James Cook – Old lion in the camp

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James Cook MBE on the transformation of Anthony Yarde, his relationship with Tunde Ajayi, the increase their triumph has given to his beloved Pedro Youth Club and his recommendation for Lyndon Arthur. By Melanie Lloyd

AS the opening bell rang to kick off the eagerly anticipated rematch between Anthony Yarde and Lyndon Arthur at the Copper Box Arena on December 4, Yarde was the ever-so-slight betting favorite, though the normal consensus amongst the boxing fraternity swayed ever-so-barely in favour of Arthur. While only a few of these in the know predicted something like the ruthless demolition that the Londoner inflicted upon the man from Manchester, there was blanket settlement earlier than the battle that the addition of James Cook MBE to Yarde’s younger crew may solely be a very good factor.

During the publish-battle ringside interview, Tunde Ajayi, Yarde’s longstanding and generally criticised head coach, wasted no time in shining the limelight onto Cook, stating, “We were really a ship without a rudder, and James Cook has been the cement that has solidified our team.” Those effectively-chosen phrases completely summed up the unanimous sentiment that instantly started to resonate throughout social media and numerous boxing platforms, that it was the steadying presence of Cook in the nook that had made the distinction. So it might appear that, at the age of 62 and having been concerned in boxing for over half a century, James Cook seems set to take pleasure in yet one more effectively-deserved spell in the solar.

The following morning when Cook strolled casually by way of the door of the London Ex Boxers’ Association assembly, the honest congratulations quickly gave strategy to jovial ideas that the extremely in style former British and European tremendous-middleweight champion ought to now be referred to as James ‘The Difference’ Cook, which quickly grew to become abbreviated to easily ‘The Difference’ – for instance, “Hey, ‘The Difference’, do you fancy another pint of Guiness?” When quizzed as to how he felt about his newfound standing, Jamaican-born Cook cheerfully replied, “So long as they’re gonna buy me a pint of Guiness, they can call me whatever they want!”

On a extra profound notice, when surrounded by a educated cluster of LEBA members who earnestly took turns to proffer numerous suppositions as to how Cook had succeeded in bringing out the beast in Yarde, the characteristically modest Cook gently confirmed that, sure, he believed his enter had calmed issues down in the camp and, sure, he had unlocked one thing in Yarde’s thoughts, however he was additionally fast to reward Ajayi. “Tunde has done a marvellous job with Anthony so far, both as a coach and as a manager. I mean, let’s face it, Anthony is only 30 years old and he is doing great financially, so how can anybody criticise that? For such a young team, they’ve all done brilliant, and it’s great that Tunde can come to me and say ‘Look, we’ve reached the point where we need that little bit of experience.’ As far as I’m concerned, the people who have been trying to crucify Tunde on the internet and all of this rubbish don’t even know a damn thing about boxing.”

As is inevitably the case after a giant battle, the discuss quickly became a wistful inquest primarily based on who had betted how a lot on whom, what the odds have been and which rounds had been picked. It transpired that no person had obtained it proper, together with Cook. “One of my daughters is very angry with me this morning. She asked me what rounds she should bet on and I told her between six and eight! We knew that Anthony was gonna do it, but we just didn’t know he was going to do it so blasted quickly. He set out to make a statement, and that statement was four rounds. Fair play to the boy, last night he really came of age.”

James Cook boxing gym

Cook way back misplaced depend of all the fighters he has dealt with and he has left his mark on each considered one of them, however boxing is a transient sport and folks are likely to lose contact as time goes by. However, there’s a staunch, ever-rising military of protégés and friends, challengers and champions alike, who stay firmly mounted in Cook’s orbit. They are brothers in arms who recognise the worth of Cook’s previous-college ideas, a fistic household ready to again Cook in his perpetual battle towards crime and deprivation on the streets of Hackney. In truth, the title of this text was impressed by considered one of Cook’s besties, former Forrest Hill middleweight and font of boxing information, Spencer Fearon, who hosts The Fight Is Right podcast alongside Tunde Ajayi; that’s when the duo aren’t on the cellphone at 5 o’clock in the morning, as Fearon gleefully places it, “working out plans to mash up the system.”

