Profile: Craig Docherty: What makes a man
Interview by Gavin Macleod (October 13, 2004)
For any human being, it is not possible to live in your present until you have experienced your past, and certainly it is widely acknowledged that it is your past that moulds you into the present day version of your own self. One man who can attest to this more than any is Scottish Super-featherweight Craig Docherty, who this coming Friday will step between the ropes, in his hometown arena of the Kelvin Hall, in a bid to wrest the European title from rugged Russian Boris Sinitsin.
The position that the fighter billed as "Hot Property" finds himself in now is due in large parts to the ups and downs of his career up until this point. Through what inspired him to start boxing to what has attributed to his new found discipline and attitude, Doghouse Boxing will look at Docherty's career so far and why it may just provide the experience that he needs to progress past his toughest test to date.
When Docherty first started watching boxing he was taken in by the abilities of fighters in and around the weight class he would come to compete in, recalling,
"I started watching guys like Barry McGuigan, Julio Cesar Chavez and Paul Hodgkinson. I just used to love their style of fighting, especially the way they used to duck and roll off hooks and that was the first thing that got me interested in the sport." With that being said, it was not these great fighters that provided the inspiration for Docherty to really throw himself into the sport head first. This influence came from a most unusual source.
Like most mothers, Sandra Docherty was not exactly thrilled that her son was involving himself with such a violent sport. But she soon realised that Craig had no intention of quitting his unauthorised trips to the gym and so finally chose to accept his preferred choice of extra curricular activity.
"I sneaked out of the house one day when I was twelve years old to go down the gym. When I got home my mum wasn't happy because my hands were all smashed in from hitting the heavy bags. They were all marked up off the old worn leather and stinking of it too. I kept going though and she realised that I was going to go anyway, no matter what, so she just let me from then on."
Craig was going to the gym like most young boys his age with the dreams of reaching the top firmly in his head, but he had another goal that was all his own, and this is where we find a surprising addition to Craig's motivational make-up, a journeyman heavyweight called "The Hebrew Hammer"
"When i used to watch boxing on the TV I saw this fight between two heavyweights, both journeymen, and it stuck in my mind. It was one of the cleanest KO's I've ever seen, just a big straight right hand that hit his opponent and knocked him clean out. I can still remember the guys name, Tim Puller it was. After seeing it I just wanted to be able to punch like that, (laughs) I still can't though."
So that set the ball rolling for Craig and through his training and hard work he was to gain many domestic honours as an amateur, including winning western district, junior national and senior national titles, representing his country on seven occasions and also competing in the European championships.
With such amateur experience behind him many people were expecting good things of Docherty when in 1998, aged 19, and under the guidance of manager Tommy Gilmour and trainer Chris McAdam, the young man from Glasgow made his proffesional debut against Kevin Gerowski winning a six round points decision. It would be unusual for a fighter turning pro today to take on a six rounder in his first outing, but getting rounds was an impressive part of Craig's early career. In 1999 he had five fights against opponents who were brought in to take the Scot a few rounds, winning against Des Gargano (PTS 6), Paul Quarmby (TKO 4), Simon Chambers (PTS 6), John Barnes (PTS 6), and almost exactly a year after his debut he made it six out of six by stopping Peter Allen in the first. The Allen fight was an impressive one as questions were being asked about Docherty's punching power, and although not exactly title level, Allen had previously never been stopped in his ten fights.
Docherty's start to his professional career was a very refreshing one having fought 31 rounds in his first six fights. When you compare this to the modern day "prospects", who are being fed an endless line of stiffs that would hit the canvas should they be hit on the chin by a gust of wind, then he should be very thankful that he has a management team behind him who knew the importance of getting him rounds under his belt early in his career.
The progression continued into 2000 with Docherty having four fights, the last of which would provide his record with a slight blemish. He began the year by beating Leeroy Williamson via a six round decision and then less than a month later he achieved the same result against Steve Hanley. Then in June came a first round stoppage over Sebastian Hart that furthered Docherty's record to 9-0 (3 KO's). However, in October, Craig faced the experienced Lee Armstrong and could only secure a six round draw against a man who previous victim Hart had knocked out in five. This was a blow to Docherty who had hoped to end the year on a more positive note, but it gave him the incentive to really prove himself in 2001.
