As a Liverpool player, Ryan McLaughlin once marked Francesco Totti as James Bond actor Daniel Craig watched from the stand.
The Rochdale defender and co-host of new podcast Brawl Boxing was left speechless ahead of the pre-season friendly, which is a rarity as his listeners are finding out.
“I was too scared to chat or get a photo with James Bond because I feared Brendan Rodgers would think I wasn’t focused,” McLaughlin tells Sky Sports News, recalling the game at Fenway Park in Boston in July 2012.
“Steven Gerrard was introducing him to the players in the changing room before the game but I was trying to focus on Totti.
“It was surreal. Four weeks earlier, I had been playing five-a-side with my mates in west Belfast!”
McLaughlin, who came through the ranks at Melwood with Raheem Sterling and Conor Coady, has now combined his love of boxing with his love of talking.
“With football, we are done by 2pm so this has been a welcome distraction. We’ve had Johnny Nelson, Billy Joe Saunders, and Carl Frampton as guests,” he explained.
“Boxers tell their story in a revealing way. As footballers, we work for a club and we have to be media trained to protect that relationship but boxers don’t care what they say! I find their stories so interesting.
“Johnny Nelson told us he used to go into the toilets before a fight and time three minutes on a stopwatch. He questioned how he could box for that length of time as he battled with the nerves.
“If we have a bad day in football, there are 10 others who can help you through it but boxers are on their own.”
The Northern Ireland international was able to record one recent interview at the team hotel ahead of games against Slovakia, Austria, and Romania.
“I interviewed Billy Joe Saunders but (Watford defender) Craig Cathcart decided to bang on the door for 10 minutes as we were recording. They are all supportive really!”
The Brawl Boxing team, including co-hosts Colm McGuigan and Ciaran McCourt, will be watching Anthony Joshua closely as he defends the IBF, WBA, and WBO heavyweight titles against Kubrat Pulev on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
“Joshua has learned from Ruiz,” McLaughlin observes.
“I don’t think he took him lightly and he won’t take this lightly, given what’s at stake in 2021.
“I think Joshua will win and win comfortably because of what’s ahead with the massive UK fight against Tyson Fury to hopefully look forward to.”
‘Sterling was a superstar yet so down to earth’
His former Liverpool team-mates Sterling and Coady will also be looking ahead to 2021 with a European Championship on the horizon.
The 26-year-old admits he wasn’t surprised to hear Coady was a vocal presence in the England camp ahead of his international debut.
“I was speaking to Raheem recently and he was telling me Conor wouldn’t shut up!”
“It’s exactly how he was at Liverpool. We were 4-0 up against Inter Milan in the youth Champions League and I won him two penalties, yet he was still screaming at me.
“It’s an unbelievable quality. To have worn the armband already just shows what Gareth Southgate thinks of him and I had no doubt he’d go on to do brilliant things.
“He took a step back to go forward by leaving Liverpool and it takes big mental strength to make that decision.”
There was similar glowing praise for two-time Premier League champion Sterling.
“He was a superstar as a kid and yet was so down to earth.
“He got bad press at the beginning of his career which was completely uncalled for because day in day out he was amazing.
“We knew he’d be a world star and he hasn’t disappointed.”
They developed in an environment that could so easily be daunting for a young footballer.
“You don’t realise how big a club it is until you’re in the bubble. The fans, my god, they are so passionate.
“I was homesick when I first moved over but the club was brilliant with me. It’s a family club.”
Football remains the priority and Rochdale travel to Peterborough in League One on Saturday. In the meantime, he is working on his dream guests, although it is not going to plan.
“It has to be Eddie Hearn or Conor McGregor. Eddie is obviously on Sky Sports so maybe you could put a good word in! I’ve sent him a direct message on Instagram and he’s read it but not replied!”
Eddie, you may have a busy few days ahead, but it’s over to you!