A day in the life of boxer Anthony Crolla
There are two guys sparring in the ring, another kicking the stuffing out of a punch bag – and half a dozen more strutting around in their pants.
I, meanwhile, am having an in-depth discussion about Bikram yoga.
I’m in Bolton, talking to boxer Anthony ‘Million Dolla’ Crolla at the boxing gym where he trains.
The former-WBA lightweight champion has not been able to make the sessions for a while, and it seems he’s got some serious yoga withdrawals.
“I really miss it when I don’t do it,” he says, trying to make himself heard above the grunts of the boxers training downstairs.
“I used to hate it. Not because I was embarrassed or anything, but because I was so stiff.
“I was the worst in the class.
“I’ve been doing yoga [for] years now,” he explains, “and it has played a big part in my training. It helps with breathing and makes you more flexible and supple.
“If anyone thinks it's a ‘soft’ thing to do, all I would say is go and try and then tell me it's soft.”
Crolla is talking me through his weekly training regime.
It’s an intense programme – and one that seems to be as punishing on his Mercedes’ odometer as it is on his body.
“I spend all my time on the motorway,” says the boxer, who flits between yoga classes in Manchester city centre, swimming lessons in Bury, strength conditioning in Wigan, and daily, three-hour sessions here, at the Bolton boxing gym owned by his coach, renowned trainer Joe Gallagher.
“There'll be certain days where Joe has me here [in Bolton] first thing, shadow-boxing or doing really gruelling high-tempo stuff. While other mornings, I might have to be up in Bury at 5:30am for a session in the pool.
"It totally changes day to day.”
Surprisingly for a boxer, swimming is an integral part to Crolla’s training.
“I do about three really intense, half-hour sessions in the pool each week; lots of short sprints with short recovery mixed with some lengths underwater to really expand those lungs.
“I used to do a lot of running,” he elaborates, “but I was involved in an incident a few years ago, which had a lot of knock-on problems, so now I swim instead.”
The father of one was attacked with a concrete slab while interrupting a burglary.
It was a career-threatening assault that left him with a fractured skull and an ankle broken in several places.
“A lot of people thought I wouldn't box again but six months later I was fighting for the world title,” Crolla recalls.
He drew that bout against Colombia’s Darleys Pérez, but went on to win the rematch five months later.
He subsequently spent a year as WBA lightweight champ, before losing the belt to Venezuela’s Jorge Linares in September 2016.
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Struggled to find a picture of him not punching me but massive good luck to this man @jorgelinares tonight in his huge fight over in New York. Be up the early hours cheering him on with the family. I think we’ve got 2 of the most complete fighters in the game fighting each other in him and @lomachenkovasiliy . Going to be a great fight 🥊 #boxing #linaresloma #teamlinares
All is not lost, though. Crolla is in the process of trying to reclaim his crown - and, judging from the strain his shirt buttons are currently under, the 9st 9lbs fighter is in the middle of a serious pre-fight bulk.
“I eat well,” jokes Crolla, a big smile chiselled across his square jaw.
“Pizza, cake…” he reels off the list of his cheat-day favourites.
“Out of training, I'm as greedy as anything.”
He may not deny himself life’s little luxuries – or, indeed, count calories – but Crolla, who has most of his meals prepared by his aunty and uncle’s catering firm, WAM, is anything but an unhealthy eater.
His typical dinner reads like a menu at a yoga retreat: kale, spinach, turkey – and more quinoa than you can shake a (carrot) stick at.
“When I was a kid, I used to do all the wrong things,” he says.
“I was starving myself to make [my] weight [category], I wasn’t drinking enough water and I was training in sweat gear all the time.
“That's what a lot of us were like. We weren’t educated.”
“The only time you'll see me in sweat gear now is the day before a weigh in.”
But it’s not just his enlightened attitude towards outdated training methods like sweat suits – which can seriously dehydrate athletes – that sets him apart from many of his peers. He is also not afraid to lift.
And lift big.
In addition to his daily boxing classes, the 5ft 9ins athlete spends up to six hours a week working out with his strength trainer, Martin Cullen, doing deadlifts, squats and other potentially scale-tipping compound movements.
“I’m a big believer in weight lifting,” explains Crolla.
“You’ve got to be careful not to pile on too much muscle and go over weight limit, so I’ll lift heavy weights but I won't do loads of reps.
“I think boxing didn't move with the times and people thought that if you lifted weights, you’d get big.
"But if you lift the right weights it makes you stronger and increases your speed.”
It’s lunchtime and Crolla is in a bit of a quandary. He’s pouring over his schedule for the rest of the day and can’t decide whether to squeeze in a quick gym session or sate his yoga cravings.
It’s a no-brainer: he has a title to reclaim.
He fires up the Merc and his odometer resumes its upward spiral.
The yoga will have to wait…