27-year-old Shane McGuigan doesn't fit the mold of the sage old sensei we might expect from a trainer, but you can't exactly argue with the results as he quickly became one of the youngest coaches to ever train a world champion at age 25. In addition to heading the corner of WBA super featherweight champion Carl Frampton, McGuigan also trains a couple of other world level fighters in David Haye and George Groves -- not to mention a number of other prospects.
In a lengthy interview with squaremile.com, McGuigan touches on a number of subjects including Framton's win over Leo Santa Cruz, Haye's prospects for a championship, and of course the legacy of his famous father Barry McGuigan. We'll highlight a few of McGuigan's thoughts here, but I strongly suggest you read the full interview for more because he covers quite a bit.
Starting with what he considers his biggest win in the sport thus far, McGuigan talks about Carl Frampton's win over Leo Santa Cruz and how he believes his approach to training meshes perfectly well with Frampton, making for incredible results.
"Without a doubt the Leo Santa Cruz fight was the best win of both mine and Carl's career. To headline a massive fight like that in New York, and beat a three weight world champion, especially a guy who was the betting favourite. These are the fights you aspire to as a boxer and coach. We like a challenge.
"Everyone's individual and everyone's different. I believe there's specific coaches for specific fighters, and I was lucky enough to have a fighter in Carl Frampton who worked with my coaching style. The other fighters who have come to me, the likes of David Haye and George Groves, they're similar fighters to Frampton: they're quick, they're hard punchers. they've got good distance control. Most of my fighters fight a similar way. Give me a guy who's a good boxer I think I can bring the best out of him."
McGuigan then switches gears to talk about how he still sees a complete tool set in David Haye, and how he truly believes he can prepare Haye to beat fast-rising star Anthony Joshua and other heavyweight titlists.
"David Haye vs Anthony Joshua is a fight I'd love. I believe I can train David to beat Anthony Joshua. I believe he's got the tools to do it. You want the challenge, something to get your teeth into. You want your fighters to be in a winning situation, but at the same time you do want a challenge and that's what they're in the game before. I'd like David to fight any of Fury, Joshua or Wilder, I really do."
He goes on to say that Haye is so quick and explosive that it's really difficult for an opponent to prepare for him and that other notable heavyweights will do their best to avoid them if they can. But McGuigan says if you, the fans, demand for opponents like Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua to face Haye, then you'll force their hands and see Haye's true quality.
But for as much as Shane McGuigan has already accomplished in his young training career, the McGuigan legacy really begins with his father, Barry McGuigan. Barry was immensely popular world titlist in the 1980's and his success in the ring, as is often the case, created huge shoes for his son to fill.
Shane talks about his own amateur boxing career and having so much pressure on becoming successful that it took most of the enjoyment out of the sport for him. He mentions that he got into boxing for the fitness and discipline aspects of the sport moreso than the competition -- but that he eventually found himself more interested in training than fighting. That would pave the way for a successful career transition where he now looks forward to going to work each and every day as a boxing trainer.
But if Shane could train one fighter, past or present, it would be his dad...
"I'd have loved to have trained my dad. Because he's family, but also because I believe I could have helped him achieve a lot more than he did. He didn't achieve what he could have, in all honesty. That was to do with managerial problems and stuff like that, but he didn't have a lot of science behind his training. I think I could have helped him bring a little more out of himself. In the Steve Cruz fight, with the lights inside the ring, it was 120 degrees. Dad lost his title to a guy called Cruz exactly 30 years to the same month that Frampton won the same belt against a guy called Santa Cruz. It's quite amazing how the world works."
Then, speaking on himself as a trainer, McGuigan talks about how his tender age is actually advantageous for him - suggesting that his youthful exuberance and hunger over older and more experienced trainers gives him an edge.
"I think youth gives me an advantage. With youth you're much more prepared to do your homework. You haven't won world titles. Older, successful trainers might be going through the motions a little - they're not as excited by the whole process. There's nothing better for me than to see one of my fighters win, and when that buzz stops - when winning and training stops being enjoyable - I think I'll nip it in the bud as well. You've got to be as passionate as your fighter. And in that it definitely helps to be younger."
Finally, when looking at the sport of boxing as a whole, McGuigan admits that the politics of boxing has really hurt the sport while UFC continues to thrive. Not having the best fights at the best time is certainly a problem that resonates with all fans of boxing, but bringing excitement back to the sport is the only real way to turn things around.
"Boxing is becoming a bit more of a dying sport. UFC is full of excitement. We have to have exciting fights in boxing. We can't have stinking matches like Mayweather v Pacquiao. The casual boxing fan will now lean more towards UFC than boxing because the fight that was so anticipated didn't live up to expectations. I want my boxers to be in exciting fights, I don't want them to be in boring fights."
The issues surrounding the politics of boxing isn't something that any one person can change due to how the sport is structured (or 'unstructured' for that matter). But in the meantime Shane continues to build a reputation for himself on his own merits as a good, young trainer. That's something I'm sure his father, Barry McGuigan, is profoundly proud of...