after being robbed of victory in the Ulster seniors semi-finals the following year, his love for ring combat seemed to wane and so he started to pursue his keen interest in strength and conditioning, which has subsequently helped turn the Jackal into a lean fighting machine.

Spending some time in the States and studying strength and conditioning in depth, Shane started to work in London with some corporate clients, receiving some very good feedback, which then led to him opening McGuigan's Gym in Battersea, where Frampton and fellow Ulster boxers Conrad Cummings and Anthony Cacace, along with two other prospects, Josh Pritchard and Josh Taylor, are honed.

It is with Frampton that he has become synonymous, however, and the moment of truth came for both men in 2013, when the Belfast man stepped up to challenge Spaniard Martinez for the European super-bantamweight title.

Shane knew all too well that some doubted his credentials as a coach, as it was particularly unusual for someone so young and with no experience as a professional fighter to have the knowledge required to take a fighter to the pinnacle of the sport.

But, as Shane has said, that was to overlook the fact he had been immersed in the sport since childhood, regularly watching fights with his dad, who has naturally always been on hand to offer his advice on the development of Frampton.

Though, over the past three years, the coaching has been left to Shane, who found himself as the chief cornerman for Frampton's first clash with Martinez at the Odyssey Arena.

Previously, Gerry Storey had been the main voice in the corner, but he moved on and so it was over to Shane; and, when Frampton claimed the European crown with a knockout victory, there was a real sense that both fighter and coach had proved themselves.

"I remember watching Kiko and seeing that the time was right to stand and trade with him, because up to that point Carl had been hitting and moving, probably moving too much. Dad was concerned and was actually shouting for Carl to move, but I knew the moment was right and Carl did that, took everything Kiko threw at him and got the stoppage," recalls Shane.

With the European title in the bag, Shane would now receive more respect from the boxing fraternity and Frampton became even more aware that his young coach had the tactical brain required to lead him right up to the top of the boxing ladder.

It also led to England cricket legend Freddie Flintoff turning to Shane for coaching as he embarked on his reality TV one-fight professional outing, while other celebrities have also been keen to work out in McGuigan's gym.

But it is with his professional fighters that Shane finds his real sense of purpose and, arguably, none more so than when Frampton was crowned world champion.

"David, it's the best moment of ny life," he said after witnessing Frampton's clinical exhibition of intelligent boxing, which left Martinez battered and bruised over 12 engaging rounds.

"Everyone said the Loftus Road night, when dad won his World title was a great night - I wasn't even born then - and we have just relived it here. I am the happiest man around, because I'm doing what I love with one of my best mates. We have the most incredible relationship - we trust each other completely. These things are built over years." While Frampton has developed his boxing skills, his conditioning for every fight stands out for all to see and Shane continues to tweak the way in which he develops the World champion into a supreme athlete with extraordinary power for a man standing at 5ft 5in.

"Carl's power is exceptional, he's a real animal at super-bantamweight. Conditioning is crucial, the sport has moved on a lot from when my dad was at his peak. The way we do things is very different and I am always looking at what his body reacts badly to and what works. We regularly have blood tests done to make sure Carl is getting exactly the food he needs," says Shane.

"By the time fight night comes, his body fat, for example, is down to 3% and he is now able to do a full squat of twice his body weight - around 120kg."

It is not just Frampton who receives this advice, but all his stable of fighters and Shane is confident that Cummings, Cacace, Taylor and Pritchard are all champions in the making.

While he has a natural, easygoing, calm personality, Shane will not be shy about telling his fighters they need to raise their game - whether that is in the ring, or in the conditioning context of diet and fitness.

Comparisons with former featherweight king Barry are always going to be harsh when it comes to the ring, but one thing they do have in common is a relentless work ethic and Shane can be seen around his gym from morning to night six days a week, seeking to get the best out of every fighter under his wing.

The pride he takes in his work with Frampton is clear to see, but Shane is backing himself to lead more fighters to the kind of stage that his friend is going to enjoy tonight when defending his world title against Alejandro Gonzalez, which goes out coast-to-coast on American television.

His status as one of the most respected coaches in the UK is growing all the time and that will only be further enhanced when he develops more fighters into champions.

It is a challenge that he relishes.

  • David Kelly is the Belfast Telegraph's boxing correspondent

A life so far

Name: Shane McGuigan

Age: 26

Home: Battersea, London

Status: Married to Sophie

Occupation: Professional boxing coach and strength and conditioning expert

Boxing honours: English Novices title and Ulster senior welterweight title

Fighters: Carl Frampton (20 wins, no defeats), Anthony Cacace (12 wins, no defeats), Conrad Cummings (six wins, no defeats), Josh Pritchard (two wins, no defeats), Josh Taylor (debutant).

Belfast Telegraph

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