Brian Minto

Peter Sims

What goes on before a fighter sees the bright lights of fight night?  The hours in the gym, pushing the body to breaking body and understanding the fundamentals required to make it to the top of the sport?  We spoke with top trainer Peter Sims to give an insight to what it’s like as a trainer working with some of the UK’s best fighters.
I speak with Peter after he’s finished a long day at the gym.  It’s actually my second attempt that day – the first I had interrupted a sparring session that he understandably wanted to watch over.  After all, he is responsible for the coaching of some of the best up and coming fighters in the country.  “It’s a 9-5 job, when you have fighters with matches coming up you have to give a bit more time in the gym the last few weeks before the fight in training camp” he tells me.  “Sometimes you go in early and get them doing their track work and have a break during the day and then come back for a second workout.  It’s a proper fulltime job”
Just as training to get in and fight is life consuming, so it the role of the individual tasked with making the fighter hit their peak.  Not only do they have to do the hours in the gym with their charges, they also need to ensure they devise the right training schedule and plans for fights.  So starting at the beginning, how does Peter train a boxer?
“I try to teach the basic fundamentals of boxing, I like the 50’s & 60’s style of fighting but I also like to teach fighters new things and look at modern day fighters.  It’s good as a coach to keep up with the times.”  Spencer Fearon, respected Sky pundit and also a man involved in the careers of various fighters today, has spoken on his podcast about the need for fighters to go back to basics and utilise skills that the best of bygone eras used.  Is that a view that Peter shares then?

“A lot of fighters don’t get taught the basics like the double jab or just some of the basic shots.  I get a lot of fighters come to the gym that have been amateurs and they haven’t been taught the basics of boxing, how to distribute their weight properly, balance – things like that.”  So is it therefore a case of starting again with a fighter to drill out the ill discipline, or a matter of refinement?  “I try to get rid of the bad and bring in the good, most importantly their balance and foot work but if they have something good then we build on it.”
Not all fighters can be world champions, and what makes a fighter a great fighter can be subjective.  Defensive ability, offensive sharpness, poise, anticipation.  Not all skills can be learned – there are certain attributes innate to the top level pugilists.  What are the key requirements as far as Peter sees it?
“One of the key attributes in professional boxing is if a fighter can punch.  If you’re a pro fighter and you’re not a big banger it’s an uphill struggle, always having to do the distance in fights over 10 or 12 rounds in title fights.  If a fighter can bang then I can teach them the basics of boxing.”  One example Peter gives is Lee Purdy – a man with a very short amateur career that Peter took under his wing and went on to fight for world and European titles, as well as winning the British and IBF intercontinental straps en route.  Four knockout victories in a row between 2012 and 2013 earned him a shot at IBF welterweight championship. 
“Power is a natural attribute to have” Peter goes on.  “You can work on it so much with a fighter then his own natural ability has to kick in.  Another example is Ohara Davies – he can really punch.  He’s an awkward customer and he has power.  Another of my fighters Ben Hall has got natural power.”
Although it may sounds obvious that punching hard is a prerequisite to becoming a top boxer, not all fighters are blessed with the ability.  Only this weekend we saw a prime example of what Peter said about an uphill struggle – Josh Warrington went the full 12 rounds with Joel Brunker in Leeds despite convincingly winning most, if not all, round.  But he didn’t threaten to stop the Australian, who had previously been halted by the Welshman Lee Selby. 
With Ohara Davies (7-0-0 with 5 KO victories) the challenge at this stage of his career is finding a durable opponent who can give the lightweight the valuable rounds required to build experience.  He takes on Dame Seck (9-9-2) this weekend at the O2 arena on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs Gary Cornish.  Seck is a man who hasn’t been stopped in his professional career, so Davies would be making a good statement were he to halt him early.  “Ohara needs a good test, the lad hasn’t been stopped before.  Ohara’s a big puncher so he needs someone who is going to stay in with him.” 
Davies trains under Peter’s brother, Tony.  The two Sims brothers both have their own gyms, but obviously there are advantages in having a shared profession in the family.  Do they often spend time together in the workplace?  “He’s been in my gym today with Ted Cheeseman sparring against Ben Hall, we’ve had Ohara Davies sparring with Lucien Reid.  We’ve got the two gyms and quite big stables now so it’s working well – it’s the only time you will see us in opposite corners!”
Another fighter in action this weekend is Peter’s own boxer, Lucien Reid.  Much has been made of the 21 year old from West Ham in London, signed now to Matchroom Promotions.  When Peter speaks about him there is an air of excitement, as if he knows there could be something special in the fists of this featherweight.  How highly does he rate him?
“He’s an elusive, spiteful fighter.  Outside of the ring he’s one of the nicest kids around, as most fighters are, but I call him ‘lethal’ because the first time I saw him spar he was!  He’s got great skills, he can switch it up, has fantastic speed in his hands and he can punch as well.”  He is still untested as a professional, having had a single fight back in May against journeyman Elemir Rafael (30-93-3).  Reid did finish the fight in the fourth and final round, so what can we expect from him in the future? 
“We’ve just got his opponent named for this weekend, the kid is 3-0 undefeated so I’m looking forward to that fight.  Lucien can go a long way.  Definitely within the next year to 18 months he can be British title level easy, he’s a real natural act.  He can go as far as he wants to go, it’s like I say to all my fighters there’s only two reasons you won’t be a world champion – either you’re not good enough or you’re not dedicated enough.”
It’s a harsh reality that a fighter has to face, and Sims puts it bluntly enough.  Either you’re not good enough or you don’t want it enough.  Being a world champion is an aspiration for all young fighters as they set off on their professional career, and one that only the elite will reach.  With that in mind, are there fighters that Sims doesn’t accept to his gym?
“I turn a few away.  I have them in the gym a week once they come out of the amateurs and I’ll look at them and see how they get on with the rest of the fighters in the gym.  For various reasons I will say yes or no – it’s all different things when you take a boxer and they have to fit in the gym.  Some people just can’t fit in with other people.”
One fighter who Peter did coach was Tyler Goodjohn, the light welterweight who now trains out of Cambridge.  The relationship of fighter and coach disbanded, but Sims continues to be his manager.  He speaks fondly of Goodjohn, and cites him as the fighter that he is proudest of achieving with:
“I was quite happy with Tyler.  Tony had him first for two years and he got beaten by Danny Connor for the Masters Title and Tony said to him “you won’t win anything, I can’t train you” and gave him the door.  I got him back in the gym and got him the return with Danny Connor who he beat then he won the English title which was a good achievement to bring that out in him after he was shown the door by Tony.  We won an English title, fought for the WBC international title.  There were various reasons why me and Tyler parted company which is a shame, but we were together for years.”

