By Richard Hubbard
He may be a novice 19-year-old with just six fights on the clock, but Ryan Garner is making people sit up and take notice in the wider boxing world.
This precocious talent, with five stoppages to his name, is already in high demand on the sparring circuit and one of his new friends in high places is the two-weight world champion Carl Frampton.
Belfast’s pride and joy is seeking to get back on the world title trail and is preparing for a fight on home soil in a couple of weeks time. The Jackal sent for a Piranha when his ring rehearsals resumed some weeks ago and Garner believes this sparring school of hard knocks provide and ideal examination of his own fledgling credentials.
Garner is at the stage of his career where he is dishing out the majority of the punishment in fights, with return fire not frequently forthcoming. Defence hasn’t been the highest priority to date, but it is not a skillset intends to neglect and sparring with elite operators offers a timely reminder to keep his guard up.
“It is like when I am sparring Frampton, he is a strong, tough guy, so I can’t just go in there and stand toe to toe,” reflected the quickly maturing youngster. “I’ve got to use my brain and use my defence as well.
“Now with my sparring, I have been watching myself back and I am rolling out better from shots and not getting caught as much. I am only going to get better as my career progresses.”
Garner admits that being a go-to fighter for such an experienced campaigner as Frampton has provided a boost to his own accelerated learning, not to mention his self-esteem.
“It is a compliment from them to be asked to spar and it gives me really big confidence. They must think highly of me to ask me to come back, so it is really good.
“It shows they must respect me as a fighter with the skills I have. Not bad for the new kid on the block. I think I did really well and it will serve me well for the future. I am picking up so much from the sparring and you can’t get better.
“I’ve been doing six (rounds) each time and I am more than confident in my ability in there. I don’t feel like I’m out of my depth.
“I have got to give it everything to make it realistic and like a fight. I need to get the best out of me so when it comes to my fight night I have been through the trenches already.
“It does me the world of good mentally as well. If I can spar the likes of Frampton, the people I am getting in the ring with won’t be at that level yet.
“It is making me train harder and push myself in sparring because you also have the likes of Barry McGuigan, Shane McGuigan and George Groves there watching.
“You know you’ve got to put your A-game on just to impress.”
Garner has certainly impressed in his ring exploits so far. When he occupied this interview slot a year ago with a debut already under his belt, patience was not a virtue at the forefront of his then mindset.
He was a boy in a hurry and fully prepared to leapfrog the accepted learning process undertaken by young prospects.
Thankfully, the wise counsel he has around him – as well as his own increasing wise head on young shoulders – has seen to it that the learning curve is being safely travelled.
“I have become more mature already in the last year,” he confessed. “I am thinking differently, training differently and acting better than I was then.
“I am smarter now and I just need to get these learning fights done instead of rushing into things.
“Obviously Wayne (Batten, trainer), Frank Hopkins (manager) and Frank Warren, they know what to do, they’ve done it all before.”
Garner himself now also accepts that in this game there are steps to climb and levels to be conquered. It all takes a bit of time and that is something he has firmly on his side.
“Yeah of course, you can’t jump too soon because you can get found out. It is all about timing, I have got to keep doing what I am doing – training hard, learning and improving in my fights.
“I will do the six and eight rounders and then see what is out there.
“Nah I’m not impatient anymore, obviously I do want to get there quick, but they all know what’s best for me and are not going to let me get reckless.
“If I’m having tough fights now I am not going to last long! I want to make a good living and have a nice long career.
“It is like a marathon and, if you sprint the first 100m, you are going to be knackered for the rest of it.
“It is all about staying there because, normally, when you get the top the only way is down.
“Age is on my side massively and it is easier to learn when you are younger.”