A North Wales fitness trainer has been working out with international boxing star Conor McGregor as well as a string of Hollywood A-listers and Olympic heroes.
Henry Jones, dubbed the Welsh Dragon by US colleagues, has won accolades from both staff and customers during his sessions at the Los Angeles gym run by former UK Olympian boxer Tony Jeffries.
Henry, who was a schoolboy Welsh boxing champion, helped train a host of famous faces as they worked out at the Santa Monica Box N Burn gym.
The Hollywood stars included top-selling singer and model Alli Simpson along with Skylar Astin, who starred in Pitch Perfect and Pitch Perfect II, Frank Grillo from Prison Break, Bonnie Wright who played Ginny in the Harry Potter films, and Jason Clark who produced Ted and Ted II along with the two Stuart Little movies.
Henry also worked with professional light heavyweight Commonwealth champion boxer Callum Johnson and Irish fighter Michael Conlan, whose first professional bout takes place this month ((March 2017)). Other sporting heroes honing their muscles were comedian, UFC fighter and American football player Brendan Scheaub plus UK bobsleigh Olympian, actor and Gladiator star Wayne Gordon.
Also training at the gym was UFC star McGregor, who got his professional boxing licence in November last year amid growing speculation that he will fight the legendary Floyd Mayweather in a 100 million dollar bout.
The outspoken Irish fighter, who is the biggest pay-per-view draw in mixed martial arts, is renowned for his extravagant lifestyle but Henry said he was down to earth when he met him.
Former Ysgol John Bright student Henry said: “I was training with Irish Olympian boxer Mick Conlan on the pads when Conor walked in, as he was doing a bit of training at the moment and Box N Burn is his new gym.
“He’s got the personality you see in public but he’s genuinely a nice guy and very down to earth.”
Henry, who lives in Llandudno, is an aspiring boxing coach studying sports science at Bangor University’s Coleg Llandrillo campus, and also works as a van driver for Argos in Llandudno, using his wages to pay for fitness courses to help improve his knowledge in order to fulfil his ambitions.
The 19-year-old has had three spells in Los Angeles, and during his last visit completed 27 fitness classes a week and 300 rounds of pad work with the boxers.
He said: “The actors and sports champions are all just normal people to work with, and make you feel comfortable.
“I did have to do a bit of research because when I worked with one woman I was told she was in Harry Potter as Ron Weasley’s little sister! So you are always surprised who you end up working with.
“Frank Grillo is 50 but he was in the best shape I’ve ever seen anyone. Skylar Astin was training for his next film and I had a great chat with him.
“I built up a rapport with them all and Jason Clark said he wanted to do more training with me when I’m back next.
“Callum Johnson the Commonwealth champion was the first person I trained with this time. We did skills and pad work over many rounds in preparation for his next fight. I loved every bit of it.”
Jeffries, a former professional light heavyweight boxer from Sunderland who won bronze at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, was forced to retire due to injuries in 2012, at which point he moved to LA to open up two gyms.
Tony praised Henry’s approach to fitness training, saying: “He knows the value of experience, and absolutely loved it.”
Henry has always been a big fan of Jeffries as he boxed at the same weight when he was a teenager before injuries also cut short his promising career. He’s now visited his gym three times in the last ten months and the pair have struck up such a close bond that he was invited to stay with Jeffries and his family during his last trip.
Henry said: “I’ve always followed his career because he was the same weight as me and I thought I have to study this guy. I contacted him by email to see if I could get some experience before going to college.
“A few months later I went over to his boxing academy, we got speaking and hit it off. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, working with world class trainers.
“We did some sparring and fitness work in the gym and he said I was doing really well. He was really impressed by my determination.
“He’s the most helpful person you could meet. When I was coming over for my third visit he said come and stay with me.
“He welcomed me into his home, introduced me to his wife and kids and paid for everything. He looked after me. It was incredible.”
He added: “I never imagined I would get this opportunity, my life goals have changed and my confidence has grown.
“As a youngster, I was involved with drama and acting groups, and performed on stage. However, I always had an interest in boxing because my dad follows it, and I decided when I was 14 to go down to Llandudno ABC boxing club to try it out.
“That was life changing and where it all started for me. I have to thank the coaches there for all their help.
“I ended up becoming Welsh Champion but when I was 15 I decided to concentrate on coaching. I love it and have had good feedback. I train both boxers and people looking to improve their general fitness.
“I’d love to work in LA one day. But I really want to coach boxing around the world, to introduce it to more people and show them the benefits.
“I save up money from my part time job to fund extra courses to educate myself more. I’ve been to London, Leeds and Liverpool for gym instructor and personal trainer courses.
“In London I worked with Wayne Gordon who was in the recent series of Gladiators and the James Bond film Skyfall. I didn’t realise until he added me on Instagram! I couldn’t believe it,” added Henry, who still trains at Hogan’s Gym at Llandudno ABC twice a week.