Liam Cullen Interview
Male model Liam Cullen is now primed to strut through Britain’s fast evolving cruiserweight division.
After just a handful of amateur bouts, the gifted Mancunian knocked up three pro wins in 2010 before illness derailed his ring ambitions.
This Saturday, the classy 27 year old box-fighter returns in a four rounder, against Bulgaria’s seasoned Tayar Mehmed at The Echo Arena in Liverpool tomorrow night (Saturday 7th December).
Remaining tickets are available from the Liverpool Echo Arena Box Office on 0844 8000 400 or online at www.echoarena.com
Name: Liam Cullen
Family background: I’ve just got one sister who’s six years older. There’s not been any other boxers in the family. Today I live in Northwich, Cheshire with my missus. No kids.
Trade: I do some male modelling to make ends meet. I sort of fell into it by accident but it’s served me well. I did a bit with JJB Sports before they went bust and I was a ‘poster boy’ for Canterbury rugby gear.
Nickname: I’ve managed to steer clear of that, so far.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? As a youngster there were always a few Tyson tapes floating about which I enjoyed watching. Where I grew up, on the Bagley estate in Wythenshawe, you had to be able to scrap. As kids, we’d ‘have it out’ over nothing.
I started training at 18 and had my first amateur bout at 19.
What do you recall of your amateur career? After my first session at the boxing gym, I never went back for a good few weeks because I found the training so hard.
The first gym I was at closed down so I moved to Jimmy Egan’s Boxing Academy and had all of my five amateur bouts from there. The coaches were Steve Egan and his brother Shaun.
Funnily enough, my first ever spar was against Tyson Fury! He was massive even then but we had good spars and I got a lot of confidence from that.
Over a four year time period, I had just five bouts. I was plagued with a lot of injuries. I won four, then lost a close affair on points to Matty Askin on his club show. A few of those bouts were on Vauxhall Motors shows which (current gym mates) Paul Butler and Matty Fagan both boxed on.
I never entered the ABAs or boxed international.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? After a break because of injuries, I returned to do some training at The Champ’s Camp Gym in Moss Side. Then I went away to Australia for a bit.
When I returned to the UK, I linked back up with the old Phoenix Gym in Denton and did a lot of sparring with (ex ABA champion) Hosea Burton.
In 2010, I had three pro fights (all points wins) but then got ill with swine flu and pneumonia. I became broke, down on my luck, so needed to back off from the boxing and pull a wage in.
I always continued to do a bit of training and sparring at my old amateur gym. One of the kids there, Kofi Yates, went pro with ‘Arnie’ (ex WBU middleweight champion Anthony Farnell), so I went down there with him in the middle of this year and got all me medicals done again.
Tell us about your back up team: I’m managed and promoted by Frank Warren and coached by ‘Arnie’. ‘Arnie’s’ been there and experienced everything himself as a fighter, plus he’s brilliant on the pads; very technical. He shows me what and when to throw.
I also work with a personal trainer called Nick Wright. He was a very clever lad when we were at school and his conditioning methods are very science specific.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I’ve been working constantly at ‘Arnie’s’ gym since the summer, gelling with him as a coach and studying all the other fantastic championship level fighters at his gym such as Paul Butler, Matty Hall and Mark Thompson.
Monday to Friday, I commute to ‘Arnie’s’ gym from Northwich on the train. It’s probably a three hour round trip but I get a good chance to rest up on the way back. At weekends, I do some running and strength and conditioning work locally.
I’ll arrive at the gym for 12ish and I’ll stay between two and three hours. There’s no set routine so I never know what to expect. A standard session might be something like a warm up, some pads and body-bag with Arnie, then the bar-bag routine. Pretty staple stuff. We’ll finish with circuits that vary drastically but are hugely beneficial.
I most enjoy the pads and body belt with ‘Arnie’, even though he hits you quite a lot. I’m learning all the time then can take the skills into my sparring. I’ve done a lot of speed sparring with Mark Thompson recently and also sparred Matty Askin recently.
The worst bit about training would have to be the running. I’m okay if we do it as a group but it gets very lonely out on the roads at night in winter!
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I rely a lot on reflexes. My favourite boxer is Roy Jones Jnr who just blows my mind. I really study him and try to get some of his skills working for me. I’m a decent counter puncher, I like the right hand and left hook. I’m 6ft 1in tall so also like to get busy with the jab. My defence is improving.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? We’re working hard on getting me to go forward more, cutting down the ring, fighting in a more aggressive manner.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? No head guards and gloves with far less cushion. The head guards would restrict your peripheral vision, anyway. The amateurs were a bit ‘ticcy-tac’ whereas in the pros you’re looking to really sink shots in and hurt your opponent. The pace in the pros is more settled. You can take your time to find the shots that will do most damage.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? That would have to be sparring Tyson Fury. Though he was a couple of years younger than me, he was already more physically mature. His arms were so long he could land jabs on you when he was stood on the other side of the ring!
All time favourite fighter: Roy Jones Jnr. I liked his unorthodoxy. He tore the rule book up and did the unexpected; led with his right hand or threw four successive left hooks.
All time favourite fight: The Gatti-Ward trilogy. Three class fights. Those two fought tooth and nail; just bit on their gumshields and whacked away.
Which current match would you most like to see made? Floyd Mayweather against Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather wins. You never bet against Mayweather. He’s too clever.
What is your routine on fight day? No matter what’s going on, I always wake up early. However, I’ll make sure that I stay well rested and as relaxed as possible throughout the day.
I’m not a very organised person so I’ll need to locate and pack all my gear. I like to try to enjoy the day, stay loose and take everything in.
For breakfast I’ll have porridge –better the devil you know – or perhaps an egg omelette. For lunch I’ll have something like a chicken salad.
I like to stay occupied and might watch boxing DVDs or play ‘Street Fighter’ on my Play Station to help keep my eye on the prize!
In the changing room, I’m pretty laid back. I keep myself calm and focussed.
Entrance music: I’m seriously thinking about a tune I heard on a Tesco’s ad recently. It had a good rhythm to it.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? To achieve all that I’m capable of. I’d love to fight for a Central Area title within the next 12 months – after about 10 fights – then work my way up. A British title would be amazing.
How do you relax? I chill with my missus and play Play Station. I also like to do a bit of cooking.
Football team: I was brought up to follow Man City but after all those years of heartache, I don’t really pay too much attention these days.
Read: I’ve read a few boxing biographies, like Lennox Lewis and Teddy Atlas.
Music: Motown and a bit of rock. I like Al; Green and Lionel Ritchie
Films/TV: I like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. On TV, I have a little watch of ‘Corrie’ with the missus and enjoy series like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos.
Aspiration in life: Family is the number one thing. I’d love a good close family that did all that we wanted and enjoyed our time together.
Motto: Quitters Never Win. Winners Never Quit!
Watch the whole Echo Arena show – also featuring Liam Smith’s British title defence against Mark Thompson, the WBO European Lightweight clash between Stephen Ormond and Derry Mathews, plus Paul Butler’s WBO/WBA Intercontinental Super-Flyweight showdown against Ruben Montoya, and Enzo Maccarinelli defending his Commonwealth light-heavyweight title against Courtney Fry, live and exclusive on BoxNation, The Channel of Champions from 7pm on Saturday evening (Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546). Join at www.boxnation.com