Senior Boxing Journalist @JamesDielhenn
Shane McGuigan on leading Josh Taylor through tragedy to glory and reputations ‘blowing hot and cold’
"I could do other things, know what I mean? I don't have to do boxing. But I am so, so invested in my fighters"
Last Updated: 30/10/19 5:09pm
Shane McGuigan looks away and takes a deep breath when explaining the torturous build-up to the career-defining moment he shared with Josh Taylor.
"I lost my sister, and Josh's soon-to-be father-in-law passed away. We changed our gym. There were variables which could have made it a bad camp but it would never have jeopardised the fight," Taylor's trainer told Sky Sports.
"A month after my sister's passing I had Luke Campbell vs Vasiliy Lomachenko, which was the first one to overcome.
"Sleep - you don't get as much rest. Stuff is on your mind. You're irritated, angry, agitated. I have to come in to work every day and be at my best. It was very hard. But that's what has kept me going."
Boxing is in McGuigan's genes - he fought as an amateur, and his father Barry is an Irish legend. Their family was rocked by the loss of Shane's sister this year at the age of 33 but boxing has been a reprieve for them.
"I do this job because I love it. It is a family business," he said. "My dad has invested his money well. I could do other things, know what I mean? I don't have to do boxing. But I am so, so invested in my fighters.
"I think, in time, I will do other things. But I want 15-20 world champions before I get out of the game."
Taylor's victory in the World Boxing Super Series final against Regis Prograis last weekend was "the pinnacle and the one that stands out" for trainer McGuigan. Taylor is the third boxer to be led to a world title by McGuigan.
"A good one when Carl Frampton boxed in New York and became a two-weight world champion, and when George Groves finally won his world title," McGuigan said.
"I knew how much Groves deserved it, and had to battle through. He had lost three times at that level and was thinking: 'am I worthy?' Knowing those doubts, winning was a huge moment for us.
"Josh was a big underdog in America. Does it take pressure off? Maybe a little. But we're winners and we like to prove people wrong."
McGuigan on Okolie
I think Okolie will be my fourth world champion. I know how good Okolie is, because I’ve had him spar Daniel Dubois. You’ll see the best of Okolie at heavyweight because he needs people to punch at length with him. The opponent's game-plan is always to wrap him up. He needs to be sharper on the counter. Then his instinct, and the opponent's, is to smother. I’m trying to train that out of him.
McGuigan on Campbell
He is continually improving. We want the Devin Haney fight, a world title fight. Lomachenko was always going to be a tough task to overcome – our game-plan was to hit him hard early, and get his respect. Maybe we hit him too hard, too early, and made it a negative fight. We tried to counter everything he did – if we had another chance maybe we’d be more patient because the elite fighters never rush.
McGuigan is too well-schooled in the sport that his family are synonymous in to get overawed by the praise coming his way for Taylor's gutsy and skilled victory over Prograis.
"Trainers don't blow hot and cold, we're steady, but our reputations do," he said. Rob McCracken took stick when Anthony Joshua lost, being the most obvious recent example.
McGuigan continued: "Right now with Taylor winning, I'm hot. You can't get wrapped up in it."
He has had major defeats when he didn't allow himself to absorb the negativity. McGuigan was in David Haye's corner for defeat against Tony Bellew, Groves' corner for defeat against Callum Smith, and Campbell's against Lomachenko.
McGuigan is still just 31, but is accustomed to pitting his wits against trainers who have been in the game for longer. He led Lawrence Okolie past Yves Ngabu who had Dominic Ingle by his side, for example.
But McGuigan is taken aback by comparisons.
"More experienced? I don't think they are more experienced. How many world champions have you got?
"I believe I'm the best trainer out there. As arrogant as that sounds, that's how you've got to be.
"[Experience] can be a detriment to them because they get stuck in their ways and don't think about things from another perspective.
"Sports science, and boxing, are constantly evolving. I had this conversation with my dad. There is now much more emphasis on snappy punches. Back in the day, there was more emphasis on combinations. Now, skinny guys who didn't used to be good on the inside can hold their feet because of their strength and conditioning training.
"The game is evolving and sometimes if you're an old coach you are stuck in your ways when it comes to getting people physically sharp.
"Ingle may think that what worked with Naz will work with everyone else, but it won't. Adam Booth? What worked with David Haye won't work with someone who doesn't have his power, like Josh Kelly. You've got to adapt to your fighters."
Taylor is one of five boxers (with Malik Zinad, Luke Campbell, Lawrence Okolie and Chris Billam-Smith) now trained by McGuigan but the new unified world super-lightweight champion is becoming his standout project. He and Taylor have adapted to each other, McGuigan explained.
He continued: "When I worked with Haye and Groves I had to reassess because I couldn't work combinations with them. I had Taylor on my books who punched to the body in combinations - Haye couldn't throw more than two punches at a time without being exhausted. Groves, with Paddy Fitzpatrick, tried to increase his punch volume but it decreased his power so he was less effective. George always needs to be throwing less shots but setting them up with full venom. As a coach you have to take your own methods out and say: 'What is best for this guy?'"
Campbell and Okolie will be McGuigan's fourth and fifth world champions, he insists, but his stable of boxers will not dramatically increase. He is not, it is made clear, a hired gun.
"Unless a really big-name fighter came along I won't take on anymore. I trained Lee McGregor for a year, and he stayed at my house, then changed camps. I don't want to invest four or five years of my life, then they leave. As a coach you can't tie people in - you can as a manager.
"I am selective with who I work with.
"It has to work for me, as much as it works for them. Fighters don't get that because they are so wrapped up in themselves. They think: 'I'll message him and he'll do it'.
"No, it doesn't work like that."
Live on Sky Sports on Saturday evening from Manchester, Katie Taylor aims to become a two-weight world champion against Christina Linardatou and Anthony Crolla fights for the last time before retiring.
Then we head straight to Vegas for Kovalev vs Canelo.