Rising Scottish heavyweight star Gary “The Highland Sting” Cornish is eager to prove he’s the real deal by become the country’s first ever world champion.
Despite nominal amateur breeding, the 6ft 7in ‘Highlander’ has quietly amalgamated 16 wins as a professional, with eight victims – including the last four – being sent for an early shower.
London fans can take another look at the 26 year old joiner tomorrow when he collides with Croatia’s former K1 fighter Ivica Perkovic over six rounds this Saturday at the Copper Box Arena.
Remaining tickets for the Rock The Box 2 show are available from the Eventim Box Office on 0844 249 1000 or at eventim.co.uk
Name: Gary Cornish
Family background: I’ve a younger sister and three older brothers. Two are a similar size to what I am – one’s a wee bit shorter. None of the other brothers boxed but I believe an uncle boxed in the army. I live in Inverness and I’ve got two sons, aged six and three.
Trade: I’ve been a joiner for ten years, since I left school.
Nickname: ‘Highlander’. Inverness is the capital of the Scottish Highlands.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? My older brothers always picked on me so I had to become a scrapper by necessity. Things have changed around a bit now, mind!
That said, I was quite a late starter to boxing. As a youngster I was far more into my football and I played centre forward at quite a good level. I only started going to the boxing gym around the age of 18 or 19 to get fitter for the football but the coach there suggested I had a spar and I just loved it.
What do you recall of your amateur career? It was frustrating because, due to my size, I really struggled to get fights and I had hardly any sparring. In four years, I had just nine bouts. I won them all, five by stoppage.
I represented the Inverness City ABC and was coached by Laurie Redfern. I had my first contest at 19 or 20 and I went on to win the Scottish ABA super-heavyweight title. That was probably the highlight of my amateur career.
I also boxed for a Scottish Select side against an English Select side at a town hall in London. I stopped a boy called Daniel in about 40 seconds, my quickest kayo.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? I was really struggling to get amateur bouts and the next Commonwealth Games were still three years away. I went down to London to spar Dereck Chisora and I thought I did alright so that sort of helped make my mind up for me.
Tell us about your back up team: From day one as a pro, I’ve been managed and promoted by Tommy Gilmour and I’m trained by Paul Geddes. Apparently Paul was the first ever Scottish ABA super-heavyweight champion from Inverness. He gives me an awful lot of time and dedication. He looks after my boxing, strength and conditioning, nutrition and diet. The lot.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I train at the Gym 300 in Inverness and I tend to be training all the time.
However, when we get a fight date, I set an eight week program and I’ll train six days a week. Because I continue to work as a joiner right up until my fights, I usually arrive at the gym at 6.30 in the morning. My program usually revolves around explosive movements. I do a lot of different weight and strength exercises. Paul mixes things up pretty well. I train very hard and do a lot of pad work. I do my running in the evening, after work.
My favourite part of training would be the sparring but unfortunately there’s really no one up in Scotland for me to spar. When I’ve the time, I’ll travel down to England I’ve done sessions with Dereck Chisora, David Price, Audley Harrison and Danny Hughes. However, for several of my fights I’ve not throw a single punch in the gym.
The worst thing about training would be the hill sprints. We’ve some killer hills here in Inverness!
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I like to work off my jab and use my advantages, like all tall fighters. I think I’m fast on my feet for a big guy and I’ve also got quite fast hands compared to the others in my division.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? I need to acquire more experience, both in fights and through sparring. Inverness is 140 miles north of Glasgow so we’re pretty isolated. I usually have to go down to England or even overseas to get decent work. I’ve probably only had four or five proper spars in my life!
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? The pace of the amateurs was more flat out. In the pros, you need to relax more because the fights are over longer periods. I learned that from sparring with Chisora.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? It’s a toss up between Dereck (Chisora) and David Price. I’ve sparred with both. They’re both very good but for different reasons. Dereck has very good movement, cuts the ring off well and really makes you work. David has lots of power.
I wouldn’t like to be pushed on who I think would win were they to meet but it would be a very good fight.
All time favourite fighter: It’s between Lennox Lewis and the Klitschko brothers. All really put the training in, serve their time in the gym.
All time favourite fight: Lenox Lewis against Vitali Klitschko. Lennox was getting beat that night.
Which current match would you most like to see made? It’ll never happen but I’d love to see Wladimir fight Vitali (Klitschko). I think Wladimir would probably win. He’s a lot more cautious, gives nothing away. He’s very hard to land on.
What is your routine on fight day? I wake up when I wake up. I don’t set alarms. Then I may go out for a wee run because I like to train right up to the fight, keep active.
