By Neil Dempsey: Armed with a bucket and some essentials the cutman plays a key if understated role of any corner on fight night. A cutman can make or break a fighter’s big night with the inability to stop the blood flow or reduce the swelling.
Article posted on 06.04.2011
What would have become of Ricky Hatton’s career if Mick Williamson hadn’t been able to stop the blood flow in early fights against Jon Thaxton and Carlos Maussa. Cutmen throughout history have stemmed the blood and worked their magic in that one minute between rounds to enable their man to carry on.
Williamson along with some of his peers including Jacob “Stitch” Duran, Al Gavin, Denny Macini and Benny King have worked the corners of many many world title fights and have played their part in enabling the fighter to go out and do what they do best.
So how important is the role of the cutman, what are the key attributes a cutsman needs and how important are they on fight night?
I went and spoke to a very good friend and cutman for Matchroom Sports Ian “Jumbo” Johnson to find out more about being a cutman and how important a role they play. Jumbo in his role for Matchroom has worked in a number of European, British and even World title fights for the likes of Jason Cook, Albert Sosnowski, Matt Skelton, Gavin Rees, Jane Couch and Grzegorz Proksa. Jumbo also works for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) when they visit Europe.
Firstly thanks for taking the time out to have a chat Jumbo I appreciate it.
So how did you get into the cuts game?
Being a fight fan from a very young age, I watched a lot of fights and started going to local shows and the interest grow from there. I started working for Matchroom in 1996 as a driver watching cutsmen such as Mick Williamson and Benny King. Through working for Matchroom I met Al Gavin who invited me out to the States to learn the cut game. Following my return from the States Matchroom started asking me to work the corners of incoming European fighters who only brought trainer with them and needed a cutman. Jacob Duran got me the job with the UFC having put my name forward as someone they could use when they came to Europe.
Who taught you?
Most of the cut game I learned from the late Al Gavin who was a real inspiration. Al taught me not only the cut game but also the role of a cutman. A key part of this is how to conduct yourself in and out of the ring.
Am I right in thinking that a cutman does not need any formal qualifications or training?
That’s right a cutman does not need a formal qualification its very much learning on the job and working from the bottom up. I have read various books on how blood flows and how the human body works which has obviously helped me in my role.
Who were the people you looked up to?
Obviously Al Gavin and Jacob Duran but I respect every cut man. A good cutman can really play an important role on the night of a fight. The Dean Francis v Tony Oakey fight springs to mind when Dean had a 2 cuts above the eye and I had to stem those to enable Dean to continue and become the first man to stop Oakey and win the British title.
How do you get your fights? Do you just work for Matchroom fighters?
Working for Matchroom has given me a great opportunity to work with some great fighters and from that initial work the trainer of the fighter or the fighter himself contacts me and asked me to work the corners. In the example of Albert Sosnowski I worked with him through Matchroom and then him and his camp continued to call me. I am lucky that now people know me and have seen me in action so the trainers often call me and ask me to work the corner themselves.
What is the worst cut you have worked on?
It was a WBF world light middleweight title fight in Wolverhampton between Jozsef Matolcsi vs Marcus Portman in 2007. It was a Matchroom show and they clashed heads early on causing an inverted wishbone type cut on the eyebrow of Matolcsi. I managed to stop this initially but after another clash the cut got worse and the eyebrow was hanging down over the eyelid and the blood was pumping out. The referee for this fight was Ian John Lewis and I had asked him to come over and look at it and Ian immediately waved it off. Still to this day the only fight I have had stopped on a cut. Joseph went on to have 16 internal stitches and 16 external stitches.
What is the worst cut that you have seen?
Klitschko vs Lewis
Have you had to pull a fighter out due to a cut?
Only Jozsef Matolcsi
Who are the cutmen that you respect the most working today?
Every cutman… they all deserve my respect.
Do you have any input when talking to the ringside doctor when they want to stop the fight?
You don’t really have an input; the doctor makes the final call.
What’s your proudest moment working as a cutman?
Every time I step into the ring to work with a fighter is a proud moment but I have to say working the corner of Albert Sosnowski when he challenged Vitali Klitschko for the WBC Heavyweight title in Germany last year was incredible the atmosphere, the crowd everything about that was an amazing experience.
A more general boxing question….who is your all time favourite fighter?
My all time fighter would be Sugar Ray Robinson, but I love seeing fighters who have had a tough upbringing and turned their lives around. Bernard Hopkins really stands out for me he is a real class act, to fight like he does at his age and keep his self in such good shape is testament to dedication and commitment.
The other fighter I also loved is someone I have worked with and that’s Irish Mickey Ward. Going to his home town of Lowell and staying there and having Mickey and Dick show me around was just incredible, when the film the Fighter came out and it brought back all the places I had seen, a time I will never forget.
Are there any exciting fighters that your currently working with who you think can go all the way?
The young Polish middleweight I work with Grzegorz Proksa is so talented and still learning. Of the fighters that I don’t work with the 2 I really like are Billy Joe Saunders and Frankie Gavin. I also really like young Scott Quigg.
What’s next for you?
Friday 8th April im working in Barnsley for 3 fighters out of Michael Wale gym in Barnsley, this is a Carl Greaves promotion.
Saturday 9th working John Donnelly’s corner in his challenge for the British Bantamweight title against Stuart Hall in Sunderland which is a Frank Maloney show.
15th April the chief support for the Kiko Martinez vs Jason Booth European title fight is Proksa defending his EBU-EU Middleweight title. I have worked with Proksa for a number of years now and he is certainly one to watch.
Jumbo wanted to say thank you to all at Matchroom, all the fighters that he works with, to his family and friends for their support and to 2 long term friends Colin and Caroline Chilvers from Middlesbrough.
Jumbo runs a fitness and boxing club out of Redhill Surrey, for more on this and Jumbo himself check out www.jumboboxing.com
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