Heavyweight Watch: Izuagbe Ugonoh

Kevin Barry is currently coaching Las Vegas based (by way of New Zealand) heavyweight prospect Joseph Parker. However Joseph Parker isn’t the only talented heavyweight Barry is training, he also has 28 year old Polish heavyweight Izuagbe Ugonoh (10-0-0) on his training books, and he thinks Ugonoh like Parker has the potential to be a world class heavyweight.

Ugonoh has been refining his skills sparring the likes of Bermane Stiverne, and later this year he will accompany Parker and Barry to spar with heavyweight King pin Vladimir Klitschko as Klitschko’s prepares for his April bout with challenger Bryant Jennings. Kevin Barry talks about how he came across Ugonoh and his development as a fighter.

Tell us about Izuagbe Ugonoh the young heavy you’re now training and how he came to be in your gym?

Kenny Adams whose a well-respected coach, he’s trained a bunch of world champions, he goes right back, he was the Olympic amateur coach, he rings me and tells me he’s got this African boy in the gym, I know you’ve got a good heavyweight boy (Joseph Parker) that’s the world around town, would you be interested in some sparring.

Your first impressions of Izu?

He trained hard and gave Joe a hell of a spar. I could immediately see that he was a good athlete. I said to Joe this guy can really fight. We need to get some more of this.
I found out that he was born in Poland, from Nigerian parents and he was a former world kickboxing champion.

What happened next?

He (Izu) has a big falling out with his trainer and Joe and I were pretty much seeing it happening in front of us. Joe said I should talk to him about coming to train with us and I was like really. Just a measure of the type of kid Joe is, a lot of fighters get very territorial, especially with fighters in their own weight division.

You asked him to come and train with you and Joe?

Coincidentally William Miller the manager of Izu calls me up and he said would I be interested in doing a session with Izu and I said sure. So I did that, trained him for an hour, Bill (William Miller) just sat there, watched and never said a word.

How did that session go?

I coach with passion and intensity, I’m wasn’t pussy footing around with him. I start throwing jabs at him, explaining that you turn your knuckles over, driving them into the side of the guy’s head while you’re making this angle, helps open up his temple. He listened attentively, his eyes never left me and I liked that. Bill asked me to take him on full time.

Easy decision to make to start coaching him?

A decision I had to think through as talented as he was, there was no way I was just going to say yes, I needed to talk to my wife and Joe. There is a fine balance as a trainer and if the chemistry isn’t right it can really upset the apple cart.

How did the chat with Joe go?

I sat down with Joe and said you’re up at 5.30 every morning running five miles, where in the gym we do our boxing session at 11 O clock, we do strength and conditioning at 5 O Clock at night, we’ve got the opportunity to have someone do that with you, plus the added bonus of quality sparring on tap for you both. Joe didn’t even blink an eye, he got it and accepted it.

How is Izu developing?

Izu is a great athlete, a work in progress as a boxer, it’s early days, months not years, he’s a guy whose spent years and years and years as a kick boxer, he stands to straight up, I needed to teach him to sit down on his punches and that has being the biggest developmental thing for him.

What else are you working on with him?

I’m also teaching him to work up and down the body, when he arrived here he never had any form of a body attack at all, his stance through his kick boxing left a number of gaps down the centre, gaps which I’ve closed up now.

What do you have in store for 2015 for Izu?

I actually think that this young man will have a break out year in 2015. He is fighting a six rounder in Auckland on Joes undercard on March 5, he’ll fight and eight rounder in May, he’ll fight his first 10 rounder in July and once we start fighting 10 rounder’s I’ll be able to pick him up a regional title by the end of the year. So yeah a big year ahead for Izo.

Good place to be as a coach?

In Izu I have one hell of an athlete and that goes hand in hand with the Joe Parker who is one hell of an athlete, so at the moment I think I’ve got a fantastic 1-2 punch that could really make some noise in the heavyweight division.