Boxing Social columnist Russ Anber reflects on a busy weekend in the UK, giving his insider view on the performances of Mick Conlan and Dereck Chisora last weekend and revealing why he turned down the chance to work Natasha Jonas’ corner against Katie Taylor…

It was a great thrill to be at York Hall on Friday night to work in Mick Conlan’s corner. York Hall is a venue that’s so unique and so rich in British boxing history. Sure, it’s pretty compact – but that’s part of its charm.

After we arrived we were led to a tiny little cubicle and I said: ‘where’s Mick’s dressing room?’ The answer came: ‘you’re in it!’

I turned to Mick and said: ‘hey, you’re the co-feature and this is the best they can do for you?’

Mick replied: ‘Russ, this is the nicest dressing room in the whole place!’

Joking aside, though, what a great venue it is! It’s just a shame that there weren’t any fans there because I can only imagine how intense and intimate it would be with a full house of spectators in there too.

As for Mick’s opponent Ionut Baluta – wow! What a tough guy! He was working so hard and missing with so many punches, that about halfway through the fight I was convinced we were gonna stop him. I remember thinking to myself: ‘there’s no way this guy can keep up this pace!’ He was grunting with every punch he threw! I thought there was no way he could sustain that activity, but he did!

Russ Anber was in Michael Conlan’s corner for his victory over Ionut Baluta last week.
Photo: Queensberry Promotions

Over the 12 rounds I think he probably threw more punches than Mick but his percentage of punches landed – of course – was way, way lower than Mick’s.

Overall, I thought Mick did well. There was a good variety to this work. At times he fought from the outside and was elusive. At other times he was putting the pressure on and taking it to him, hitting him to the body and backing him up. I thought he showed a lot of different aspects to his game.

The question now for Mick – and only he can answer this, I can’t answer it for him – is how he felt fighting at 122lbs as opposed to 126lbs. He’s a big kid, he’s not a small guy. So what process did he have to follow to get his weight down there? How easy was it for him to make junior featherweight and how strong and comfortable did he feel in there? 

From my perspective, the signs were good for Mick – he went the 12-round distance without a problem and did so against a guy who was very tough, very busy and came to win, came to fight.

I think the scoring was a bit crazy to be honest with you. As competitive as it was I still saw Mick winning most of the rounds – I thought it was about an 8-4 Conlan win. I couldn’t see how you could give the other kid more than four rounds. So the fact the judges has it really close very much surprised me. I don’t think that was fair or did justice to the work Conlan did, either in attack or in defence.

I don’t think I even got an hour’s sleep after the Conlan fight and then at 6 o’clock the next morning I was off to Manchester to work in Dereck Chisora’s corner, a gig I got thanks to Buddy McGirt, who trained Chisora for the fight against Joseph Parker.

Photo: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing

I’ve worked in the opposite corner to Dereck before, but never in his corner and it was an experience I really enjoyed. He’s a good guy with a good team around him. They were all very accommodating. Buddy had recommended me and they went along with that recommendation and I hope they were happy with me. Ruben Taberes also worked the corner with us and he was just great. The three of us worked together very well. Dereck responded well in the corner and to the things we were yelling to him during the fight.

So it was a great experience from a working perspective, but unfortunately, as with the Conlan fight, I had some real issues with the judging.

At worst I thought Chisora deserved a draw. I really can’t see how you could give a wide points victory to Parker, in the way that one judge did. I didn’t see that kind of fight at all. Yes, it was close, and they both had some great moments in the fight but I thought Dereck won it.

One thing that may account for some of the judging is that Dereck had a lot of success with body shots. Those sort of shots are silent killers and judges don’t always pick up on them, or see the effect they have on a fighter. I tell you Chisora was landing some truly vicious body shots, and those shots should count as equally as any jab or head shot that lands. I really felt bad for Dereck after the fight, You could sense his hurt because he just doesn’t seem to get a fair shake in close fights.

Although the result was a disappointment, it was a good experience and it was also great to catch up with a few of my friends and colleagues from the boxing world, including Joe Gallagher, Katie Taylor, Anthony Crolla and Roy Jones.

Roy was really pleased to see me and introduced me to Chris Eubank Jr, who he’s been training. The morning after the fight I also had brunch with Roy, so I had a good chance to chat with him.

He was thrilled with Eubank’s performance. Watching the fight myself with Buddy the night before we could immediately see the effect working with Roy has had on Eubank, and the new dimensions he has instilled in him.

It takes a certain type of fighter to be able to pull off the things that Roy Jones shows you. You have to be athletically gifted. You have to possess that extra speed and power that mere mortals do not have in order to execute the sort of things that Roy demands and I think Eubank has those qualities. It’s going to be a fascinating collaboration between the two of them.

Another real pleasure of the weekend was watching the fight between Katie Taylor and Natasha Jonas which was a really fantastic contest. Those ladies really put on a helluva fight.

Photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Natasha’s body shots were really ripping into Katie, and the fact she was a southpaw proved a great advantage to her. However, Katie’s hand speed and combination punching were incredible and won the day. It was truly a great fight between two fighters with contrasting styles.

It was a very close contest and I thought the judges were very accurate. Katie edged it out on the cards and that’s how I saw the fight too.

Of course, Katie has always been a great supporter of my company Rival Boxing. We’ve been with her for a long time and to me she defines the excellence and integrity that I like to see aligned with Rival Boxing.

Here’s an example of how much respect I have for Katie. In the lead-up to the fight Joe Gallagher asked me to work Natasha’s corner. I’ve never worked Natasha’s corner before and I’ve also never turned down the chance to work with one of Joe’s fighters, but in this case I said: ‘Joe, I can’t do it. I can’t work against Katie. Even though I’ve never worked her corner she’s been a Rival fighter since the second pro fight of her career. I’m not going to work against her.’

I think Joe understood. I just didn’t feel it was the right thing to do. It would have been different if I’d been working with Natasha for an extended period of time but in this case I just couldn’t do it.

A similar situation has happened a few times in the past when I’ve had calls to work the opposite corner to David Lemieux, who I knew and trained from when he was a kid up until a long way through his pro career.

I’ve turned down those approaches because – to be frank- I know they were only being made to piss off David!

It would have been different if David had been fighting someone I’ve worked with for a long time, like Callum Smith, but as a one-off to work against him? No, that’s not my style. That’s not what I’m about.

Russ Anber was talking to Luke G. Williams. 

Russ Anber is the founder/ CEO of Rival Boxing, as well as a highly respected trainer (of both pros and amateurs), a gym owner, a cut-man, an entrepreneur, a broadcaster and one of the best hand wrappers in the boxing business. Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oleksandr Usyk, Artur Beterbiev and Callum Smith are among the many top boxers Russ currently works with.