Indeed, that is what he did in his first outing of the year by beating up the durable Nottingham based journeyman Nigel Senior, en route to a fourth round stoppage victory. This fight gave manager Tommy Gilmour the encouragement that he needed to raise Craig's level of opposition and that is what he did in March, pitting Craig against Jamie McKeever, a man who would go on to become the British featherweight champion. This was Docherty's night though, and he excelled in the step up in class and got himself in fantastic condition before producing a body shot that his boyhood idol Chavez would have been proud of, to drop McKeever to the canvas in round three. The body shot landed with such accuracy and force that McKeever could not get up and he was duly counted out by the referee.
The McKeever victory put Docherty in-line for a crack at the British super-featherweight title held by Manchester's Michael Gomez, and all this after only twelve fights in the paid ranks. The Lonsdale belt is a dream of any aspiring British fighter. To ensure he was in the best physical condition, Docherty had a warm up fight, winning an eight round points decison over Ukranian trial-horse Rakhim Mingaleev, who had previously mixed with such notable fighters as current WBO featherweight champion Scott Harrison and former IBF featherweight champion Paul Ingle. This prepared Docherty physically for the assault on Gomez' s crown but there was a problem.
The Gomez fight was scheduled for the 27th October, a month after Docherty's twenty second birthday, and would be held in the Manchester Evening News Arena, the champion’s back garden more or less. This would be only the second time Docherty had fought outside of Scotland, the Mingaleev fight in Nottingham being the first, and the large crowd at the M.E.N was known to be an intimidating atmosphere but Docherty was of the mind that nothing would intimidate him. At 22 he was confident, maybe over confident, a little too sure of himself and in the typical fashion of the olden day Glasgow fighter, he was too proud to let anyone try and shout him down. Gomez was aware of this and challenging Docherty through the press in the build up to the fight, using insults that questioned Docherty's abilty and status as a fighter. At such a young age Docherty was effected by this and set out to make Gomez eat his words, but the champion knew what he was doing.
On fight night Docherty came straight out and elected to stand and trade big shots with Gomez, a cardinal sin for most fighters and certainly a plan that Alex Arthur can confirm should be avoided. With his trainer Chris McAdam telling Docherty to get behind his boxing after the first round you expected Docherty to heed the advice, but he never did, his ego would not let him back down from Gomez and he was stopped in the second round. This highlighted a big problem in the Docherty camp. McAdam had done a fantastic job with Craig but their relationship was more like a friendship than a trainer-fighter one. In the corner there didn't seem to be the discipline and respect that is required for a corner team to function as Docherty went out and disregarded the instructions that were being passed down to him. His attitude was also brought into question as he completely lost sight of the job he was in the ring to do, and instead elected to engage in some sort of macho man contest with Gomez.
This fight would be the learning experience that would setup up Docherty to climb to the elevated position he finds himself in now and is an experience that he admits has been a big benefit to him.
"I went into the Gomez fight wanting to show him that I wasn't going to back down from anyone, and that cost me. Its made me realise that you need to use your head more. Though, I still won't back down from anyone, its not me, I'm not scared of anyone, but now I'll use my head more when I fight. I'm glad it happened because if it hadn't I wouldn't know what I’d do now and wouldn't be where I am (challenging for a European title)," said Docherty.
The corner team was changed as a result of the Gomez fight and McAdam was replaced by former soldier and strict disciplinarian John McDermott, a man who's reputation for not cutting his fighters any breaks was well known around the Scottish fight scene. So with a new man in charge it was time to see if Docherty could bounce back from the crushing loss against the Manchester man.
In March of 2002 Docherty came in looking strong and focused against the unspectacular Joel Vinney who was suitably blown away by a first round KO that signalled Docherty's intentions to not let his sole defeat detract from him maximising the potential he knew that he had. The Vinney fight was followed by a six round decision against the tough Dariusz Snarski, then a six month break before his next contest at the beginning of 2003 in which he would againn receive a comfortable points verdict, this time over Nikolai Eremeev. This was to be Docherty's final fight in this class of opposition and he had shown enough in his return to be matched with Dean Pithie for the latter’s Commonwealth crown. Going out on Sky Sports, this was a fight that would prove to the British boxing fraternity that Docherty was a serious threat and one that from here on in would have to be taken seriously. He pummelled Pithie from pillar to post showing a greater use of his fantastic body punching and ended the fight with a devastating left hook to the body which sent Pithie crumbling to the floor for the full ten count.