As he alludes to, Sims combines the role of coach with that of Manager as well.  Only today he has added a name to the list of fighters that he manages.  “I’ve just signed Tony Conquest (15-2-0, cruiserweight) to the gym, he’s moved over today on a 3 year management deal.  I manage 7 fighters, there’s another kid making his debut Charlie Duffield but he’s not trained by me.  I’ll keep training the fighters I work with but I won’t have more than six in the gym, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  I took on (Craig) Spider Richards when Tyler went, I’ve got Lucien, Ben Hall, Dean Byrne and Tony Conquest as well.”
Going back to his role as coach, how does he get the best out of his fighters?  Carl Froch boasted this year about chopping up wood.  Young lightweight Romeo Romaeo takes the SAS approach of living in the wilderness, more Rocky than Romeo.  What are Peter’s methods?  “I’m not giving my secrets away!!” jokes the Londoner.  “We do things like bunnyhops in the sandpit after they have done track.  It keeps their legs strong.  We’ve got a big bridge near the gym and they do the steps up and down the bridge after they’ve done hill sprints.  I like to do the old style methods with them.”
It is clear from talking to Peter that although he doesn’t say it (and perhaps may not realise it himself) he has another role in these fighters career – father figure.  This become clearer when we discuss what happens on the day of a fight.  Nearly all boxers I have spoken to cite the hours before an event as being the longest in the build up to a fight, and each have their own way of handling it.  For Peter, it is something that he is happy to take a hands on approach with.
“I always try and pick them up from their house and go with them to the arena” he says.  “I will spend the whole time with them from the time we go there.  If they’re on at 7 I’ll pick them up at around three if it’s at the O2, then you can be there a few hours to let them have a walk about the arena and let them get a feel for the place and the atmosphere.”
Of course his role doesn’t end once the entrance music stops.  Sims will be a busy man this weekend.  Although he only has Lucien Reid as his own fighter taking part at the O2, he will be on hand to help out his sibling Tony.  “I’ll be working with Tony in (Anthony) Joshua’s corner, and Ohara Davies – I’ll do the cuts for him.  Tony has another lad out, Ted Cheeseman, making his debut so I’ll be working with him as well.  It will be a busy night!” 
With that we end it.  Peter Sims displays all of the characteristics in our brief chat of not just a boxing coach but as a man who offers guidance to his fighters.  Stern to the point of bluntness when required (if you’re not good enough you’re not coming in) but able to offer his time and support to those that he invests his time in.  It is said in football that a good coach is one that makes his players want to run through walls for him.  Although the art of brick demolishing is not one that Sims lists in his training methods, you suspect his fighters would sacrifice their bodies to do so if asked.