I usually have a porridge for breakfast and I’ll ensure that I keep hydrated right through the day. For lunch, I’ll have eggs and chicken. I might go for a walk in the afternoon.
I try not to think too much about the fight until I get to the changing rooms. I stay pretty calm. My coach always says that he gets more nervous than I do.
Entrance music: Usually it’s ‘Can’t Stop’ by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, same as the Klitschkos.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? Just to keep this unbeaten record going for as long as I can and hopefully some titles might come my way. I’d love to be the first Scot to challenge for, and hopefully win, the British heavyweight title.
How do you relax? Simple stuff. I watch football or play pool and stuff with my mates at the pub. Even when I don’t have a fight arranged, I still like to train. It’s my life.
Football team: Celtic. I used to go quite a bit but seldom get the time now. From the English Premier League, I like Arsenal.
Read: I’m not an avid reader. The other week I bought my first book, Alex Fergusson’s autobiography, which is quite a good read.
Music: I like dance music.
Films/TV: I like lots of films. I always watch ‘Braveheart’ in the week leading up to my fights. On TV, I watch Friends, Big Bang Theory and the football but generally don’t have much time for tele.
Aspiration in life: To go as far as I possibly can in boxing. For my family to stay healthy and just to lead a good life.
Motto: Train hard. Fight easy.
Tommy Gilmour MBE is the undisputed Godfather of Scottish boxing. First licensed at the age of 18, the 60 year old Glaswegian promoter-manager has groomed scores of champions over the past four decades, navigating Pat Clinton and Paul Weir to world titles.
However, the dapper don has never been involved with a heavyweight of renown. He hopes Gary Cornish can break that duck.
“Gary Cornish was brought to me about three years ago by his amateur trainer, Laurie Redfern who, as a boxer himself, fought several lads looked after by my dad (Tommy Snr).
The big man (Cornish) had only had nine amateur fights and I think Laurie recognised that one of the very few virtues that I might have is patience. We both acknowledged that Gary had very limited experience so he couldn’t be just thrown to the wolves.
Laurie trusted that I could steer the boy through the ranks slowly; invest time, effort and money into him. You don’t get to play for Manchester United when you’ve only played nine football matches in your life.
At first sighting, two things impressed me about Gary. Firstly, there was the cut of the boy. He was 6ft 7in tall and weighed 17 stone yet looked like an athlete. He wasn’t a fat lazy lump like too many of the young heavyweights coming through these days. That suggested to me that Gary was keen to give boxing his best go. Secondly, I liked his natural speed and agility for such a big man.
Turning professional, fighting the giants, was a huge, huge step up for him. He was always very much a work in progress. However, when we’d identify his mistakes in each pro fight, he’d work extremely hard in the gym to eliminate them before his next outing. You could see him constantly progressing.
Gary would also put himself out to travel wherever, England or overseas, to secure some quality sparring. To an extent, he’s put his life on hold to serve his apprenticeship as a fighter. More so than any other weight category, heavyweights take many years to mature and Gary has the enthusiasm required to be a success.
Over the last two and a half years we’ve crammed in 16 professional fights. We’ve brought him tall ones, short ones, fat ones, southpaws, swingers and Gary’s found a way to beat all of them. In a recent fight at the York Hall he got caught smack bang on the chin (by Portugal’s Humberto Evora) yet he got up and went on to win the fight by stoppage. So there’s absolutely no question about whether he has the ‘bottle’.
On a personal level, he’s quite a quiet man but I get along very well with him. If I had one criticism of his make up as a fighter it’s that he’s a bit too laid back.
I like to think I’ve achieved a lot during my life in boxing but Scotland has never had a heavyweight of any renown. The only one who came close to fighting for the British title was Dundee’s Ken Shaw, who got beat (on a first round stoppage) by Freddie Mills in a final eliminator down in Haringey in 1948. Ken was one of my dad’s fighters but he weighed barely 13 stone. Steering a Scottish fighter to a British heavyweight title fight would be another wee bit of history for myself.
Saturday’s fight will be Gary’s sixth of 2013 and we’re confident he can bring his year to a good end with a sixth win. After the New Year, we’ll definitely start moving him and by this time next year I’m confident that Gary Cornish will be fighting 12 round championship fights. He’s certainly capable of getting to European title level, at least.”
Watch the whole ‘Rock the Box II’ card – which also includes Dereck Chisora in a WBO International title defence, Frank Buglioni challenging for the Vacant WBO European Super-Middleweight title, plus the keenly anticipated English welterweight title clash between Penge’s unbeaten Bradley Skeete and former British champion Colin Lynes – live and exclusive on BoxNation, the Channel of Champions, from 7pm on Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch.546. Join at www.boxnation.com