Jamie Moore on Marbella shooting, punditry and physics!

Terry Dooley
28/04/2015 4:50am

Salford’s Jamie Moore first rose to prominence in April 2003, coming in as a late substitute to beat the undefeated Liverpudlian Michael Jones on points to pick up the British and Commonwealth light-middleweight titles. However, he suffered a mid-career slump after losing both belts in back-to-back bouts the following year.

Ossie Duran, Moore’s in-form welterweight Commonwealth counterpart, took the Commonwealth belt from Moore by third-round KO in June 2004; the loss left him nursing an injured hip. There was no reprieve; his next fight was a rematch with the rangy Jones, a third-round DQ loss for hitting on the break in November that cost him his British title.

His fall from grace was as sudden as his rise, so his decision to go into an immediate rubber match with Jones in July 2005 seemed a rash move, especially when he found himself on the canvas twice in round three.

Moore refused to panic—a knockdown against Clive Johnson in his first fight had taught him to take stock, remain calm and beat the count. He did just that, coming back to register a sixth-round TKO win over Jones.

“My career was littered in the middle part with downs, I had to rebound,” said Moore when speaking to Boxing Monthly. “It actually happened in that third Jones fight, I’m on top then get knocked down twice in the third. That round probably epitomises my career. No matter what happens, I fight back harder.” 

Maybe, just maybe, his experience of rising from the canvas and recovering from big shots saved his life when a masked gunman fired five bullets at his legs in Estepona, Marbella back in August. Two landed; one fractured his right hip and the other went through his left thigh, tearing through muscle and flesh in the process. 

As Moore lay there bleeding, he tried to avoid slipping into what Muhammad Ali called the “Black lights” of unconsciousness. Failing to beat a count in boxing is one thing, but, should he have lost consciousness that night, the successful pundit and trainer would have died.

“When I lay there, I thought that was it for me. To come that close to or be thinking you’re going to die to working the corner [for Tommy Coyle’s second-round knockout win over Michael Katsidis on October 25] so soon afterwards is unbelievable.

“When something like that happens, you can have 10 thoughts within seconds. I saw the guy, said: ‘Sling it’, then carried on walking before turning around and saying: ‘That’s not even funny’—I thought it was a joke. Then he shot me. It was over in seconds, so it’s not a prolonged mental scar—I’m struggling more physically than mentally.

“I never had time to panic or worry until I was lay there thinking: ‘Wow, what’s just happened’. I kept thinking: ‘Come on, take a deep breath and stay conscious’—I felt that if I passed out I’d die.

“I was fighting. All I thought was: ‘I’m not leaving my kids with no dad’. It’s a gut-wrenching feeling. You know when a dog chases you as a kid and you have that adrenaline because you need to run as fast as you can? It was like that; I had that feeling of adrenaline in my belly. I had to stay awake for as long as I could.

“When I heard the ambulance, I shouted to them and they came over with the stretcher. At that point, I felt my whole body relax. I’d been fighting it so much I passed out.”

Moore had dialled 911 as soon as he hit the ground. However, the language barrier only served to amplify his concern.

He said: “At first the operator didn’t understand me. I remember I kept saying to her that if they didn’t trace my call I’d die—I could see that I was bleeding heavily—so the police traced the call and followed my phone. It was 25 minutes before they found me. The bullet lodged in my hip, which will be there for life, is right next to my main artery—if the bullet had hit it I’d be dead within five minutes. I’m a lucky lad.”

Colleen, Moore’s wife, and his parents flew out as soon as they heard the news. Upon coming around from surgery, his chief concern was how his children, Mikey and Olivia, would respond.

“I told them I’d been run over at first, but obviously it broke out on Sky News so I had to ring them and say: ‘You know I thought I’d been run over? I’ve actually been shot’,” he revealed.

“I said the police had told me I was stood in the road, I heard a bang and thought I’d been run over, but someone had shot me in the leg. Mikey said: ‘Well, somebody shouldn’t have brought a gun out on the road!’.

“I broke it in a way that didn’t shock them, but they know now and can’t quite understand why someone would do that to their dad. That’s the innocence of a child. Olivia’s a little too young to understand, but Mikey knew.

“We’re best mates. We’ve been so close since he was born, I take him everywhere and I’m his hero, so for that to happen to me will have been horrible for him. He’s getting over it, but it’s been a tough time.”

