The Guru: Kerry Kayes talks about the secret cost of the lockdown, the future of boxing and working the corner

Kerry Kayes is known as ‘The Guru’ in boxing circles. He is too modest to refer to himself using that term, but here, in his debut column for Boxing Social, the man who has worked tirelessly to help others gives his thoughts on all things boxing and beyond.  

I’M KEEPING MYSELF busy doing nothing during lockdown, if that makes sense? I have done stuff like the jet washing – stuff you don’t usually get to do – and then I go out for a walk with my wife, Jan. But, look, I know I am a fortunate man because I’m not locked down in a small flat or house with lots of people in it, and I look around the world and see that a lot of people are really suffering.

I’m not a selfish man, so I think about the tragedies currently going on around the country. I can’t remove the thought from my mind that there are people who are suffering during this. It must be horrific for some people. Then you have the ones who have sadly passed on from this virus and the pain for the family they have left behind.

The situation exaggerates the reality of certain things. We all know that domestic violence existed before the lockdown. What we have now is the exacerbation of the situations people find themselves in. Being in lockdown would not make me hit my wife and being out of it would not make me do that, either. We all know that there are some very, very bad people in this world, men and women, and this situation is an awful one for far too many people so we need to bear that in mind. Some of us are very lucky and we should be vigilant about the needs of the ones who aren’t. Now more than ever, we need to look out for each other as best we can.  

It doesn’t bear thinking about, and I hope people who are in a bad situation are given the help and support they need. If you are worried about someone, anyone, then make sure you contact the many charities and organisations out there who are desperately trying to help people during these times.


AS FOR BOXING, I don’t miss it, but I’ll be glad when it is back, if that makes sense? However, I’m not as optimistic as most that boxing will get back to where it was anytime soon. I can’t see any of the massive shows returning this year, I really can’t. Logic tells me that the first job will be to put on a few fights in empty arenas so the officials and all that can spread out.

Plus, there won’t be as many fights on the cards due to the fact that the dressing rooms will have to observe social distancing because of the guidelines that have been set out by the Board. I’m privileged enough to have been in many, many dressing rooms, and the rules of social distancing don’t apply in them. I really cannot see any big, massive world title fights taking place this year, either.

The recommendation of five fights per show and social distancing – how is that going to work out? How are the small hall promoters going to get fighters out there? I really can’t seeing it happening. They will attempt to show fights on telly in empty auditoriums, but where will the atmosphere come from? How do they recreate the fans singing and the roar of the crowd? Where will that come from? I’ve seen high-level football stadiums where the football is being played behind closed doors and it is as flat as a fart. Boxing is all about the ebb and flow of the fight, and the roar of the crowd.

Within the trade, we all know that boxers don’t always get huge purses. People see them on TV and think they are getting a load of money, but a lot of them are on a percentage from the ticket sales. They are selling tickets to pay their own purses a lot of the time. What will happen to those lads who rely on selling tickets? I think they will fade away. It saddens me to even think about that possibility.

We have Steve Wood here in Manchester, a man who has worked tirelessly to promote local boxing. Steve is the first step in the conveyor belt of the careers of people like Jamie Moore, Terry Flanagan and Josh Warrington. Steve once said to me that he’d signed a boxer from Leeds whose dad was a right rum fucker so would I talk to him. That lad was Josh Warrington. Steve has produced fighters from the ground up without TV money, he survives on ticket sales and his passion for the sport.

Josh Warrington, one of Manchester fight figure Steve Wood’s numerous discoveries.

Maybe people like Eddie Hearn, Frank Warren and other big promoters will have the foresight to subsidise people like Steve as the fighters he brings through could be the big stars of the future, and we will need those stars after this is over. They don’t just appear from thin air. They get built up.


