'A thinking boxer': Louis Adolphe interview
Louis Adolphe talks to Harry Drinkwater about his professional ambitions, sparring with Conor McGregor and a whole lot more...
Situated in the grounds of a leafy Surrey leisure centre, hidden away amongst weeds and debris, former ABA winner and Team GB member Louis Adolphe is discussing intricate punch combinations with his trainer.
It's a long way from his time sparring with UFC superstar Conor McGregor in Dublin, when the two men shared a ring in the lead-up to the Irishman's fight with Floyd Mayweather - an opportunity which presented itself to Adolphe while he was on a night out with lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, McGregor's UFC teammate Paddy Holohan and Louis' close-friend Danny Maclaren. The only details he shares about said night was that it was "one to remember".
McGregor went on to share a post of the two in one of their many spars to his 7.5 million Instagram followers and Wimbledon's Adolphe admits that people would have enjoyed their spars more than the ten rounds McGregor shared with arguably with one of the greatest boxers to ever lace a pair of gloves.
“He [McGregor] is far better than people give him credit for, his understanding of range, the speed of his hands and mind is incredible. Very sharp,” Adolphe tells Boxing Monthly.
“That surprised me, I remember thinking: ok, this is competitive. This guy has hands, I spoke after about how he would do in boxing, people say he wouldn't even win an area title. That's madness - he would with ease.
“I would be setting traps, walking him on to the big punch and then he's making you think, he's read that and he's setting you up for something. It was a good experience, but now I'm making my own name.
“[A] big thank you to Team McGregor for everything and it was priceless to be involved in, but the actual fight itself was everything I thought it would be. He wasn't stepping into his punches like sparring.
“That's been and gone, now I am building my legacy for my future and my family's future. I have an massive opportunity and it's down to me to make the most of it.”
Whispers in the gym talk of more recent spars, one with Scotland's Josh Taylor (who Adolphe beat in the amateurs) and one with current Olympian and Matchroom wonderkid Josh Kelly. Adolphe's own amateur career was also stellar, having being involved with Team GB, reaching two ABA finals (winning one) whilst part of Earlsfield's 'Golden Generation' alongside the likes of Joe Joyce and Kirk Garvey.
Adolphe admits, looking back, that he should have stayed amateur a little longer. After turning his back on the unpaid ranks, he turned over with James DeGale's long time trainer Jim McDonnell in 2014.
Travelling from south London to McDonnell's gym in Essex was eventually too much of a grind for the talented prospect. He does, however, emphasise that he left on good terms and enjoyed himself whilst working with McDonnell. A short spell with Adam Martin in Clapham followed, before the duo parted ways with Adolphe being unable to balance travelling and family life.
He has now found a new base minutes from his house working with respected London trainer Ian Burbedge – who previously guided Lenny Daws to a European title.
Adolphe opens up on the changes to his training set-up: “I was talking to my manager about getting a new coach because the travelling to my old gym wasn't working for me.
“I had an idea of what I wanted my trainer to be like, anyway he said that one of the best technical coaches he had heard people talk about was Ian Burbedge.
“It made me think back years ago back to sparring session when I was with Jim McDonnell in Essex. Ian brought Lenny over to spar a fighter that was in there and I think if I am honest the guy from our gym was being quite dirty in the spars.
“Ian stands up and just says: 'Listen, I won't have none of that with my fighter, if that's how you want to play it we are going home.'
“I remember this was only in the second round of the spar and it had been a long old journey for them to get over to our gym. So for someone to be that loyal for their fighter really impressed me – since I have been here I haven't looked back."
Adolphe has been working with Burbedge since the turn of the year and it's easy to see the mutual respect they have for each other. Although upbeat and lively post-session, whilst in the gym the pair are very much fixed on business with conversations on matters external to boxing rarely taking place.
Adolphe continues: “We've been together for two fights and I can't fault anything, I am learning every day. Not just the usual physical stuff but mentally as well I am learning about different things. I'm more disciplined, I have directed my rawness and natural aggression into the right avenue.
“Skill wise, I have come on leaps and bounds, even little things about stepping this way or that. Getting into place, finding shots and working openings whereas I used to just rely on my speed.
“We have been working on being methodical, a thinking boxer. I was in the mindset before of just throwing and throwing. Now, I think. If I do that, what will this do for me? If I throw this, where does that leave me? It's all about quality and never quantity."
Throughout our interview, Adolphe proves humble and approachable, and even shares a joke with boxing veteran and stablemate Peter McDonagh whilst preparing for our chat. Everyone in the gym can see the ability he has, it's just about capturing the moment.
In a crowded weight class that currently includes the likes of Gary Corcoran, Conor Benn, Bradley Skeete and newly crowned British Champion Johnny Garton – domestic match-ups are clearly on Adolphe's mind for 2019.
“I don't want to run before I can walk, I haven't even done 12 rounds yet,” he continues.
“I'm not someone who lives in dreamland, I'd say by the middle of next year I want to be progressing that way. If I'm honest though and it was over six rounds I reckon I could take that Lonsdale belt tomorrow.
“I have been in this sport a long time, I know the chance I have. I tried everything, football, basketball – loads of sports.
“But nothing got me like boxing, that is why in the amateurs I had so many fights [over 80], I only lost 12 or so actually, maybe even less.
“If it's not right for me, I can't do it. I was with GB but I couldn't settle with them. I was a long way from home. It was such a change it all happening, it wasn't right.”
With a professional record of 9-1 (his sole defeat coming via disqualification), Adolphe is still only 26.
Provided the platform is right, he has all the elements to make himself a star. He has the story of a life saved by boxing, a look and demeanour that naturally makes people gravitate towards him, as well as an impressive amateur pedigree.
A number of times during the interview Adolphe talks about fulfilling his potential and acting on the chance he has been given.
“Everyone talks the same stuff about being a world champion and all that but I know what I need to do,” he states.
“I want to reach my highest limits. I want to be a world champion, of course, and I believe I can do it but to be a success - I want to push myself to the furthest level I can go.
“I try not to set direct goals, I just want no regrets when it all ends. [I want to] look back and think, ok I couldn't have done any more.
“I've got a son now too, boxing before used to align my whole life. You are around good people, people that are on the same wavelength as you.
“It keeps you in a positive state, now I have got my son so being in the gym all the time uplifts me for when I am around my son.
“I want to be the best version of me I can; like any dad I want to give him the best upbringing I can, if I can use my career and what I achieved to inspire him then so be it.
“Eventually I want my son to come into the gym too, if he wants to box he can. Then I can stand behind him and say I know what you're going through, I have been there too.”
As we wrap the interview up, the discussion among myself, Adolphe and his coach turn to boxing greats. Adolphe talks about the young age that Mike Tyson was when he won his first world title in comparison to others, as a means to illustrate his point that boxers' careers mature at different speeds.
If there is one thing that is striking about Adolphe, it's his maturity. Whether this quality has been accelerated by becoming a father or by his new coach is unclear.
However, you're unlikely to see many fighters on these shores with better technique, speed, movement and ring-craft than the south Londoner.
Maybe he is right, maybe 2019 really could be the year of 'The LA Show'.
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