Sport

Veteran trainer John Breen could turn back on pro boxing after losing Lewis Crocker

Respected trainer John Breen is considering bringing an end to his 28-year career as a pro coach. Picture by Hugh Russell
Respected trainer John Breen is considering bringing an end to his 28-year career as a pro coach. Picture by Hugh Russell

VETERAN trainer John Breen has admitted he could turn his back on professional boxing in the wake of Lewis Crocker’s decision to leave his Belfast gym.

Talented 20-year-old Crocker has followed the lead of a host of Irish fighters by signing a management deal with Macklin’s Gym Marbella (MGM), and will now be trained by up-and-coming coach Ray Ginley.

It comes as a major blow to Breen, who only started training Crocker in September after the former Holy Trinity prospect decided to walk away from the amateur game.

Just four months later and he has swapped Breen’s Gym for the growing MGM stable, leaving the experienced trainer to ponder his own future in the sport.

“There’s no loyalty in boxing now,” said 66-year-old Breen, who first started training fighters at Barney Eastwood’s Castle Street gym in 1989 and has worked with five world champions.

“It’s very annoying, it knocks the heart out of you. I’m really thinking very heavily about packing it in.

“I can’t compete with them (MGM) - they’re signing up everybody, it’s not just here, it’s everywhere.

“Somebody asked me at the end of last year about running an amateur gym and I said I’d think about it. You get more loyalty from kids these days than you get out of adults.”

Breen claims the last time he saw Crocker was when the welterweight banger sparred Paddy Gallagher a month before Gallagher’s British title fight eliminator with Tamako Mucha last November.

A last-minute nose operation put paid to Crocker’s hopes of making his pro debut on the Jamie Conlan-headlined show at Belfast’s Titanic Exhibition Centre on November 5.

And Breen claims that episode signalled the beginning of the end of their short working relationship.

He continued: “He still wanted to box on the bill. I told him there was no chance of him boxing on the bill - I knew then he would leave me.

“I had done a deal for him to fight a six rounder on the bill because I was picking the opponent, and last week I got a text from him saying he hadn’t fought in a year and I was putting him in for a six rounder in his first fight – he wanted to fight a four rounder.

“The way I saw it, he was sparring five rounds with Paddy Gallagher, and the five rounds were competitive.

“I was picking the opponent for Lewis, Frank Warren gave me a list of names and asked me which one I wanted to take so it would have been a handy fight.”

Ray Ginley yesterday tipped his new charge to go to “the very top” of the pro game, and Breen also believes Crocker has huge potential, saying: “I genuinely believe the kid could win a world title within two years.”

Crocker is not the first fighter to leave Breen for MGM in recent years, with Jamie Conlan and Marc McCullough both opting for pastures new.

Among the other Irish boxers to have hooked up with the Puerto Banus-based outfit are Olympians Michael Conlan (on a management deal, although he will be promoted by Top Rank) and Paddy Barnes, 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Steven Ward, Tyrone McKenna and Tyrone McCullagh, while they yesterday confirmed the signing of featherweight Ciaran McVarnock.