As an Olympic medalist at London 2012, Anthony Ogogo should be at the forefront of British boxing’s resurgence but a series of unfortunate injuries has cast him in a role that’s just as loved by British audiences: the underdog.
After an active start to his career that saw him win seven fights in little over 12 months, Ogogo required surgery on a damaged achilles tendon, ruling him out for a year. In his return fight, he dislocated his shoulder, keeping him out of the ring for a further year. In his twelfth fight, he suffered his first defeat having been complaining of blurred vision.
Now, as we approached the business end of 2017, Ogogo is back in the driving seat and ready to kickstart his professional boxing career. As he trains toward his goal of becoming boxing’s next comeback kid, the charismatic Ogogo was picked by EA SPORTS as one of the UK’s few elite athletes who could sample the rigorous testing of an ‘NFL combine’ session – the drills used to put the next generation of NFL stars through their paces.
After being put through his paces in an NFL combine training session to mark the launch of EA SPORTS Madden NFL 18, Anthony Ogogo opened up for an honest chat on injuries, inspiration and why boxing should learn from professional wrestling.
COMPLEX: How was it seeing these NFL drills up close and personal today for the first time?
Ogogo: It was really cool. I’m a huge sports fan and I’ve been to NFL games before. Those guys are pure athletes, they’re strong and just genetic freaks. Seeing the way they attack these combines – running a 40-yard dash in under five seconds – it’s mental, even to someone like me who considers themselves a good athlete! It’s a privilege to see these guys up close.
How does this training compare to the type of training you do as a boxer, in terms of physicality and intensity?
There’s certainly some similarities on a very basic level. In both sports you’ve got to be fast, you’ve got to be powerful and you’ve got to be explosive. It looks like both sports are very, very hard. One of the most interesting things for me is the variety of jobs these guys do. All boxers are basically training for one thing, to knock the other guy out...and that’s not the same with the NFL. There’s a guy who was here today – a linebacker – and his only job is to block the fellas on the other team, he might never see the ball during his career. And it’s that differing focus in NFL training and the game itself that’s really interesting to me.
How do you approach training now? Do you still enjoy it or is it a pain to go through the routine time and time again?
I turned pro over four years ago after London 2012 but I’ve been very unlucky with injuries and I haven’t actually managed to train as often as I’d like so when I get in the gym, I’m honestly like a child. I’m so happy to be in there because for long periods, I’ve been unable to get in there. Right now I’m out with an eye issue and I’d love nothing more in this world than to get in the gym and start hitting a bag again, but I can’t right now. I’m 28 – I’ve been boxing for 12 years – and I don’t think I’ll ever lose the love for my sport. It’s actually been really inspiring today to spend some time around other athletes from a different world to mine, who are kicking arse in their own way. It makes me want to do the same.
I know professional wrestling is also something you take a lot of inspiration from and you’re a vocal WWE fan on Twitter. How much respect do you have for the way those guys train and put their bodies to work?
Mate, massive respect. Funny story, I’m actually getting married soon and for my stag, my best man organised for my mates and I to have a session at the wrestling school ran by Paige’s family in Norwich. It was unbelievable, I can’t explain how fun it was. I did it five days ago and my body is still battered and bruised. I’m a boxer, right, and I consider myself a pretty tough guy...but I’m still in pieces because that craft is so demanding! People can call it what they want but those guys are so athletic. They’re big, strong, quick, agile...as good as any other athlete on the planet.
Ohara Davies actually walked out to the Undertaker’s theme music in his most recent fight. Have you ever thought about how you can take inspiration from WWE to enhance your career?
100% and that’s something boxers need to get better at. Every one of WWE’s people has got a persona and people care about them, that’s not the same in boxing. You don’t want to veer too far from yourself but I think athletes can do more to make the public care about who they are. I’ve actually been waiting to hit the heights I know I can hit in boxing before I express myself a bit more because I know I need to walk the walk before I talk the talk. I’m a showman but you can’t show off if you’re injured!
You were spending time with the NFL athletes to mark the release of EA SPORTS Madden 18 – are you a gamer yourself and what are your skills like with a controller?
Yeah, I play Madden pretty casually with my mates and it’s always good fun – things can get very competitive, which is the same with FIFA and the UFC games, too! I’m naturally a competitive guy so I always want to win. I definitely hold my own.
I know you’re injured at the moment, but what does the rest of 2017 hold for you?
It’s been very tough. My injury was actually initially misdiagnosed, which has set me back. I’ve had a couple of operations already and I might need one more. Boxing is so important to me that I’ve actually remortgaged my house so I can have this final operation that will hopefully put me on the road back to the ring. This sport means so much to me. When will I back in the ring? I don’t know. All I can do is stay fit and keep working towards getting the all clear. I’m patient.
Anthony Ogogo was speaking after being put through his paces in an NFL Combine training session to mark the launch of EA SPORTS Madden NFL 18, which is out now on Xbox One and PS4.
Under the guidance of Jonny Hecker, Ogogo achieved an overall EA SPORTS Madden NFL 18 Ultimate Team rating of 59. To find out more, visit easports.com/madden-nfl.