The COVID-19 lockdown in England is lifting, but as of last week, Buddy McGirt was simply hoping for some warm spring weather.
“It's cool, but everything is closed, so it sucks,” he said of his stay across the pond. “They have things open, but you can't eat inside, and it's cold.”
Sounds like the California resident is getting a reminder of the weather in his hometown of Long Island.
“At least in Long Island we know what to expect. Here, the sun could be shining one minute and the next minute it's cold outside.”
I let him know it’s in the 60s back in New York.
“You're making me feel bad now,” he laughs.
Cold or warm, indoor dining or not, there is work to be done, which is why McGirt took the Transatlantic flight to work with none other than former world heavyweight title challenger Dereck Chisora. If it sounds like an odd pairing, it is, but McGirt has never been one to shy away from a challenge, and trying to get Chisora past Joseph Parker on May 1 while reigniting the 37-year-old Londoner’s title hopes is just that.
But how did this whole alliance come together? You wouldn’t believe it if I told you, but it’s not so surprising for 2021.
“He hit me on Instagram and asked me for my number,” said McGirt of his introduction to Chisora. “I gave it to him, he called me and we talked and I said, 'Well, listen, how about we spend a few days together and see where we're at?' Then (Chisora’s manager) David Haye hit me, I came out for a week and everything was cool. Then he (Chisora) told me, I think we can do this. I said, ‘All right,’ and here we are.”
It’s almost like the way Roberto Duran and Ray Arcel connected. Yeah, not quite. Did the old school McGirt ever think he would start working with a fighter thanks to social media?
“No, not at all,” he laughs. “That's what really tripped me out.”
Now working with Chisora in England, McGirt is getting a firsthand look at what his fighter will be bringing to the table six months after a spirited effort against Oleksandar Usyk last October. Chisora pushed the former cruiserweight champ for 12 rounds before losing a close decision, and that’s put him in good stead heading into his bout with New Zealand’s Parker. But McGirt isn’t one to be going through tape before the fight. He wants to see the present, not the past.
“I don't look at no tape,” he said. “I look at what I got in front of me and each day I put the pieces of the puzzle together and see what I've got to work with, the strengths and the weaknesses. He's been doing this a long time, so you can't come in here and try to make him fight like a boxer - moving around, sticking and moving - that's not in him. So I gotta take what works for him and make it work better for him.”
It’s a smart approach to take and the one you expect from someone who has been there and done that, not just as a trainer, but as a former world champion. And when it comes to those precious 60 seconds in between rounds of a tough fight, few know what that feels like quite like McGirt. A fighter will react to a coach like that in the gym and in the ring, so despite being 42 bouts into his career, Chisora is willing to listen. And learn.
“When we're in the gym and he's sparring and I'm talking to him, he looks at me like he wants to kill somebody, but he takes it in and he goes out and he executes,” McGirt said. “I told him, sometimes it might not work the first two times, but we gotta keep at it until we get it, and he understands that. But the most important thing was, he said to me, I want to learn. Not too many fighters are gonna tell you that, especially guys at his stage of their career. He said, I'm like a kid, I want to learn. That made it a little easier for me.”
That declaration by Chisora did come as a bit of a shock to McGirt.
“Yeah, because most guys are set in their ways,” he said. “And he's set in his ways in certain things, but when it comes to the learning part, it's like this: I said it before and I'll say it again, you can tell a person to do something, but you've got to show them. And I told him I don't want you to do it the same way I'm doing it. Let's just get the same result.”
The result McGirt is looking for on May 1 is a win by any means necessary. As for what happens on May 2 and beyond, he says, “I'm gonna see what happens in this fight. I'm gonna leave that up to him.”
Come on Buddy, wouldn’t it be nice to be the trainer of the heavyweight champion of the world?
“You know what, I believe anybody who gets in that ring and becomes a world champion, to me it doesn't matter what weight you are - you're a champion,” he said. “That's an accomplishment within itself. But right now, my main concern is just Joseph Parker.”
Buddy McGirt, trainer of the heavyweight champion?
“I'm not thinking that far ahead. Let's get through this first.”