No avoiding Corcoran

John A. MacDonald
16/07/2016 7:07am

The word you will most often hear associated with Frank Warren’s show at the Ice Arena, Cardiff, tonight, is “avoided”. This is not to say that the paying public have chosen to stay away – a very healthy crowd is expected to turn up for what is a very strong card. The term instead applies to Guillermo Rigondeaux, the Cuban maestro who has a habit of making everything look effortless.

A dominant display against Nonito Donaire in 2013, should have been Rigondeaux’s breakout win. It wasn’t. Instead, he became a boxing pariah, fighting just four times, in the four years that have followed. Jazza Dickens, is now the man brave enough to face the challenge almost every other 122lbs fighter have distanced themselves from.

We will be reminded often during the broadcast that Rigondeaux is one of the most feared fighters in the world. In fact, I’d bet if you had a drink every time the word “avoided” is mentioned on Boxnation, you’d be inebriated by the third fight on the undercard.

There is another member of the ‘Who Needs Him Club’, as Mickey Duff used to call it, on the card, in the form of Liam Williams. Now, I’m not saying the Welshman is on the level of Rigondeaux, but since teaming up with trainer Gary Lockett, he’s emerged as one of the leading prospects in British boxing. This status is punctuated by a run of six-straight knock out victories dating back two years. This has made many of his domestic rivals reluctant to face him. Where others have opted to bide their time until Williams progresses beyond British level, Gary Corcoran jumped at the chance.

“I got one phone call from the [Frank Warren] office, offering the Liam Williams fight, and I accepted straight away,” Corcoran told Boxing Monthly. “No one else wanted to fight him. Since I went with my new trainer [Peter Stanley], whatever fight they offered us we took, we’d fight anyone. We avoid no one.”

Corcoran (15-0, 6 KOs) has evidence to support his claims. Williams may be the one tipped to contest world titles in the future, but just now, there is a case to be made that Corcoran has faced a higher calibre of fighter. In his last three fights he’s faced a brace of undefeated fighters – in the form of Rick Godding and Rick Skelton – and the capable Danny Butler, a run of victories he doesn’t believe has been acknowledged sufficiently within the boxing community.

“I don’t think I get the credit for beating the likes of Danny Butler, but after this fight I will. It’ll all pay off,” Corcoran proclaimed. “No one wanted to fight Rick Skelton, he was one of the most avoided fighters in the country. When I did fight him, he was one of the most awkward fighters I’ve faced. Because of the way I fight, I had to break him down [in the] late rounds. He was doing good for the first five rounds; after that I broke him down.”

If Corcoran doesn’t believe he has received enough respect for his recent run of form, he believes Williams has received too much for a record – Corcoran believes – flatters to deceive. The method of victory has frequently been devastating from the Clydach Vale puncher, but Corcoran is adamant that there are mitigating circumstances for this: that his opponents are either has-beens or never-weres.

“I think he’s a good fighter, but I don’t think he’s the biggest puncher. I don’t think he’s as good as they are saying he is,” was the 25-year-old’s assessment of Williams. “He’s fought Kris Carslaw who’s at the end of his career, he’s 31 and he’s a small light middleweight. He’s fought people at the end of their careers like Carslaw and [Michael] Lomax. He thinks he’s going to knock everyone out; he fought a journeyman [Gustavo Sanchez] in his last fight, but I’m going to bring the fight to him. I’m young, I’m fresh and I’m coming to win.”

Outside the ring, Corcoran is mild mannered, and softly spoken. Inside it, he is a ferocious pressure fighter who maintains a high work-rate throughout the fight. Williams has never been beyond the eighth round – he’s never had to as he usually dispatches of his rival early – and Corcoran believes Williams won’t be able to live with the intensity he will be subjected to.

“My honest opinion is; he’s big after the weigh-in, but I don’t think he’ll be as fit as me, I don’t think he’ll be able to go the distance, that’s why I see a late stoppage for me,” Corcoran predicted. “Liam Williams said I can’t punch, I can’t box, and I only have one game plan. That’s what they think. I hope they keep thinking that.”

The fight has had an undercurrent of animosity, long before it was signed. A war of words erupted on Twitter, which is out of character for both men. Williams then escalated proceedings by proclaiming his dislike for Corcoran on live television following his victory over Gustavo Sanchez. The needle between the pair peaked at a press conference last month, when Williams slapped Corcoran as they went head-to-head.

With a mutual dislike for each other, the victor may be the man who best controls his emotions. Corcoran believes the tutelage of Peter Stanley and Frank Greaves has equipped him for this situation, as they have added finesse to the ferocity, and in the process, made him a calmer fighter.

“I’m a relaxed fighter now, since I’ve been with Peter,” Corcoran told BM. “The last fight showed it, when I fought Rick Godding, I was all tense, I wanted to knock his head off. I was a bit more relaxed against Skelton, and last time against Danny Butler I was just so relaxed, and it was so easy. I had so many gears to jump up through. My trainer told: ‘Just pull back, you are boxing his head off Gary’.

“I’ve done a lot of work with Peter Stanley and Frank Greaves. I’ve been with Frank for eight months and I’ve been with Pete for a year. It’s changed my style, I can box and I can fight. I have a lot of game plans now.”

The improvements in Corcoran’s style are rewards reaped from hard work, something he is no stranger to. Growing up in the traveller community, Corcoran learned to fight from a young age. As with eight brothers – as well as three sisters – the Wembley man was never short of sparring growing up. His brothers Billy and Eddie have both turned their hands to professional boxing, with the former winning the English super-featherweight title in 2005. While his siblings all possessed natural talent, Gary feels he is the least gifted of the family, and that it is hard work and perseverance that has led him to this stage.

“I’ll be honest, I’m the most untalented one out of my family,” he confessed. “Every one of my brothers started boxing at 11, I was a bit older, I started at 12. I just kept it going, trained hard. I was the most useless fighter out of all of us. They were all boxing for England, won schoolboys and competitions like that. I was the most un-gifted fighter out of my family! I just kept at it, kept working hard and got better, and better.”

Ahead of the biggest fight of his career, Corcoran has once again applied the same diligence to his preparation. No stone has been left unturned as he has travelled the length and breadth of the country in search of the best sparring available. This includes: IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook, British welterweight champion Bradley Skeete, Birmingham banger Sam Eggington, and he helped WBA interim welterweight champion David Avanesyan prepare for his defence against Shane Mosley.

Now, he is ready to attempt to usurp the mantle of ‘next big thing’ from Williams. The man, who 18 months ago was patiently waiting for a shot at the Southern Area title, is now casting one eye towards the winner of Liam Smith and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and the WBO super welterweight crown.

“A win will bump me up to number two, number three in the world with the WBO. If I win this, I could be one or two fights away from a world title fight,” Corcoran said. “It’s very good to be fighting on the same show as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. I’m so happy to be on this show. I want to prove how good I am, and to show that I deserve to be on this stage.”