Burnley Express sports reporter Dan Black steps in to boxer Sam Larkin's shoes for a tough afternoon!
They say a picture paints a thousand words.
Well the mischievous grin painted across Sam Larkin’s face, as the featherweight fighter stepped out of his car to greet me, told me everything I needed to know.
I’d agreed to step in to the 28-year-old’s shoes for an afternoon at Intershape Fitness in Colne and it was at that very moment, while battling the elements amid Storm Gareth’s angst, that I realised just what I was letting myself in for.
Larkin had been able to accommodate us for a couple of hours in his ludicrously strenuous schedule, one that runs from 5 a.m. until late in to the night.
The industrial cleaner, employed by Unique Clean, is usually up at the crack of dawn to fuel a morning circuit of sprints and strength training - a session I was about to get a taste of.
A few hours fighting grime would then be followed by a trip to Elite Boxing in Bolton to sharpen up his tools with coach Alex Matvienko before returning to work.
The father-of-one would then spend the evening sparring with some of the best prospects in the country or pounding the streets, regardless of the conditions.
“I’ll usually come in the morning and do my sprints on the treadmill and then do my strength training,” he said. “I go to Bolton for my boxing and my sparring. I try to keep my training local because it saves me a lot of stress travelling over there.
“I do a full body workout, I’ll do my legs and whatever the team at Elite ask me to do. They tell me how they want it doing and I’ll just do it that way.
“I’ve felt a massive difference, physically and mentally. I’m a completely different fighter from before I turned to Elite. I’m just getting better and better, day in day out. I’m living the dream.
“Training is constant. I’m up at five every morning and do my sprints, I’ll go to work for the day, I’ll go to Bolton at night to do my boxing. It’s non-stop. It feels like I’m doing three full-time jobs but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Larkin’s concession that the workout would be a diluted version of his regular routine seemed to put me more at ease.
The former Park High School pupil had been jousting with unbeaten 130lb boxer Liam Gaynor in readiness for his second professional contest at the king George’s Hall in Blackburn on March 30th.
The thing is, you don’t actually realise just how physically fit professional athletes are until you’ve spent an hour or so in their company.
This was anything but a cake walk. We kicked off with treadmill sprints, three sets with alternating intervals.
With lungs burning and legs tiring I was challenged with breaking through the pain barrier. This, I was told, replicated the stage of a fight where you had no other option but to dig deep, grind your teeth, and draw on all your reserves.
“We’ve done three sets, 30 seconds sprinting, 30 seconds rest, going as fast as you can,” confirmed Larkin.
“It gets you ready, it gets you built up, it gets you in that right frame of mind to set you up for when you’re digging deep towards the end of the rounds. It keeps you going and keeps you fit.
“When you’re boxing you don’t stay at that same pace throughout the fight. Sometimes you’re on the back foot, sometimes you’re fighting on the front foot, you’re defending, taking shots, throwing shots. It’s all about mixing it up and getting used to that regime of fighting.
“I’ll do that two or three times a week. If I can’t get to Intershape Fitness in the morning before work I’ll do my threshold training in Bolton at Elite Fitness, which is similar. It’s brilliant.”
A debut victory for Larkin when out-pointing durable journeyman Ricky Leach at the Bolton Whites Hotel demonstrated to his team that the training methods were paying off.
Larkin didn’t waste a punch during a masterful performance that illustrated an extensive and economical skillset.
And now the pressure is off, he can relax even more. “I started training in a pro gym 18 months ago, I’ve had sponsors from day one who have been helping me out massively, and I’ve not been fighting,” he said.
“I had all the pressure on me, trying to sell tickets. The pressure was on. I don’t want it to end, that’s why I’ve taken this fight so soon because I just want to stay on this high now.
“My confidence is booming. I wasn’t 100% relaxed [on my debut] but I was more relaxed than what I had been during sparring.
“I shocked myself, I shocked my team and I shocked a lot of other people. I feel mint, every fight will just get better and I’ll start putting them wins together.”
The conclusion to our workout incorporated a three-pronged finisher of tricep dips, sit-ups weighted with a medicine ball and pull ups. Then, having broken in to a considerable sweat after three rounds of each, we threw in some shadow boxing, just for fun.
“It was a smaller workout because I had been sparring in the morning,” said Larkin, who looked as fresh as a daisy.
“It was short and sweet, we kept it basic.
“We worked on core strength and added the basics with pull ups and dips. I like to do them to warm up.
“You’ve got to be strong, especially at the weight I’m fighting at because you’re in 8oz gloves.
“You’re feeling every shot and every shot does hurt. It’s important to stay strong, both physically and mentally.”