John Cole

Reece Macmillan
John Cole knows how hard making it as a professional boxer can be, the determination and willpower required to make it in a sport that has dashed the dreams of so many who have aspired to make it to the top.  He is still searching for his 'one', that fighter he can work with who shares Cole's desire and application to push on and reach for the titles that his hard work and dedication warrant as a trainer.  "Every fighter I've had they've packed it in after three or four fights" says Cole.  "Or I'll get rid of them if they can't give me what they need, if they're cheating themselves.  It's no good for me.  I want that top level fighter and I'm going to get there because I'm not giving up until I do.  It's a shame because you have to get through all the fighters to find the one that you want and if it sticks it sticks.  But it's not guaranteed each fighter will stick."

It's been a long journey in the sport for the likeable Cole.  A handsome man, always well presented whether in or out of boxing mode, his boxing story started 23 years ago working in the amateurs where he spent around nine years with the unpaid fighters.  It was when he had taken those amateur kids through the age groups and to the point where they were considering professional fighting that Cole considered a similar route.  "I saw the lads turning over pro and I thought I might as well join them!  I wanted to teach them the ways properly because there's a lot of coaches out there that don't have the dedication, which you need in this game.  Care and determination, you need to care about that fighter."

Cole is a man who does care about his fighters, you can tell by the tone of his voice that it is a desire of his to find that boxer who 'sticks'.  However it is a matter of getting the individual over the first hurdles that is a familiar problem for him.  What many fighters don't appreciate when they turn over professional is the fact that being a professional fighter means having multiple skills sets.  Unless you are entering the sport with an Olympic medal around your neck then you had best be prepared to graft hard.  It's not enough at first just to have the talent in the ring; there is generating a fan base, training as a pro, the pressure of ticket sales all the while for many new entrants to the sport having to balance all of this with a 9-5 job.  For Cole, he has placed his faith in multiple young hopefuls that it hasn't quite worked out with, not for the want of trying. 

"Bonds and relationships don't always last long!  Half of them pack up because they realise how hard the game is.  Fighters need guidance.  It's hard to find a fighter who has the dedication of some coaches.  They all start well at the beginning, but it takes two or three years to really understand the business.  It's hard, because a fighter has to learn so much.  They have to learn how to sell tickets, how to train like a pro, how to deal with themselves inside and outside the ring.  It's loads to deal with.  You can't cut corners; if you do you get found out."

It is a harsh reality for those coming into the sport and one John knows all too well.  Recently his cruiserweight Louie Darlin, undefeated in a handful of professional fights, has decided to head back to the unlicenced scene where he had success before dipping his toe into the pro water.  It was a disappointment for Cole but as he puts it "he's got his life though and needs to take care of himself.  If he can't give me 100% it doesn't work; I give my time, effort and my family time so if I give that to a fighter I expect that back."

So what is the approach that Cole takes when it comes to finding a fighter to work with?  Afterall, the relationship has to work as much for the trainer as it does for the man taking the punches.  "You can have a chat with them all, but you can't take them all.  The fighter has to suit just as you have to suit them.  I want to know that when a fighter tells me they're out running that I can trust they're out running.  If not they'll get found out.  I'll find a way to find out.  If I can get people over a couple of years and they do the things that they're supposed to be doing, anything can happen.  When you have the debut kids, they think it's great at the start and then they realise how hard it is.  They find out how hard it is to get your licence, medicals and even they you're not guaranteed to box if there's something wrong with you.  It's a hard business.  But if they get over that and they are realistic about what they want to achieve, anything can happen with the right mindset."

For such an experienced person in the sport, can Cole tell if a new fighter is struggling when they make that first step into the professional sport?  "Yeah, you know.  That first round is an education because these journeymen will back up and back up and your fighter will try and knock them out.  I always say to them 'don't try and knock them out yet, learn.  Learn to get your shots together and relax'.  That's the important thing for someone on their debut, relax.  These journeymen are dangerous, if they smell blood or see fear they can take you out or look bad.  So many load up with every shot then have nothing left."

There is one similarity that nearly all new boxers have on their CV: the name of a journeyman. The fighters with losses far outweighing their wins, they've seen it and done it all twice over and offer a vital service to boxing as they help nurture young fighters through the sport.it is a type of fighter that Cole has a respect and affinity towards, each of the fighters he has worked with will have fine through the process of facing a number of journeymen to get the requisite experience. So what advice does Cole offer his charges when faced with the task?  "I say to the, if you knock them out in your first fight, where do you go second fight or third fight?  Learn the rounds.  Your punch will come when you set yourself down.  They learn." One that is always a pleasure to watch is Moses Matovu, the Northern Irishman who can fight between cruiserweight and heavyweight and always sends a crowd home happy with a mix of Ali shuffles and playful manoeuvres around the ring. It is a person Cole has a lot of time and respect for as he tells me.  "Moses is an entertainer.  He always asks after fighters I've been involved in.  But he can turn it on!  He trains so hard and that's what these prospects don't realise, these journeymen do train hard.  They want to box every other week, they don't want cuts or to get bashed up or be knocked out.  It's an art for them."

Another person that Cole is close to in boxing is promoter Steve Goodwin, theo two often having mutual clients.  "I've known Steve about five years now, I met him when I was in Milton Keynes working with Ryan Barratt" says Cole. The two have formed a close relationship and will often recommend each other to fighters who may be searching for the correct guidance. "He is one of the decent people in the sport.  His family are so welcoming.  He is what I call loyal.  I am loyal to him as I know he is loyal back to me and he wants the best for his fighters.  I remember him a long time ago saying that he was only taking on a handful of fighters, and he's got loads now!  He said to me five at the beginning and it's exploded!  Look at the fights he's staging now.  Fighters on the David Haye bill, that's a fantastic platform for his fighters.  He had the show at the Brentwood centre where Ali Adams and Audley Harrison were on it, that was his first press conference back in 2012.  The guy has grown in the sport."

There is a new hope now for Cole, a young fighter called Jack Raines.  "I got a phone call off Charlie Rumbol and he said 'John, train this kid for me please'.  I've trained him the last couple of weeks and he's fantastic. He's had a couple of troubles in his life but he wants boxing.  He said to me 'if I can get over ten fights then I know what I can do'.  You never know what may happen, he's debuting in May.  He may not like his first fight, that's when it hits home."

As John says, "boxing is a mental sport, I try and get in their head". He is right of course, some fighters have the mental fortitude to be able to handle all of the pressures and balance the requirements that come with the sport. The same can be said for the trainers, who need to ensure they give their all to a boxer to get the best from them. John recognises the importance that his family play in supporting him in his role, in particular his wife who can typically be found ringside when John is in the corner.  "She knows I need it otherwise I'll go mad!  It is an outlet.  I've said to her before that I may give it all up and she's said 'why give it up?  You're so good'."

It is a positive for the sport that John's wife didn't allow him to hang his training pads up. He has so much to offer the sport. Follow him on Twitter and he is an air of positivity and forward thinking.he has so much to offer the sport of boxing, and when that right fighter comes along then John will hopefully get the chance to show everything he has to offer back to boxing.  It is people like John that are the lifeblood of the sport, responsible for helping through fighters in the toughest sport in the world.  His determination and support are essential for the fighters lucy enough to have his time, the right boxer could help Joh achieve his own aspirations.