Shane McGuigan: Boxing trainer reflects on his career and father Barry’s influence
Boxing has a rich history of father-son duos that have graced the sport, but few will match the accomplishments of the McGuigans.
Barry McGuigan is a legend, a popular former world champion who has transcended the fighting game.
Each time he laced the gloves, he played an important, and quite unique, role in uniting Northern and Southern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant, during the Troubles.
So when Shane McGuigan decided to get into the sport, first as an amateur and then a coach, there was a big block of pressure weighing heavily on his shoulders.
“There would always have been a tough struggle with my boxing background, with the fact that I have a famous father,” he says.
Still, it didn’t take long for him to step out of his father’s shadow and prove his own worth in the sport. McGuigan is now one of the nation’s leading coaches, having coached several world champions.
Speaking to BBC Sport, the 33-year-old opens up about his career, the influence of his father Barry and what it takes to be a top manager.
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Kent-born McGuigan was just a toddler when former British, European and world featherweight champion Barry retired in 1989.
“I don’t remember him boxing or going to training camp or anything like that,” he recalled.
“But when we were young, we were walking down the street and people were always shouting his name, asking for autographs.”
McGuigan started boxing as a hobby, with no real intention of making a career out of it, but boxing was in his genes.
“My dad fought so hard to get us into private school and away from boxing – and I was the one who snuck out trying to get to the boxing club,” he adds.
He trained alongside a future world champion, Northern Irishman Carl Frampton, and won three national titles, but chose not to follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead, at 21, he found his calling as a cornerman.
“The next step would have been to try to go to the Olympics or turn pro,” McGuigan said. “I wanted to represent Ireland, but there was a lot of back and forth.
“So I finished my boxing career and started holding mitts for Carl [Frampton]. It was something that naturally clicked for me. I felt like I could see things from the perspective of coach’s view.”
Dealing with the “pressure” of being Barry McGuigan’s son
McGuigan led Frampton and Josh Taylor to global honors, and his current stable includes WBO heavyweight champion Lawrence Okolie, heavyweight Daniel Dubois and some of British boxing’s hottest young prospects.
But the road to the top was long and arduous. While his father’s legacy and stature no doubt opened doors for him, McGuigan “felt the pressure massively” in his early days as a coach.
“Twitter was just getting started back then, people were speaking out,” he adds. “A lot of people kicked Carl and me out at the start, saying it would be a fail.”
New York, Las Vegas and Belfast – the fights that made Frampton
In a results-driven company, it didn’t take him long to prove those critics wrong. When Frampton defeated Kiko Martinez to win the IBF super bantamweight title in 2014, 25-year-old McGuigan had made his own mark. He was no longer “Barry’s son who had been given a boost”.
Under McGuigan’s tutelage, Frampton unified the division and then became a two-weight champion when he watched Leo Santa Cruz win the WBA super featherweight title.
Although it’s a relationship somewhat marred by a split – and subsequent legal battle – between Frampton and the McGuigans, both parties have been central to each other’s success in the sport.
David Haye and Olympian Luke Campbell then joined the gym, while McGuigan eventually helped George Groves clinch the world title he so desperately craved in 2017 by beating Fedor Chudinov for the vacant WBA super middleweight crown.
“Getting George to cross the finish line to clinch a world title with his fourth guy was pretty special.