The 36-year-old cannot move freely without a foot brace. His best hope is that his mobility will return to seventy percent of what it once was.

“When I was on the floor in Marbella, I thought I was dead, so that’ll do me,” he said.

“The police said there was a lot of Russian and Ukrainians fighting in that area at the time. They said I look like someone who might have come from those countries. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Following the shooting, conspiracy theories started to trickle through, with some asking if Moore had been up to no good and one publication painting the shooting as a gangland style kneecapping incident. The former fighter shrugged when asked if he had read the early, more salacious reports of the attack.

“One paper, I won’t give them any publicity, made me out to be some sort of gangster with the headline ‘Kneecapped’ and a picture of me scowling—it’s ridiculous.

“Anyone who knows me knows I’m a down-to-earth family man who lives for his missus and his kids. People by nature say: ‘He’s been shot so he’s up to something’, but you have to take a step back and ask if I’m really the sort of person to get shot. Luckily, people in the industry know me and know it must have been mistaken identity.”

“I’ve not heard one thing from the Spanish police,” added Moore. “The information I get is through the papers, which means nothing to me because some of the stuff they wrote about me was so far from the truth that you’ve got to take it with a pinch of salt.”

Moore’s a strong character, clearly, yet even the strong bend and buckle a little under life’s weals and woes. Simple things became a hurdle after a trauma, both physically and mentally.

“It’s been difficult going to shows because of the attention that this has brought,” said Moore. “Even going to the school playground on the kids first day at school was a struggle because I didn’t want to go. It was Mikey wanting me to take him to school that made me think: ‘I’m just going to go and get this done’. 

“I was laughing because me and Colleen both went and all the mums were coming up to give me a kiss and I said: ‘I’ll have to get shot more often because I’m getting all these kisses in the playground’. It was a tough time. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and say: ‘I’m just going to do it’, a bit like you do when you go for your ringwalk before a fight.”

Unlike most former fighters, Moore has found contentment outside the ropes through his role as a Sky pundit and sometimes roving reporter. However, he once entered serious training again ahead of a mooted return. Cooler heads prevailed.

“I was close to making a comeback in 2011. [Sky TV’s] Adam Smith and Bob Mee talked me out of it. In hindsight, I’m glad they did. Bob said: ‘Will you be any more thought of because of this? I don’t think you can be any better thought of than you are’. That’s the best advice I’ve had in boxing, and it will become more and more valuable as time goes on.”

Moore had British Fights of the Year against Jones, Matthew Macklin (W KO 10 in September 2006)—the contest had an added edge as Moore was trainer by Salford-born Billy Graham at the time—and Ryan Rhodes (L TKO 7 in October 2009).

The win over Macklin was the fifth fight of a 12-fight unbeaten run; he went on to beat the tough and skilled former IBF world welterweight title-holder and WBC light-middle title challenger Michele Piccirillo of Italy (KO 3) for the European belt, defending it against Ukraine's Roman Dzhumanand (W TKO 2) before losing to Rhodes, who went on to unsuccessfully challenge Saul Alvarez for the WBC belt.  

A loss to the extremely useful, not to mention big, Ukrainian Sergey Khomitsky (RTD 6) up at 160lbs was his last in-ring action. Despite never realising his dream of contesting a world title, he refuses to complain, preferring instead to savour the love of British boxing fans.

“Before I turned professional, I wanted to be known as an exciting fighter. Nigel Benn was my hero—win or lose, I wanted to give value for money.”

The win over Macklin is his personal highlight, though. “I just think it’s got better action. We’re talking unreal stuff from the fifth to the 10th,” explained Moore.

“There was also skills and technique involved. It was a tactical battle fought at a high pace—that’s why it was the fight it was. I wasn’t right for Ryan, and I feel my work was sloppy, but it wasn’t for Macklin.

“We’d never be friends like we are now (without that fight). When you go through something like that, you both know what it took to do that—it’s something you can’t explain to someone else, but we both understand. It’s an unspoken respect. It never gets mentioned, but I’ll respect that man for the rest of my life. It's the same with Ryan. We’ll be friends for life.”

Sadly, Moore never got to fight for a world title despite often telling me that he was going to beat up Vernon Forrest, one of my all-time favourite fighters. Moore believes that his pressuring style would have been all wrong for “The Viper”.