This was Docherty's first major honour since he decided to punch for pay and one that he had no intention of relinquishing, whatever it would take. A statement that was never better illustrated than in his first defence against the Ghanaian, Abdul Malik Jabir. The fight took place at the Bellahouston Sports Centre in Glasgow, with Docherty enjoying the benefits of a very vociferous Scottish support, something, that along with his own heart and desire to win, was to play a big part in this fight.
The opening round was a disaster for the champion as his opponent winged in hard looping right hands, clearly showing that he was here to fight, and before Docherty could even get going he found himself cut above the left eye, a direct result of a slashing right from Jabir. With blood pouring profusely from the cut Docherty was in a perilous situation. He won round two but still the blood kept on coming like a non-stop torrent. In the third referee Ian John-Lewis called time so that Docherty's eye could be inspected. After debate and the insistence of cutman Benny King that he could control the blood flow the fight was allowed to continue and Docherty was kick started into life. He took control of the fight, trapping his man in corners and bombarding him with every shot in the book, effectively doubling up on the left hook downstairs whilst still managing to cover up tight whenever any return fire came his way. He showed the true warriors spirit, having leaked blood for eleven and a half rounds, and was a deserved 117-113 winner upon the completion of the twelve rounds, with much praise going to Benny King for doing a wonderful job in the corner. Indeed, the fight was such a remarkable example of grit and determination that renowned comedian Billy Connolly, who had watched the fight on television, felt obliged to write to Docherty to commend him on his performance.
Against Jabir, Docherty demonstrated what he had learned since his loss, as he kept his cool under pressure and stuck to his boxing when other fighters might have panicked as a result of the laceration. It also highlighted the bond between fighter and trainer as John McDermott's advice was never questioned between rounds and once handed down was always taken on board by Docherty, demonstrating the level of respect that he has for his new mentor.
A second defence of the Commonwealth crown was made in April 2004 against another tough Ghaninan, Kpakpo Allotey and this was another fantastic display from "Hot Property" as he was never in trouble, going on to win by stoppage in round six. Eyebrows were raised about the timing of the referee's intervention but Docherty was on top throughout and again his body punching and combination completion were a stand out. He systematically broke up his man moving through the gears and by the sixth there was only ever going to be one winner, justifying the intervention from referee John Keane.
The victory was so emphatic that manager Tommy Gilmour, always very animated ringside during Docherty's fights, could not take the smile from his face as he enthused about his charges future.
"After that performance I think the other fighters are going to have to come to us, not us going to them. Craig is the number one for the British title and also for the European so we have a lot of options for Craig’s future,” remarked Gilmour afterwards.
The promoter was also quick to lavish praise on McDermott saying, “ John had him prepared just right and today I saw a Craig Docherty I never knew existed. He was fantastic! It is the best performance from a Scottish fighter for ten years.”
This brings us up to the present chapter in Craig Docherty's career, which sees him in certainly his biggest and most difficult fight to date against Sinitsin. With so many fighters electing to challenge for lesser world titles, it is fantastic to see a British fighter taking on a tough fighter for the European title, instead of taking the easy. Docherty is all too aware that the European title can be the key that opens up the gateway to more lucrative and demanding fights in the future.
The fact that Craig has put himself in this position, when he was written off post-Gomez, is testament to the man himself. He has never once doubted his ability as a fighter and his determination has been something to behold as he battled his way through some tough men to earn his crack at the European title. His growth as a fighter and a person has been helped by his family Mum is now his number one fan. His trainer John McDermott, a loyal Scottish following and by his manager Tommy Gilmour, who are always on hand to keep him in line and who have never wavered in their belief on how much Craig has to offer.
His main help in reaching this stage though has been his past. Docherty may not be in the position he is in now had it not been for the learning experiences in his past. They are very much part of the make-up that has made Craig Docherty the man and the fighter we see today, tough, aggressive, composed and with a sack load of heart and desire. He has taken the negatives in his career and turned them into positives and he will be hoping that he can continue his transformation and improvement this coming Friday against Boris Sinitsin.
It won’t be easy, but that’s the way Docherty has come to like it. And at 25, a new intensity burns behind his eyes that may just transmit into European success for the Glaswegian warrior.
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2004