The say boxing is the sweet science. A combination of strategy and nous coupled with power and methodology. James Harvey has brought his own touch to the pugilistic art.
It came about while the Sydney Kings co-captain was contracted to the Gold Coast Blaze. It was there he struck up a friendship with former boxer Paul Briggs.
“We had become mates and then he told me he was thinking of making a comeback for the Danny Green fight,” Harvey said.
“So I went along to training and was watching him and I thought he was pretty slow on his feet. So I mentioned it to his trainer Billy Hussein. I asked if he’d thought about his agility and talked about how we move laterally in basketball. Billy loved it so he got me to do some work with him.”
Come fight night, Harvey was part of the Briggs camp and there as the fighter fell to the floor in a first round stoppage. The fight would be widely labeled a farce.
“Briggsy had a lot of stuff going on even before he got in the ring that night. But I can tell you he was genuinely hurt. I spent four hours in the hospital with him the next day,” he said.
Despite those circumstances, it was the start of a professional working relationship between Harvey and Hussein.
That would lead to conditioning roles with two of Australia’s best boxers, Garth Wood and Billy Dib.
“I put together a footwork program and helped out Garth Wood before he knocked out Anthony Mundine,” he said.
“I’ve done a fair bit of work with Billy Dib. Last off-season I went to New York City for three and a half weeks with him. That was the end of a 10 week campaign to get him ready for his title fight.”
“The fight was in Connecticut but we did most of our training in New York City. So we’d go running in Central Park. Or we’d be doing pad work in a building 30 stories up looking down over New York City. We’d go and work out in some of the little gyms in the Bronx. That was pretty cool.”
“And Billy is managed by 50 Cent so we had to go around to his house one time. He actually invited us to a party the night before the fight. Tempting but we decided it probably wasn’t a good idea!”
It is a unique role combining Harvey’s basketball skills with his studies in strength and conditioning. And he’s hoping he may have cornered a niche market.
“A lot of the fitness components aren’t that different. They both require short, sharp combinations. But the thing with basketball is you can’t really have the lights turned out on you. You don’t get woken up by smelling salts.”
“But if you think about it. There is a lot of continually getting set again in both sports. In basketball you might make a play, hit a baseline dunk, get your breath back and set yourself for defence. There are similarities from a fitness point of view to what is required in basketball.”
“Defensive systems are similar when it comes to footwork. The side-to-side movement. But the thing is, basketballers are a lot quicker on their feet. I am a guard so I think that helps in having been able to adapt those skills well to boxing, but one of the things boxers marvel at is how big basketballers are and how well they move.”
“I look at a guy like AJ Ogilvy and he moves so much better on his feet than most boxers. So hopefully that’s where I can help out in being able to teach that.”
It is part of Harvey’s plan beyond basketball. He’s convinced there are still a few more good years left in him, but knows the finish line is nearing. A sickening broken arm and an early season Achilles injury have forced him to evaluate his future.
“I missed a few games at the start of this season but I have played every game since I came back. This year we have put a management plan in place. So I have done sessions to stay fit, not to pound the body. Unlike previous years, I have never really done two days in a row.”
“With me it has probably always been a case of doing too much as opposed to not enough. So the past few years have been a steep learning curve once I hit my 30’s. But Shane Heal has been really good with me and we’ve had very clear and open lines of communication about my program.”
There have been glimpses of Harvey’s best in 2013/14 as well. Match-winning performances that have wound back the clock.
“I think at this stage of your career, and the older guys in the League like Peter Crawford and CJ would say this too I’m sure, there are days when you don’t feel so good so you just try and contribute. But then there are the days when you feel on and you really want to take advantage of that and try and remind everyone, and yourself, what you’re capable of.”
“I’m hoping I’ll be involved with Billy again once this season is over. I guess part of me is looking at it as a possible career option after basketball.”
“But I love basketball. It is my passion. It is the one thing where I have always been able to find something that inspires me.”
“And if I don’t end up doing anything else, at least I can say I’ve been to 50 Cent’s house for a visit hey. Haha.”