“Right place at the right time,” he said. “Vernon was a great fighter, but I like those tall fighters as I could cover the distance and get inside. I honestly believe that I could have beaten [Saul] Alvarez, if I could do the weight properly, as he’s too one paced. Talk’s cheap, I never got that opportunity, but it isn’t something I’ll dwell on.

“A couple of things could have been different for me and [manager and close friend] Steve Wood. I always believed they’d have loved me in America, but I never got a chance to fight there so it never happened. I have no regrets, though, because I am where I am because of everything that happened in my career.

“I’d have loved to have fought for and won a world title, but all I could ever ask for was boxing fans respect, and I got that.”

As out conversation wound down, talk turned to the issue of boxing punditry and the oft uttered maxim that fans, writers and others can’t develop the same level of understanding and insight as current and former pros.

Moore believes that there are some fans and writers who can develop as high a level of knowledge as you can achieve without having boxed, but also argued that experience plays a key role in understanding something.

“People can understand it (boxing) as much as you can without doing it yourself,” he said. “You don’t have to have boxed, but, in certain situations, it’s good if you’ve been there.”

We came up with the example of an physicist who has never played snooker formulating and implementing the perfect shot. Feasible on paper, but what if some drunken lout nudged their cue just as the shot was being made? At this point experience would chip in. 

“A physicist could tell you how to do it, but a snooker player can go out and do it,” argued Moore. “Someone can lay out a plan, but something could pop up halfway through, then what do you do? How do you adapt from that? Experience would allow you to go: ‘I’ve been here before and did this’ to fill in the void. You’d panic if you’ve never been there.”

A failure to panic in Marbella ensured that one of the nation’s favourite boxing pundits can continue to call fights for us. He’s certainly come a long way since that mid-career blip and one very dark night.

Coda: The Secret

Defeat in what turned out to be his final fight and three slight—but not career-threatening changes—in his brain scans in as many years left Moore in a negative mental place until a close friend helped him rediscover his positivity and draw a line under his 37-fight career, 32-5 (23).

Moore was told to read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne—a philosophical mix of the law of attraction and positive thinking—and he invested heavily into it. He has the logo tattooed on his forearm as a daily reminder to practice positivity.

“The Secret’s a big part of it,” when asked how he managed to get through retirement, often referred to as an “athlete’s first death” and last year’s ordeal.

“I was a little bit down and not doing what I loved. I was lost, really, but my friend “Shinny” (former pro James Davenport) said: ‘I’ve never seen you like this, you’re always positive’. He recommended The Secret.

“The Secret is something that changed things for me when I was down. As soon as I started practicing what the book preaches, I got the call from Adam Smith about the Sky job. It’s something I’d always had, I just needed to understand that and become a positive person again—that’s all I needed.

“As a boxer, I had that positivity anyway because I wouldn’t allow negative thoughts. It’s about gratitude and appreciation for what you’ve got. I’ve got the best life you could ever have: I’m happy, I can pay my bills, but I’m by no means rich, and I get to go out with my family—that’ll do me.

“A wise men once told me: ‘If you never want to work a day, find something you want to do then find a way to make it pay—that way you’ll never work a day’. I do a job I love—I got to do a series on training and life after boxing—so I’m loving life.”

Moore’s lack of mobility meant he had to ask close friend and former fighter Nigel Travis to do pad work with Tommy Coyle ahead of Coyle’s fight against former interim WBO world lightweight titlist Michael Katsidis. He managed to rustle up a positive from what, for many coaches, would be a negative.

From his ring apron vantage point, Moore was able to pick up things that you miss when you’re in the thick of it—this new perspective allowed him to impart fresh insights to his charge.

Coyle listened; he knocked out the Australian visitor with a left hook at the Hull Arena. Moore worked the corner; he can barely contain his pride.

“Mentally, it was tough for Tommy because he got knocked out [in the tenth round] by Derry [Mathews] in his last big fight in Hull. Then he was knocked down four times [against Daniel Eduardo Brizuela in February, a fight Coyle won by 12th-round TKO after scoring four knockdowns himself], so it’s brave to take on a fighter who has been to the top when you’re only 25-years-old and only recently getting the limelight—it’s been a fast track 12 months for Tommy. He’s labelled as a ‘Warrior’ now, and rightly so.”