Cook has found right recipe for boxing success
PUBLISHED: 08:00 06 January 2017
Trainer reflects on long career in sport
Paul Cook followed his amateur and pro career by becoming successful coach, guiding his son Nicky to World, European, British and Commonwealth titles and Colin Lynes on a career that brought an IBO world title, plus British and European belts.
The Dagenham trainer took Kevin Mitchell to amateur honours, followed by the British and Commonwealth titles, and the lightweight never lost a bout – amateur or professional – with Cook in his corner.
These days, as a very fit 58-year-old, Cook runs the West Thurrock Boxing and Fitness gym in Memorial Road with partner Alan Mortlock, coaching prospects such as unbeaten cruiserweight Mark Little.
And he shares his thoughts with boxing correspondent Len Whaley in a special Q&A session.
LW: What are your earliest boxing memories?
PC: I was not involved in boxing at all as a schoolboy in Newham. We were playing football when a big guy hacked me down three times. I chased him across the playground to punch him and when a teacher saw that he ordered me to report to the gym’s boxing ring.
He thought my opponent would teach me a lesson, but the opposite happened, so the teacher entered me for the schoolboy championships.
I won some bouts and I joined West Ham when Jimmy Batten was there, also Ricky Grover who was a quite a comedian even in those days. I won a junior ABA title and later turned pro, when I was living in Bethnal Green.
LW: Who is your favourite fighter?
PC: My number one of all time has to be Sugar Ray Leonard. He was a superb fighter who won world titles in five weight divisions in an outstanding career.
Just look at some of the great champions who were around at the time – Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler. Leonard beat them all.
LW: What is your favourite-ever fight?
PC: Mickey Ward v Arturo Gatti in the third of the magnificent trilogy that has it’s own place in boxing history. They were legendary fights.
LW: What is your highest point in boxing?
PC: It has to be when my son Nicky beat Alex Arthur to win the WBO World super-featherweight title in Manchester in 2008.
They were expecting Nicky to be more aggressive but our plan was for him to box his way to victory and it worked as he won a unanimous decision. It was not a thriller but he finished as world champion.
Truthfully, I thought his best performance was at Wembley four years earlier when he stopped unbeaten European champion and French fighter Cyril Thomas in nine rounds.”
LW: What is your saddest moment in boxing?
PC: The lowest point has to be when Nicky lost his last fight inside a round against Ricky Burns for the same WBO super-featherweight title in Liverpool in 2011, because of the recurring back problem that forced him to retire from the ring.
After he retired I suggested we could work together as a training team but Nicky honestly told me ’I’ve been involved in boxing for 20 years, now I would like to try something different’ so he started a painting business and is doing well.
LW: What is the fight you would like to see in 2017?
PC: It would be interesting to see James Degale take on Chris Eubank Junior – a super-middleweight fight that could be a great contest.
I rate Eubank highly and now he is stepping up from the middleweight division a clash with DeGale would be a big attraction if they both come through their world title contests scheduled in the weeks ahead.
LW: Who are the trainers you most admire?
PC: I have always admired the work of another West Ham old boy Jimmy Tibbs, for his successful career training fighters over the past 30 years.
He has looked after so many champions in various weight divisions, getting it right in the gym and in the corner.
LW: What is your favourite activity away from boxing?
PC: None really. My involvement in boxing takes up most of my time, although I like a day at the races and have enjoyed top meetings around the country.
LW: What are your musical tastes?
PC: I will go for Sade, who I rate as my number one.