Irish Boxing Prospect, Jamie Kavanagh talks about his development and life at the Wildcard Gym

By Brendan Galbraith - Later this month, LA-based, Irish welterweight, Jamie ‘The Nuisance’ Kavanagh will make his pro debut. Kavanagh should take his pro debut in his stride, as he has already been in the ring with a pool of world-class boxers, most notably, as a sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao in preparation for his most recent fight with Joshua Clottey.

Kavanagh, a fluent Spanish speaker, is one of three Irish boxers now based at The Wildcard, the other two being Dean ‘Irish Lightning’ Byrne and Matthew “Mack The Knife” Macklin.. Kavanagh, might be familiar with many fight fans, courtesy of the entertaining videos from Fanhouse embedded reporter, the irrepressible Eli Seckbach. As Jamie says in this interview, Eli, not only keeps fight fans updated on all of the talented boxers at The Wildcard and West Coast, but his embedded videos provide entertaining cross-Atlantic communication to Kavanagh’s family in Ireland.

Dublin-born Kavanagh, moved to Malaga in Southern Spain before he was a teenager, although, by that time, he had already started his boxing apprenticeship. Once settled in Spain, he bonded with amateur coach, Sedano Ruiz, continuing his boxing education and representing Ireland at national and international level. As Kavanagh mentioned in the Q&A below, Ruiz has also made the move to LA to continue coaching the young Irishman in tandem with his main trainer, the legendary Freddie Roach. Kavanagh is managed by Steve Feder - Standing Eight Management.

In the following Q&A, Jamie provides interesting insights into life at the Wildcard Gym, his development and boxing role models.

How did you first get involved in boxing - what was the spark that made you lace up a pair of gloves?

I first started boxing when I was nine. Boxing has always been in the family my grandfathers have all boxing my uncles and cousins so it just felt right I suppose. I joined when I seen my uncle Paul first fight, we are very close and I sort of just done what he did and I feel for the sport.

Describe your boxing style

I’m an orthodox boxer; I like to work on the inside and on the outside. I move my head a lot, slipping punches and countering shots on the inside. I have good speed and the fellas in the gym have told me I hit hard, which I never felt as an amateur boxer maybe because of the style and the rhythm of the fighting, it much quicker and can’t really sit down on your shots.

Who were your boxing role models when growing up and your current favorite boxers?

I always liked Nigel Benn because he was an aggressive fighter. I also liked Prince Nassem for some reason maybe it was because he could do things that other fighters could like with his hands down. My current favourite fighter would be Manny he has the beating of everyone.

Why did you decide to turn pro?

I had it in my head to turn pro before I went to the World Championships for Ireland. My plan was to get a medal and then move on from there. I always much preferred a belt than a medal around my neck. And the only way I was getting one was turning pro hahaha!

Firstly, for those that have never been there in person, describe the Wild Card Gym?

The Wild Card isn’t a big gym I was surprised when I first walked in. There are two rings in two different connecting rooms. You think a world famous boxing gym would have the best of punching bags and best of rings and that. I don’t think Freddie believes in that. He likes to keep it ‘old school’ he built the ring with his hands and he just told me the other day he is surprised the thing stayed together. The gym does be boiling hot because of the weather in LA. I know my manager [Steve Feder] does ask Freddie, ‘you got to get some air conditioning in here’, but a gym really shouldn’t have it. There are roughly about 15 coaches in the gym including Freddie, a lot of actors training in the club and amateurs train in the afternoon from 6 onwards. But in the morning it’s a different scene that’s when the pros train two to nearly every bag and queues to enter the ring for sparring.

How often are the media in the Wildcard and when are visitors allowed to come?

Freddie lets most people come in, he never really stops anyone but if there are too many people in at once, he will ask them to leave, or else let them stay for a photo or signed glove by him if they want it. You would be surprised how many gloves he signs a day - probably 7 a day, every day - more when Manny is there training. The media are there every day for six weeks when Manny is there. It gets crazy sometimes.

Name the famous people that been to the Wildcard while you have been there?

I have met Mark Walberg, and Robert Duvall, from the Godfather, they are pretty nice guys, and loads more, but they were my favourite.

When are you making your pro debut?

I’m making my pro debut next month (April)… there should be something out next week with who I’m signing with and where I make the debut. I said I’d always like to fight in Madison Square Garden

Describe typical day training at the Wild Card?

A typical day is arriving at the Wildcard at 10 o’clock in the morning and training until about 12.30 or 1pm. But before I get to the club the training starts at 6am when I get up for a jog. Every second day I do my strength and conditioning my days off are Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Sparring days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

What did you learn most by sparring with Pacquiao?

It was more an experience rather than learning. He has amazing speed and his footwork is like I have never seen before. It is awkward and you have do be ready because sometimes he looks like he is taking it easy then explodes and attacks you from angles you didn’t know were there. For a southpaw fight it’s great because he can attack you from both sides.

What type of improvements do you feel you have made to your game since you began at the Wild Card?

I’m starting to find the shots better, taking my time and planting my feet more. Then there are other things, which are what I had coming to the Wildcard that Freddie wants to keep and also change. He does not try and change your boxing skills just betters them. He likes to work the angles and that’s were you do the damage.

What is the best advice/type of advice that Roach has given you?

Just to stay focused. He has never said to me like, ‘do this’ and ‘never do that’. Just talking to him he will tell you about when he trained this fighter that he had and what went wrong and he will say ‘I don’t know why he done that’ and it makes you think that way. But I know what he is saying to me like to keep grounded and stay in the gym. He likes to break the pads down he will do 6 or 8 rounds with you and you don’t even realize because he break’s it down and explains why you’re doing this and what not to do but keeps everything simple.

What other boxers at the gym have you bonded with or hang out with?

There are so many. I get on good with a lot of Mexican boxers because I can speak the language and I think they kind of like that you are going out of your way to speak it. They all speak English too but rather speak Spanish. I get on good with a guy from Ghana, Lateef Power Kayodee and Ray Beltran, which is a Mexican fighter I’d say them two.

How often is Elie Seckbach at the Wild Card?

Elie is at the gym once a week. I’d say some times more he is a great guy he videos guys that are up and coming and if you got to story he will video it. He stays in the gym as long as he can; he doesn’t do bad on anyone and just loves the sport. It’s great for me because LA is a long way away from Dublin and it’s a way of people keeping in contact and me keeping them updated all my friends and family love his videos. hahaha reeeeepppppoooorrrrttttiiingggg [Eli Seckbach’s addictive signature catchphrase at the end of each video is “I’m Elie Seckbach……reeeeeppporrrttiinngg].

Tell me a random thing about you that isn't common knowledge?

When Freddie isn’t training me and is off at some ones fight my second trainer Sedano Ruiz trains me he was my amateur coach and has made the move to LA to carry on training me it’s his dream too. He has trained me my whole amateur career when I made the move from Gerry Malone in Drimnagh Boxing Club to Malaga Spain. I know him 9 years and till this day he doesn’t speak a word of English, only Spanish. It’s ok we still get along just fine I speak the English for him haha

*To learn more about Jamie’s background career and his move to the Wildcard, it will be hard to find a better write-up, than the one done by Ryan Maquiñana available at:

Article posted on 08.04.2010

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