Sean Murphy from Finchley and District Amateur Boxing Club reflects on heavyweights success on eve of Klitschko bout
The man Anthony Joshua credits with putting him on the path to boxing superstardom has backed his former protege to beat Wladimir Klitschko in one of the most eagerly foreseen heavyweight opposes of recent years.
Sean Murphy, a coach-and-four at Finchley and District Amateur Boxing Club in north London, where Joshua first learnt to box, believes the 27 -year-old will be the fresher of the two fighters when they meet on Saturday night before 90,000 fans at Wembley in a tournament this is gonna be watched by millions around the world.
With merely 18 professional bouts under his belt, Joshua lacks the 41 -year-old Ukrainians wealth of experience in the ring, but he is unbeaten and Murphy suggested the momentum was with him. Joshua grew up in Watford and joined Finchley when he was 18.
Klitschko was the world champion for four, five years, he dominated it, Murphy said. But he hasnt boxed for 18 months. Josh is the new kid on the block. Hes get bags of enthusiasm. Hes won his last 18 fightings and hes been busy. Hes been boxing regular, and thats what I think will attain certain differences. All the amount of sparring you do in the gym aint the same as get in the ring and oppose, and I think thats going to be a big advantage for Josh because his timing is going to be that bit better.
Murphy, who has been with Finchley and District ABC for 17 years, said Joshua, the IBF heavyweight title-holder, who will add the WBA and IBO titles to his tally if he wins on Saturday night, was an intelligent boxer who would learn from previous mistakes.
The one fighting in his professional career he didnt box to instruction was against Dillian White because he had a score to settle. The next day I spoke to him on the phone. I said: you took too many punches. He said: I know but I wanted to go out there and have a fight with him. I wanted to beat him up and beat him at his own game.
Hes clever, hes not stupid. He went to spar Klitschko. His reckoning was one day Im going to have to fight him, see what he does. All the time hes got an ulterior motive.
Speaking to the Observer in his small office, a few yards from where ratings of children some as young as nine and many of them girls were sparring furiously, Murphy, a former professional boxer, said Joshua did not immediately strike him as a future world heavyweight champion.
Not right away, but with him progressing, going right through the novices, I guessed there was something there. When youre a coach-and-four youve have to go to gel with your boxer. Ive had 200 boxers in here, some who I havent got on with and have stimulated it. Its that personality where you click. I done that with Joshua. He asked me questions. I took him sparring to the professional gyms to bring him on quicker.
Murphy recalls a young man who was always happy, always smiling. He said: He got on with everyone, he was very inquisitive, wants to know why am I doing this, why am I doing that? He picked it up very quickly. In about two months he was ready to box. A plenty of the other coaches thought he wasnt. When I said he was getting ready, they were like oh hes not ready, but I said no , no , no I think hes going to be alright. He won his first couple of bouts and then everyone was like oh, hes not a bad lad.
Compared with many boxers Murphy has taken on, Joshua was relatively old when he took up the sport. He was 18 when he strolled in here, Murphy said. He was get in a little trouble on the streets. He wouldnt answer you back. Some children give you a little bit of cheek.
What marked Joshua out was his desire to learn, Murphy said. He come back from the Europeans and said: I want to work on my left hooking. I said: whys that? And he smiled and said: this geezer, he done about three people with left hookings, knocked them out.
So we were doing half-hour, an hour sessions, running left hookings, employing his legs. Thats where his power is. Working on the technical side of it. Hes very much a perfectionist, keeps going over the same move over and over again. I trained Josh to his strengths, to stand up, to throw nice long punches because hes a big fella.
Klitschko has 68 fightings under his belt, 64 of them wins, 53 of them by knockouts, but Murphy said people needed to look beyond Joshuas 18 professional bouts. He had 40 odd bouts in the amateurs, hes been to the Europeans, the World Championships, the Olympics. Hes managed all that well, took it in his stride. Then hes turned pro and hes done everything thats been asked of him. This is just another step on the ladder to greatness for him.
Murphy will be at Wembley on Saturday night, along with 23 others from Finchley ABC, who have all been given tickets by Joshua. The 6ft 6in giant, who weighs in at nearly 18 stone, still comes back to the club to give out awards. Last year he paid for it to be kitted it out with new punchbags, spar bars and ropes. The other week he surprised Murphy by handing him the keys to a 70,000 BMW by way of a thank you for helping him find his true vocation.
The two men are clearly still very close. So does Murphy experience any suffering at the prospect of Joshua being on the receiving aim of a punch from a hard-hitting fighter known to his fans as Dr Steelhammer?
Murphy chuckles at the idea. Nah I love it, he says. I get a buzz out of it. Ive been to a lot of Joshs battles at the O2 and the atmosphere is unbelievable.
And his prediction for Saturday?
I believe Josh is going to stop him in round eight or nine.
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