James Moorcroft: “Learning Will Never Exhaust The Mind, and I Will Be a New Fighter”
By Jack Rainbow
James Moorcroft certainly had an interesting, if frustrating start to the year. After losing his British title eliminator to an impressive Martin Harkin in January he then had to deal with the first national lockdown:
“Obviously, the lockdown was a massive massive shock to the system, and I enjoy fitness as much as boxing so I kept up my running and my bag in the back garden. I was doing as much as I could to stay relevant and stay ready. At the time I hoped it would blow over, but obviously, here we are in November in another lockdown.”
There were clear benefits to this lockdown, however, James spoke candidly about the rejuvenation of his training schedule:
“ I love to motivate myself, that’s one of my strong points, I can make myself train even when I don’t want to. However, I am getting more rest now. I don’t mean that I’m just sat at home, but active recovery such as cryo, and I’m aware now of what my body feels. So if I do a 5-mile run and my legs feel tired, I will do something different the next day. My training is more clever.”
After losing in January, James recognised things needed to change. After leaving Blundell’s gym, James and training partner, Rhiannon Dixon moved to train with former world champion Anthony Crolla:
“I have been with Anthony now for three or four months. It has been a fantastic journey so far and I can’t thank him enough for taking us on and taking us under our wing. We are waiting now for our time, Ant told us to stay ready to fight in three or four weeks, so when that phone call comes and we get that opportunity we can go from there.
“Working with him is great. He’s young himself, only 33. He joins in training sometimes and he’s obviously very good, so it’s good to be trained and to work alongside him. He pushes us all, and with a name like Anthony Crolla with you, you only need to walk around Manchester to see what he has achieved, and I know he will make me a better fighter. Every day I am learning so much. I’m in a good place, I’m training well and I’m happy and I have a baby on the way now too!”
Having not boxed since January, James could be forgiven for having itchy knuckles. Although that is the case, James is calm about his fighting situation, due to his rapid improvements in the gym:
“The situation with a loss, Martin Harkin was fantastic on the night and beat me, but I know for a fact there is a better version of me, I wanted to show that. I fought in January and I told Steve Wood I wanted to fight 6 weeks later, and I was scheduled to fight this Mexican guy with a winning record, a tough guy who would have put me on the back foot and I was looking forward to it, and two weeks before the fight we went into lockdown. I am itching but, I know when the fight comes whether it is this year or next year, I will have learned so much. I’m taking this time to gather what I can from Anthony, and I’m learning learning learning, and I will be a better fighter at the end of it. Learning will never exhaust the mind, and I will be a new fighter.
“I feel like I’ve put another 50% on myself since that day. A few things have changed, but I’m more mentally strong, that was my first away fight, and my first big fight. I took my first cut and I took my first loss. I have taken a lot from that day, and I will be such a better fighter. Before that, I was getting it a lot my own way with stoppages, and now I feel I can be 2x if not 3x the fighter from that.”
On top of consistent and vigorous training, James was able to complete some charitable work in September, completing the Three Peak Challenge in under 24 hours. He ended up raising money for a local Hospice which needed the funds:
“Maybe a year ago from now, I was doing some stuff for the Hindley Hospice. I know the people there, I would go and have a chat with the people there, and just seeing how happy and how high spirited they can be. It was inspiring for me, they are in the Hospice for a reason and don’t have long left, so to see them and help them used to make me happy.
“There was a woman there who sadly passed away who always wanted to see a boxing fight live, so I went and saw her and told her I was fighting in two weeks, and I wanted to get her and her husband tickets. It was touch and go if she could go, but in the end, she came and we got pictures together. A few weeks later she passed away which was very sad but I was very proud to give her that opportunity to see a live boxing fight.
“I went there a few weeks ago, and they don’t have as much money, as they can’t do the raffles they can’t keep their shops open. So I wanted to help them make a little bit of money, so Me, Rhiannon Dixon, and Ross (Rhiannon’s boyfriends) went and tried to climb the Three Peaks in a day. We made just under £2,000 which was phenomenal, and the challenge in itself was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life. It was so demanding physically, mentally, and tiring. Three mountains in 24 hours, in three different countries, was very tough, but it was all for a good cause and went well on the day.”
Speaking about his first career loss, James admitted there was the possibility of some complacency. He is adamant that this is no longer the case:
“I was coming off four back to back stoppages so I did think I could take him out, but Martin hits very very hard and is a very good fighter. There are excuses I could probably say, but I never will, as he turned up and won on the night. It did me some good, I took a lot away from it. However, you are only as good as your last fight, so in the next one, I will go out and put on a show. I believe I am a more professional boxer now, I see rest as a session, whereas before I used to be running running running. I always thought I had to do something else, and that’s how I used to think. Now I sit back and think about resting and now I am getting my rest in I believe I can put more into my harder sessions.”
After a transitional year, James was asked where he sees himself in two years:
“Still in lockdown! No no, honestly in two years I will hopefully be the English champion pushing on for the British title. I fought for a British eliminator and got beaten, so now I need to reset, but yeah in two years with Anthony in my corner, it’s a new push for me. Every day I learn something new. We are having a laugh in the gym but we are still training. I think it will be a new me, which I am aware is a cliche, but honestly, I believe that.
“I never had a loss before unlike most people in amateurs and stuff, I haven’t had the feeling I had in the last fight, which was awful, but I never want that feeling again, and I will do anything to make sure I avoid that. I want to push on for those titles now and that loss will help. You never lose, you learn, and I’ve never known a boxer to learn off a win.”
Due to inactivity and a loss, 2020 has certainly not gone the way James would have envisioned it. Despite this, a new high-profile trainer and a complete change to his training routine bring confidence that this year could end up being crucial in his development. When we will next see James fight is unknown, but whoever his opponent is, he will be facing a different James to the one who lost in January.