I’M ENJOYING MY current role in boxing as a cutsman and as a second. Why do you think shows have house seconds? It is because you have a proper house second who is reliable and will say ‘Ten seconds’ at the exact moment he is reaching for the stool. Then the stool is in and he’s reaching for the gum shield. Then the gum shield is washed and ready to go back in when the next round begins. As soon as the boxer stands up the stool is out, the towel is out and he is wiping the corner down. A proper house second is like a machine that helps keep everything going.

Then you’ve got boxers who have a mate in the corner so you have to say: ‘Do you want me to help?’ If they don’t you stand down and their mate will step in, and they are often fucking clueless. I do the cuts, so if I am needed I will get in and do that, but if you have someone in the corner who is just there to enjoy the fight you have to say: ‘Mate, get the stool in. Mate, the gum shield. Mate, some water’.

I’ve been in corners where they don’t even have a towel, they just want to be on TV. Dean Powell said it best when he said: “If you are in that corner, you’ve got a role to play.” Respect the cornerman and shut up unless asked. I’ve seen corners where you get too many people giving instructions.

I am very fortunate with who I have worked with: Billy Graham, Jamie Moore, Dave Coldwell, Buddy McGirt, Peter Fury, Jon Pegg – I could go on all day if we had the word count for it. What you will find, and this is all the time, is that those trainers will always say: “If you see anything give me a shout, Kerry.” It is nice as it shows they value your experience. What I’ve also found is that you might be at a show and some young kid asks you to work their corner. I’m a soft arse when it comes to fighters and can never say “No” so I agree to do it.

In those situations you are with a new trainer who might want to prove that he knows what he is looking at so won’t ask you for advice or ask you to be that extra pair of eyes. What the top, top trainers can do is ask the people around them to look out for stuff. Look at Jamie and Nigel Travis, they bounce off each other. As a cutsman, I ask the others to keep a lookout for a cut so I know where it is, how bad it is and can prepare myself for what I have to do. It is all about being a team. 

I’ve had some bad cuts in my time in the corner. I’ve never experienced a trainer having to be told that I need to be the only man in the ring if it happens. The experienced ones see a cut and tell you to get in there and do what you need to do. If you tell them you can manage they trust you. A good trainer and cutsman will work it out between themselves.

Peter Fury asked me to do cuts for him. It was for Hughie Fury against Joseph Parker, so no pressure there! It was a WBO world heavyweight title fight at the Manchester Arena and I solved the cut for them. What you will find is that if you work a corner and they get cut, and you solve it, then you will always get asked back. It is almost as if you prove yourself to them. You have to show them how you conduct yourself before the fight in the dressing room and during the ring walk.

Kayes was enlisted by Peter Fury for son Hughie’s WBO title bid against Joseph Parker (right).

I see ring walks where there are people who are there purely to get on telly. I don’t do the ring walks, I am there to work the corner so meet them there. I was once told that a photographer working a small show was asked by a second to make sure he took photos him during the fight so he could get sent copies of them after it. That, for me, says a lot about the bloke who worked that corner. It can become a social media thing. Billy would not have tolerated those types of people in the corner.


PEOPLE SAY BOXING doesn’t owe anything to anyone, but if it did then it owes a lot to Jamie Moore. We often talk about the best British fighter who fought for and didn’t win a world title, he must be the best fighter to have never fought for one. That is why it is fantastic to see him doing so well as a trainer. You’ve got someone like Carl Frampton choosing Jamie as his trainer out of respect for what he can offer you.

We know that Martin Murray and Rocky Fielding went to Jamie out of respect because of what was happening with Oliver Harrison – bless his soul – yet when you’ve got people like Tommy Coyle, Frampton and Jack Catterall seeking you out then you know you are doing well. Jamie might find this embarrassing, but what a lovely, lovely man he has been throughout his career.

It is a funny thing old thing, but I helped teach his son, Mikey, how to count. I’d be doing the weights with Jamie, who is a great dad to his two kids, and I’d be telling Mikey to count the repetitions. So his dad was training and he was learning to count at the same time. That is boxing. Jamie is the ultimate family man who also gave it his all in his fighting career. 

Kerry Kayes was talking to Terry Dooley.