From the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Ray Leonard to current champions Gennady Golovkin,Guillermo Rigondeaux and P4P king Andre Ward all of the boxing greats started off as amateurs.
Since the London Olympics 2012 amateur boxing has been in the spot light and deservedly so. Four years on at the Rio Olympics, the buzz around the GB boxing team was huge, the interest in women’s boxing was bigger than ever with the likes of Nicola Adams, Katie Taylor and Clarissa Shields all competing (all of whom have since turned professional). Cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie, ‘Pretty’ Josh Kelly and the Welsh wizard Joe Cordina are also names who have, since Rio, gone to the punch for pay ranks with all signing for Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom boxing stable.
This series of interviews will give fans an insight into the current crop of outstanding amateur boxers from team GB and England representatives to youngsters dreaming of making those squads. Today, we begin with team GB’s very own Peter McGrail.
Starting out at the Everton Red Triangle boxing club at ten years of age, “One of me friends Adam Rooney already went. He had already been going and there were like six of us best mates at school and he (Rooney) were saying to us like come down (to the gym), come down. I asked me Mum and Dad if I could start boxing and my mum didn’t really want me to. I don’t think me dad were that bothered because he used to box so I think he wanted me to, so I just went down and ended up being good at it and had my first fight at eleven.” Peter decided to dedicate his life to the sport due to his ‘love of winning’ resisting the temptations that teenagers experience in life. “Winning titles, there’s just no better feeling. Before I joined team GB I used to train four times a week, so I didn’t know nothing else like going through school. I used to always think to myself, ‘I want to be a boxer me!’ I used to say to my teacher I’m going to be a boxer. When I realised I was good at it all I thought is I was going to be a boxer!”
Just a few weeks ago, Peter was competing in Romania. Travelling the world is part and parcel of being a boxer whether its competing or for sparring at amateur and professional levels, something which can be intimidating for a young boxer. “It’s boss, I’ve been to a good few countries now through boxing from when I was like fourteen or fifteen. Anywhere you are fighting away, they have the home crowds, it’s not so much hard but it can just influence the judges from the cheering and just the little things that the opponent does when you do something because you only got your team mates in the crowd and hundreds of the foreign countries (fans).”
Every boxer dreams of becoming world champion and McGrail is no different. “I feel like it’s (career) just started because the Olympic cycle has just started now and I am aiming towards that gold medal in Tokyo and I will be turning professional after that. I want to be able to look back and be happy I have got that Olympic medal, World medals, Commonwealth medals and hopefully I can become a World champion (in the pro ranks) and be able to have that belt to show me kids when they grow up and tell my grandkids!”
The WSB has always been a great format that allows amateurs to fight in professional conditions. What kind of experience and confidence has this tournament given you by allowing you to fight and beating the best fighters from around the world? “It’s boss, it has given me experience when going to other countries with the home crowd there, in fact not just the boxing experience itself, but going out for food etc. Not having to wear a vest and the day before weigh-ins it’s like the pro ranks and its great, I’m happy to be a part of it.”
How beneficial has it been to have access to EIS from coaching to ‘living’ up there and will it continue to be part of pro training? “Its great, we got the best facilities, the physios, the best coaches, we got the best conditioning coaches, the gym there is boss, we got the track which is only two minutes away from where we live so yeah its great, it is probably better than the facilities I have at home and you can have a laugh with all the lads. I’m pretty sure when I turn pro I will still go down and spar with the lads as its always top level fighters on the squad but I will be turning pro in the Everton Triangle.”
“I will be turning over in 2020, I don’t think I need to (wait), I think I could turn professional now and do well but I think it gets you far up the ladder competing at the Olympics, like even just taking part the publicity of it all you raise your profile and, should you get that medal, everyone wants to come and watch you fight and everyone knows you, you’re not starting off like most pros from the bottom.”
Peter is not the only McGrail bobbing and weaving, “Me little brother, he’s going to be a belter, John McGrail. He follows in my footsteps!”
Interviewed and written for www.FightTalk.net by James Lupton.