It’s an endorsement of hot Blaengwynfi light-middleweight Aled Cook’s potential that reigning WBO World Light-Heavy king Nathan Cleverly has taken out a manager’s licence to help guide him to the top.
A four time British junior gold medallist, the 18-year-old is coached by Cleverly’s father Vince, at the family gym in Bargoed. Ahead of his paid debut this Saturday, Aled spoke at length to boxing writer Glynn Evans about his amateur past and professional aspirations.
Watch the whole ‘Red Mist’ event – headlined by the unmissable WBO World Light-Heavyweight collision between Nathan Cleverly and unbeaten Russian KO king Sergey Kovalev, plus Gary Buckland’s British Super-Featherweight title defence against Stephen Smith and Commonwealth Light-Heavyweight Champion Ovill McKenzie’s rematch against Enzo Maccarinelli – live and exclusive in the UK on BoxNation (Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546) from 7pm. Join at www.boxnation.com
Name: Aled Cook
Born: Neath, Port Talbot
Family background: I’m the youngest of four brothers and I’ve also got one younger sister. My oldest brother Stephen had ten amateur fights, eight victories, and he won a Welsh Novice title before packing up. Today, I live with my brother in Blaengwynfi, up the valleys.
Trade: I’m a full time pro. After leaving school, I studied sports science for a year at college.
Nickname: Just ‘Cookie’.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? Around the age of nine, I used to go and watch my brother box as an amateur. It looked good so I decided to start up myself.
What do you recall of your amateur career? I boxed for the Gwynfi ABC and was coached by John Radmore. My record was 50 fights, 45 wins. I won five Welsh junior titles and four British (junior) gold medals plus a British silver. Winning my first Welsh junior title after just four bouts, aged ten, was definitely the highlight of my amateur career.
I must have represented Wales about 20 times and I only lost the once, to a Turk at the World Cadets. I also boxed at the European Cadets, the Brandenburg Cup in Germany and twice at the Tammer tournament in Finland. I won gold medals both times. Three times I won for Wales against England in junior internationals, beating Sean McDonagh, Isaac McCloud from Sunderland and John Reynolds from West Ham.
I spent a month up in Sheffield with the Team GB Development squad sparring the likes of Joey Cordina, Sam Maxwell and Sean McGoldrick. I enjoyed my time in the amateurs.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? It had always been my intention to box professional as soon as I turned 18. However, I did feel there was a lot of favouritism towards the English boys up in Sheffield and I didn’t get the opportunities that I deserved.
Tell us about your back up team: I’m promoted by Frank Warren Promotions, managed by Nathan Cleverly and jointly coached by Nathan’s father Vince and a guy called Alan Davies.
Vince focuses on my speed and getting me punching fit, Alan concentrates more on my power. They compliment each other well.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? Since January, I’ve been training at the Cleverly Gym, called The Church Palace, up in Bargoed. Initially I was due to make my professional debut in May but that fell through. I’ve been ticking over there since, gradually picking the pace up ready for Saturday.
I’ll usually wake up around 7a.m then go for a four mile run up the valley hills. I’ll be in the Cleverly gym between twelve and two, I’ll do some light weights and a circuit around four and might even have another light jog at night.
At the Cleverly gym, I’ll begin with a bit of skipping, some light shadow boxing and stretching. I’ll do about eight rounds on the pads, split between Vince and Alan, then go on the heavy bag for four rounds. I’ll also use the speed ball and the floor to ceiling ball for rhythm and co-ordination. After that, I’ll do my stomach work then I finish off dipping under and over a rope across the ring.
Occasionally, I do a bit of sparring with Nathan but he’s obviously a lot bigger so usually I have to go away (to spar). I’ve done some work with Tom Baker and Tony Pace.
My favourite part of training is the technique work that I do on the pads, practising new shots. It’s hard work, mind. I least like running. The last stretch really takes it out of you but you just have to keep pushing on. Sometimes I run with Nathan who used to be Welsh junior cross country champion. It’s a real push to keep up with him.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I’m basically an orthodox box-fighter who takes his time and throws fast, hard combinations. I can adapt to whatever style is in front of me. I stopped about half in the amateurs so there’s a bit of power there.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? Getting experience through sparring and staying active in the right fights. I’ve also got a hard right hand but Vince says I need to throw it more.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? The amateur game was all about quick bursts. The pros is more about planting your feet and picking your shots. You need to be more patient as a pro. I’m adapting fine.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? I’d have to be Nathan (Cleverly). The first four rounds I just about manage to stay with him but after that he’s a nightmare. He’s so fit and just keeps coming at you. His jab is so quick you literally can’t see it coming. Thankfully, I’ve got decent footwork that helps keep me out of his way.
All time favourite fighter: Floyd Mayweather. He’s got everything; speed, skill, power. He’s also a great thinker who uses the ring well.
All time favourite fight: The Gatti-Ward fights. Constantly back and forth at each other. Craziness!
Which current match would you most like to see made? Personally, I’d still like to see Mayweather-Pacquiao. It’d be a good close fight for the first six rounds but Floyd would gradually outbox him then take him out.
What is your routine on fight day? I’ll wake between 8.30-9a.m and have either porridge or cereal for breakfast. In the morning I’ll just chill out; take my Jack Russell for a walk or watch TV.
At lunchtime, I’ll eat something light; pasta or chicken and rice to keep my energy levels up. Afternoon, I’ll probably just listen to some music.
At the venue, I do get nervous but I try to stay calm and go over the fight in my head. In the changing room I always try to get a good sweat on before I go to the ring.
Entrance music: I’ve not sorted that out yet.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? I’ve been boxing since I was nine and it’s always been my dream to become a world champion. One fight at a time. I’m still only 18 so I’ve plenty of time to develop and realise my goal.
How do you relax? Unfortunately there’s not a great deal going on up the valleys. I like to go for walks or just chill out with my mates; maybe go the cinema. I used to play a bit of football when I was younger.
Football team: Swansea City. Sometimes I go down with my mates.
Read: I read The Sun newspaper and Boxing News sometimes but I don’t like reading books. Too long.
Music: Country music.
Films/TV: Gladiator is my all-time favourite film. On TV, I watch EastEnders and I like Top Gear on a Sunday evening.
Aspiration in life: To live a good life, be happy and have no regrets.
Motto: Train hard, fight easy.