After a brutal and sickening defeat at the hands of Michael Gomez, Scottish super-featherweight Alex Arthur looked to Jim McDonnell to rebuild his career.
In his day McDonnell was the European featherweight champion and shared the ring with legends Azumah Nelson and Barry McGuigan. Last year Jim gained international recognition as a trainer, as the man behind Danny Williams’ fourth round destruction of ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson.
In his two fights since joining up with Jim, Arthur has looked a completely different boxer to the one that was beaten up by the merciless Gomez. His defensive flaws have seemingly been almost erased and he is now looking like the smooth, skilled boxer that many people in British boxing predicted and hoped he would become.
Next Friday in his home town of Edinburgh, Arthur faces Glasgow’s Craig Docherty for the vacant British Super-Featherweight title - a fight that has got the Scottish public talking about a domestic boxing match in a way that hasn’t been seen since the days of Buchanan and Watt.
Read on to find out Jim’s views on Arthur’s progress, the fight with Docherty and the latest news on Danny Williams.
Adam Williamson: Hey Jim, how is Alex doing a week ahead of the big fight?
Jim McDonnell: Yep Alex is fine. He’s training hard, he’s in the right frame of mind. He knows that this is probably the biggest fight in Scotland for over 30 years since Jim Watt fought Ken Buchanan. He is aware of all that and that there is a lot of Scottish pride at stake. He’s put the work in, got his weight down early and he’s ready to go.
AW: Everyone can see that Alex Arthur has improved technically since the Michael Gomez fight but do you detect a difference mentally as well?
JM: Yep, everything in sport is about confidence. The setback against Gomez would dent anyone’s confidence no matter who you are. But to go to the next level I think that had to happen because Alex was probably thinking it was easier than what it was. That was a wake up call for Alex. If he continued to do things, and prepare like he was preparing he would have stayed at the same level. He’s had that hiccup, it has made him re-evaluate the situation and everyone can see the improvement in him.
AW: Mentally Alex has always been a very confident person. You also train Danny Williams who by contrast isn’t so naturally confident, do you have to change your approach when training?
JM: It’s all about man management. Everyone is slightly different in every way. With Alex, at one stage he was what you would call ‘brash’, and obviously the Gomez defeat got rid of that! Now he’s still confident but he realises that no one is invincible.
AW: How do you rate Craig Docherty?
JM: Craig Docherty is a tough fighter. I’ve been studying him obviously, he’s technically good, does everything smart, he rolls with the punches. He does everything smart, I am actually quite a fan of Craig Docherty’s because I like his style. I wouldn’t mind working with guys with his style.
He’s very one paced though and that is the trouble with Craig, and he struggles when you take it to the next level like (Boris) Sinitsin did in the European title fight. But I give Craig a lot of credit, I think he’s very good.
AW: Arthur made a big mistake by getting into a war with Michael Gomez. Are you concerned that the same thing may happen in this fight?
JM: Not really. He’s learnt from the Gomez fight, he’s taken some things away from it.
This week Alex has sparred 18 rounds in two days and they were torrid rounds where he never had it all his own way. Head sparring, high tempo. Whatever Docherty brings to the table I am sure that Docherty will find the answers.
The thing with Alex, for all that noise and razzmatazz surrounding him, I believe that he only ever boxed to 60 per cent of his full potential. I told that to him when he first came down to the gym. I stripped him naked, boxing wise, and started again because he had so many amateur traits that have never been changed. To me he was like an upright robot. And he was lazy as well, liked to do everything in the comfort zone and I’ve worked a lot on that aspect of his game, changed it round and added it to the things he already had. It’s all about being repetitive in the gym and working on things over and over again.
AW: Have you got a prediction for the fight?
JM: Yeah I’ve got a prediction for the fight. He’s going to box intelligently, he’s going to box at a high tempo and I think he will stop him in nine rounds.
AW: Ok, well I can’t talk to you without mentioning Danny Williams. When is he looking to jump back into the ring?
JM: We were hoping to have a warm up fight this month and get back in the groove. But it’s looking like it will be straight in with Skelton with a July date.
AW: What do you think of the Matt Skelton fight then?
JM: I have got enough respect for the guy. To jump from K1 into boxing and to win the British and Commonwealth titles. He’s got intensity and he brings the heat. But let’s not kid ourselves, Danny is in a different league. Technically he is a different class. It is just a matter of Danny having his head in gear to do the work he’s got to do. Skelton brings it and he’s got a strong will. What you have to do is break that will, and Danny has got the skills to break that will, and once you have broken the will…then take him out.
AW: I think it is fair to say he took quite a beating against Vitali Klitschko. Physically is he going to be the same as he was before that fight?
JM: I think with all boxers after such a defeat none of them know how they are going to be until they step back in there. Some come back normal, like Roberto Duran who won a world title after being knocked out by Thomas Hearns, and others are never the same again.
I think Alex Arthur deserves a bit of praise on that score because he got knocked out by Michael Gomez but in the three fights since he has come back an improved fighter.
I don’t think Danny is going to have any problems at all. I think his confidence is quite often misunderstood but he is full of confidence in his own ability. He still knows what he is capable of and he really is a blessed talent. I still believe we will see the best of Danny.
AW: Ok, and can you just give me the latest on Takaloo and Steve Murray?
JM: Steve Murray’s last performance speaks volumes for where he is at. He has come back very strong. God willing he gets the opportunity to fight for a title because he’s been a good servant to British boxing and it would be great if he could get another opportunity.
Takaloo has been pencilled in to box in July. Different names have been floating around. One of them is Thomas McDonagh and another one is Matthew Macklin. The fight has been put to these people, I think Macklin’s camp turned it down, and I don’t blame them, and we are waiting for the answer from McDonagh’s people. If not one of them, it will be a comeback fight probably against someone from abroad. Tak seems mentally really fresh, he starts his preparation this weekend, he’s flying out to France to train at altitude for the weekend and he’s really serious about getting back into it. The hunger is still there.
Doghouse Boxing would like to thank Jim for taking the time to make this interview possible. As ever, we wish him all the best of luck for the future.
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2005