During the week following the battle, Spencer and Tunde naturally had James on the podcast as a visitor, and it got here to gentle that it was throughout considered one of their chinwags at the first light that Tunde had initially broached the topic of inviting Cook to return onboard. It is endearing to behold how genuinely happy Fearon clearly feels about the union, describing the transformation in Yarde as “a mad joy to watch”. What comes throughout clearly is the relaxed bond between Ajayi and Cook, a refined stability of apprentice and grasp underpinned by mutual respect. Ajayi, who had 5 professional fights at welterweight in 2001 and retired undefeated, has by no means come throughout as the sort of particular person to lack confidence, so it’s revealing and disturbing to learn the way acutely lonely and remoted he has felt in his capability as Yarde’s important man so far. Consequently, it is sufficient to heat the hardest of hearts to witness how plainly delighted he’s to have James alongside him on the street forward, excitedly describing the new setup as “a rebirth”.

At 6ft 2ins, Cook tends to tower above most of us at LEBA and, on the Sunday morning after the night time earlier than, there appeared to be an aura emanating from his lean body, the unmistakable glow of serene success. His huge smile radiated heat as he enthused, “I’m actually loving working with these guys. To be sincere, at first, I wasn’t 100 per cent positive that their approach of working would go well with me and I wasn’t sure that my approach of working would go well with them. I didn’t know the way I’d match into the scenario. I believed I’ll most likely be the blasted pussycat in the camp, however I’m so glad that they determined to name me.

“One man who I must mention is the assistant coach, Ade Olayinka. Ade is great because he is the one who takes all of Anthony’s body punches! He was a footballer at one time, and he’s such a lovely, humble guy. Ade is a great motivator and he is the one who starts all the singing in the gym. They all sing different verses, so I call them the Jackson Three! They keep saying that they’re gonna bring me in for the bass, but the thing is I don’t want to mess up their song because they sound too good.”

Cook’s voice softened significantly as he spared a thought for Lyndon Arthur. “I understand the way Lyndon is feeling, because Lyndon now is probably thinking he’s let his people down and he’s let his camp down, just like how I felt when I went to Shefield to fight Herol ‘Bomber’ Graham. I felt that I didn’t perform and I felt rotten. But, as you go along experiencing boxing, you realise this is boxing. So Lyndon shouldn’t beat up himself about what Anthony done. To me, Lyndon is like a quiet James Cook. There’s no hype about him. He’s just calm and relaxed. But sometimes you have to make noise and, when you fight, you’ve got to fight rugged. My personal opinion of Lyndon is that he is a nice, pleasant young man and he’ll come again. Believe me, he’ll definitely come again.”

Prior to the battle, considered one of the recurring phrases utilised by those that have been placing their cash on Arthur was the forecast that historical past would repeat itself. Technically talking, these predictions have been correct, albeit in a very unintended context. In the same vogue to the approach that Cook has seamlessly merged with the Yarde workforce, Anthony is quietly and respectfully following in the footsteps of Cook’s band of brothers and, nowadays, he can typically be discovered at James’ beloved Pedro Youth Club in Lower Clapton, Hackney.

Cook just isn’t a person who’s vulnerable to delight, however his chest expanded ever so barely as he declared “I am a very lucky man. There are so many fighters that have stuck with me, doing whatever I ask of them to help me improve the situation in the local area and, yeah, Anthony is coming down the club now which is wonderful for the young people. They’re getting to spend time with this young man who has come from the same place as they come from and he’s achieving what he’s achieving. It gives the kids a different mindset. So it’s all good and, on top of that, Anthony and Tunde came round to see me the other day and they brought me some African Guinness. Mind you, knowing those two, that’s probably because they want me to go back to bloody sleep!”

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