To begin with I was there sparring two times a week, and while there Gary would be pointing a few things out to me that were really working. So one morning I thought, you know what, I need to be there full-time. What Gary was telling me was helping me and I was learning from it.
In the end I spoke to Gary about it and he told me to speak to Mark (Kent, previous trainer) first. So I went and told Mark and he was a bit gutted – he didn’t take it too well – but he’s okay now.
Since then I’ve been learning a lot from Gary. I think it’s important that you keep learning in this sport and that you listen to other people and take on board other ideas. I’ve been with Mark from day one, and he was great for me, he really was, but Gary’s showed me a few different things I wasn’t really working on. It was a good move at this stage of my career.
I’ve been here in Cardiff for two months now and I’m enjoying it. Gary’s a great guy and he doesn’t accept any messing about. But, at the same time, if you’re feeling dead and you’re grinding out a session, he won’t let you destroy yourself if your body’s not capable. He listens to what you’ve got to say and he knows how a boxer feels during a training camp.
Technically, Gary obviously knows his boxing. He’s been there and done it himself. He’s also got some quality champions in the gym. In fact, every boxer he has at the gym is very good technically. They all do the basics well.
I remember watching Gary box in his prime and he was always very exciting, always the type of fighter who’d put on a good show. I recall him knocking out a lot of people with his left hook. He was a good entertaining fighter to watch and he ended most of his fights inside the distance.
Our styles aren’t too dissimilar when you think about it. Gary liked to have a tear-up, and so do I, and he could also do a bit of boxing behind a fast jab when he needed to.
I’ve always been fit. That’s never been an issue with me. He didn’t really have to work on that aspect with me. It’s just been a case of improving my boxing skills and technique really.
Also, I was doing quite a bit of conditioning with weights but I’ve come off that a bit now. My figure has changed a lot and my weight has come down a lot quicker than it normally does. I’m basically on weight already and am eating big meals. I feel strong, fit and this is the easiest weight cut I’ve had a long time. It wasn’t that long ago that people were saying I needed to move up to super-middleweight because I’m so big at middleweight. Now I’m making middleweight easy and I’m eating a lot of food.
In the past I was perhaps trying to work on my strength too much, but that didn’t make sense. My strength has always been there. I’ve always been able to use my strength in fights.
All in all, we’ve done a lot of work on different stuff for this fight – including doing more than just going forward. I can go forward, of course, that’s always in my game, but I’ve added a lot more to it this time around just to mix things up a little bit. Gary’s wanted me to be very hard to read in this fight and it’s been working well in training and in sparring. I’ve just got to bring it into the fight now…
*** Hennessy Sports’ Nick Blackwell fights John Ryder for the vacant British middleweight title on May 30 at the O2 Arena, LIVE on Sky Sports Box Office ***