Monday 12th March 2012, 6:00AM GMT.
Shaun Cooper’s gym in Dudley has welcomed its latest illustrious guests as the trainer looks to show his fighters the ‘lighter side’ of boxing.
‘Coops Boxing Camp’ in Brockmoor, Brierley Hill, opened its doors for former world champion Tim Witherspoon and actor Vas Blackwood.
Their visit was a way of lifting the four professionals in his gym who have been putting in the blood, sweat and tears training for their next fight.
Cooper’s fellow ex-pro Peter Jackson, a one-time Midlands champion from Halesowen who trains at the gym, made it happen.
The gym looked on in awe at former WBC and WBA heavyweight title holder Witherspoon, Philadelphia-born and looking good for his 54 years.
And laughs aplenty were provided by Blackwood, most famous for his roles in British films ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Mean Machine.’
Cooper said: “In our gym, nobody walks around doing their own thing, there’s no mucking about and we train very hard.
“Something like this just breaks it up a bit, little privileges that we get for them and it lifts the lads a little bit.
“The lads all look up to Tim and I told them they were rubbing shoulders with a guy that has been there and done it.
“He was telling them ‘if you want to be a champion, get in there, do what you have got to do and dedicate.’
“It gave all them all a good boost, when they came back in the gym they were all electric!
“We had a good crack with Vas, he’s so funny. He’s a pure comedian and he likes his boxing.”
Cooper’s four-star show starts with the big one on Friday night, where Coseley’s Jamie Ball takes on hometown rival Nasser Al Harbi.
They clash in an English light middleweight title eliminator at the New Bingley Hall in Birmingham for what is the stable’s biggest fight yet.
Cradley’s Chris Male was due to meet Joe Murray for the English featherweight title in February, but pulled out with a shoulder injury.
The camp’s newest pro, Rizwan Rassol, is on the New Bingley bill as he makes his paid debut at lightweight against Dan Carr.
There’s no time to waste for the 30-year-old, who hasn’t boxed competitively since the end of his amateur career over a decade ago.
Then it’s on to the BoxNation-televised bill at Wolverhampton Civic Hall seven days later, where three up-and-comers are on the bill.
Brierley Hill’s Kyle Spencer and Stourbridge’s Steven Pearce take in their second paid outings, against Rick Boulter and Matt Seawright respectively.
Also in action is new addition Dudley’s Zak the Ripper – real name Saquib Amir – who goes in with Walsall’s erstwhile veteran Delroy Spencer.
But it’s the Ball fight where the stakes are highest and Cooper has got his fighter ready.
He said: “It’s the best he’s ever looked, we are ready for Al Harbi so, if he’s taking this fight likely, he’s going to be in for a shock.
“Riswan is also looking good, he’s left it late but he’s still got a lovely style and he’s got punching power, he’s really snapping with his shots.
“Chris Male sparred with him and said he was one of the trickiest he had come across, for him to say that tells us something.
“Steven and Kyle have done well in training and we are starting to get ‘the Ripper’ boxing on the back rather than front foot.
“I think it will take a couple of fights to get him right, but we are working hard with him.”
For tickets to the show at the Civic, call the box office on 0870 320 7000 or promoter Paul ‘PJ’ Rowson on 07976 283 157.