Q & A with Gary Corcoran

Could 2014-15, be a ‘break-out’ campaign for Paddington light-middleweight Gary Corcoran?

The 23 year old who they call ‘Hellraiser’ has ripped through his first ten pro opponents and is looking ominously more formidable with each passing outing.

A natural born scrapper with a rich Irish traveller heritage, Corcoran begins his season at eight round level at the York Hall, Bethnal Green – live on BoxNation- on September 20th but is predicting that it will conclude with a title belt clasped around his midriff.

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Last week, boxing writer Glynn Evans called him to reflect on his career to date and discuss his ambitions for 2014-15.

You went the distance in three of your first four pro gigs, at four round level. However, despite a rise in the quality of opposition, you’ve managed to stop four of your last six. How do you account for that?

I’ve always been able to punch. I can only have ‘open’ spars with far bigger guys. I have to take it easy with others my own weight.

The problem in the past was I turned pro at light-welter and was really draining myself. I’d be fine sparring in the build-up but once I dropped the weight, I felt weak and was losing a lot of strength and power.

The turning point was my sixth fight with Mark McKray (April 2013). I beat him comfortably over six rounds and was repeatedly hurting him but couldn’t knock him out. Then, after that fight, I had flu for about six weeks. My ears were blocked with fluid, I had a chest infection and my immune system was totally knackered.

By the time the flu had cleared, I’d put a bit of weight on. When they put me in to spar with super-middles, I still bashed a few of ‘em up! So I decided to make light-middle my weight.

Rewind to your early life. You were raised one of 12 children on an Irish traveller’s site in Wembley. What are your childhood memories of life as a young traveller boy?

It was a bit mad! I was a complete headcase as a young boy, hence the ‘Hellraiser’ nickname. I used to fight all the time at school and I got excluded 19 times. Still, they never actually expelled me and I made it through to year 11 before finally dropping out.

On our site, I was surrounded by a lot of family. My eight brothers all boxed so I had plenty of sparring partners as a youngster. Our Billy won the English (super-feather) belt and fought Carl Johanesson for the British title and Eddie won eight out of nine as a pro. Two of the younger ones, Simon and little Bradley are going very well in the amateurs at the moment.

We were always surrounded by the ‘knuckle’ fights on the site. I had plenty of those to settle scores but never had fights for money at a fayre. I watched plenty, mind. It’s part of our tradition, our culture.

You had toughness and physical strength when you entered the pros but needed to develop some slicks. Was that difficult?

The amateurs was not my game. They just tap, tap then run. I was always a rough lad who just wanted to get in there and sling body shots. I didn’t always get the decisions I deserved.

I was definitely one of the favourites to win the senior ABAs in my final year. I beat Martin Stead who was a three time champion, in the build up. Then in the Londons, I had Louis Adolphe on the floor and was told I was a point up going into the last round. Despite having my best round of the fight, they gave the decision to him. After that, I’d had enough of the amateurs. 

My natural instinct is to have a fight but I’ve not found it that hard (to add technical smarts). I had a long amateur career and the technical side, the boxing, comes pretty easy when I have to do it. I’m a come forward type, for sure, but I’d rather have a neat fight than a wild brawl. I do try to make the opponent miss, then capitalise, rather than just go in slugging.

You’ve been boxing as a professional for almost three years now. How do you assess your progress during that period? What areas of your game do you still need to develop?

I love the pro game. In the amateurs there was too much cheating. My defence is definitely improving and I’m developing good head movement. The pros is way different. It suits my aggressive style and I’m mentally better suited to the pros. I like the face offs and stare-outs. You’ll see plenty of that from me in the future as I move up the ladder!

I still need to be reminded to keep my hands nice and tight and there’s room for improvement with my footwork. But above all, I need rounds. Once I’ve had the experience of completing a hard 10 rounder then I’ll be ready to roll.

What’s your assessment of the domestic light-middleweight division? Who do you rate?

Brian Rose has already fought at world level so I suppose you’d need to place him at number one. I actually think that the reigning British champion Liam Smith would probably have the edge over Rose were they to fight any time soon.

I hear that (unbeaten former Commonwealth champion) Jamie Cox is making a comeback and reckons he could still do light-middle. 

I regularly spar Larry Ekundayo. He’s a good boy. I don’t want to say too much about those spars. Liam Williams and Joey Selkirk are good but I’m not losing any sleep. Ronnie Heffron would be the perfect opponent for me to look good against. You can rely on him to come and have a fight.

You’re unbeaten in ten now and have already fought three scheduled eight rounders, completing that distance once. Timewise, how far are you off title level? How do you get there?

I’d like to end this season (2014-15) as the English champion and then put myself into a position to challenge for the British title in the season after. I’ll get there by beating all the other contenders who are in my way. I’m quite confident of doing that.  

Coach Mark Tibbs, himself a former five time national champion and ex pro who has trained Corcoran throughout his entire pro career, adds:

“Gary’s attitude has got better of late and he’s really come on in his last four or five fights. And I’m expecting he’ll look even better again at the York Hall on September 20th.

If he had his way, he’d get in the ring with absolutely any one in Britain. The kid’s utterly fearless and it’s my job to told him back. Trust me, there’s never been any need to work on Gary’s heart and brawn. Take those as a given. He’s a proper fighting man. Other blag it, he’s genuine. He absolutely loves a row!

But lately, he’s been getting smarter with it. That comes with experience. There’s no harm in him having a couple more eight rounders – he’s only 23 – but I’d have no problem sticking him in for the Southern Area title in his next fight if the opportunity arose.”

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