Luke Keeler [13(5)-2(1)] opened eyes when he explained in a brilliant interview with Paul Gibson how life for most boxers was more graft than glamour.
For those without promotional might, selling tickets was as important as sparring rounds in the lead-up to fights.
Over his 15-fight career to date, the Ballyfermot middleweight’s honours degree in structural engineering was as important to him as any fight schooling as he had work full time to stay afloat.
‘Cool Hand’ hasn’t done too bad a job of forging a name for himself in the pro ranks winning the BUI Celtic and the Irish title of late, but did often express a desire to train full time in a bid to better his big fight chances – and has undergone big changes in recent months.
The 30-year-old has signed on with managerial outfit MTK Global and swapped trainer Paschal Collins in Corduff for Pete Taylor in Bray – and feels like a different fighter ahead of his return on the SK Promotions ‘Collision Course’ show at the Citywest this Saturday night.
Keeler explained to Irish-Boxing.com how “I’m smiling in training, all the lads are saying it.”
“The difference between full-time training and what I was doing previously is night and day. It’s only after committing fully have I realised how badly I was preparing last few years with work commitments and family life.”
“I always had a gnawing feeling, a stressed feeling. I was acting the bollocks in work and training, so I always had a headache around it all. Now I’m driving out to Bray, coming early and getting extra bits done – whereas I always getting stick for being late.”
“I’m fitter now after four weeks than I was in full camp for the Irish title. I have no stress with work and I am completely focused on improving my boxing. I have time to rest and eat correctly too. It has already changed me mentally and physically.”
“You take confidence from the training you’re doing, nevermind the improvements, mentally it’s a big thing.”
“In my first fight back [after the second loss to Tom Doran] against Bradley Pryce, I dropped him. If I had the confidence in my tank I would have ran in – but I didn’t have it.”
The change in circumstances dovetails with a change in location for Keeler, and the former Celtic Warriors man believes he is benefitting from a change in camp ahead of a warm-up fight this weekend in Dublin and then an all-Irish clash with Conrad Cummings in Belfast on April 21st.
Keeler outlined how “Paschal was brilliant and I couldn’t thank him enough for how he brought me on but you learn something new from each coach you work with and that combined with me also committing fully to boxing has meant I’m improving each session and spar. I’ll be a different animal this year.”
“Pete, I can’t recommend him enough. It’s all High Performance stuff. He’s telling me certain moves and they’re working, everything’s working lovely in four, five weeks. You’ll see in the Citywest.”
Now training alongside European Youth gold medalist Gary Cully and Rio Olympian Davey Oliver Joyce, Keeler is enjoying the all-encompassing nature of his new camp.
“It’s different level stuff,” he notes. “They’re elite, high-performance fighters and I’m buzzing being around that and working with them. I’m coming on so much.”
“We’re doing sprints. The way we trained in Paschal’s we sort of did the running ourselves – but it’s great to get out with the lads. The lad Gary Cully is a freak of nature, it’s nearly annoying how quick he is. So I’m killing myself trying to keep up with them and literally collapsing after each round. You don’t do that on your own. ”
“He [Taylor] is looking after the strength, the running side of things, it’s all in one and he puts in a considerable amount of hours. We’re doing two sessions a day, four days a week.”
Keeler admits that training under Taylor has gone even better than expected and laughed at how “it’s probably a cliche saying I’m doing so great – all fighters say that when they’ve changed coach – but I’m even surprised myself how well it’s going.”
“It’s like he has a point to prove again. People, even myself, put Katie’s success down to her being a complete one-off. But everything he shows us, his discipline, the work he puts in, he deserves great credit – more credit than I gave him, without knowing him.”
“That will shine through with his fighters in the pro game and he’ll start getting the credit.”
On Saturday night Keeler will take on durable Pole Michal Ciach [1(1)-3(0)], a physically larger opponent, over six rounds.
The Ballyfermot fighter though is anticipating a knockout, especially having undergone shoulder surgery to correct a long-standing issue which prevented him from throwing right straights with any sort of power and completely preventing right hooks.
Keeler reasoned how “I wasn’t getting full extension in the right and I neglected the right hook because it was in pain. I’ve gone to full extension now with the right and I’m hurting guys in sparring.”
“I don’t like saying it – and I don’t think he [Ciach] has ever been stopped in the pros, he looks like a big lump – but genuinely I don’t think he’s going to stand up to the shots.”
“It’s come on a bit quick, so I wouldn’t really call it a camp – but it’s the first prolonged period I’ve had training with no distractions.
“I can’t see him taking the shots, I’m landing so clean and my timing is good. I reckon I’m going to do him, it might even be in the first round.”