Interview and photos by Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
I’m sure that anyone that watched Prizefighter – International Heavyweights – back in June 2012, will remember 25 year old Tom Little from Hatfield, Hertfordshire, not because he won or anything like that, but for the surprising way he exited the competition in the quarter-final against Tom Dallas.
I say surprising as Tom seemed to be cruising to victory, but after two sensation rounds dominated by the Hatfield man he ran out of steam mid-third round.
Doghouse Boxing’s Iain Dolan, who was ringside on the night, wrote in his report:
“Fight of the night was the 4th quarter final between Hatfield’s Tom Little (18st 3lbs) and Tom Dallas. The flabby Little, in only his 4th paid bout showed surprising hand speed and a big heart as he threw the kitchen sink at Dallas from the off.
Finding success with jabs and hooks both upstairs and down, Little looked to be on course for an unlikely victory as Dallas neglected defense in order to meet fire with fire.
Little started the 2nd round with similar ambition but, from quite early on, was looking up at the big screen to see how long was left in the round. Little continued to throw leather and give Dallas problems although he was clearly gassed by the end of the round.
In the 3rd it all fell apart for Little as he had just completely run out of steam. Dallas landed some good shots but it was 90% exhaustion that caused Little to crash to the canvas.
He managed to get to his feet but could barely stand so the fight was waved off.
If Little can find the discipline to spend more time in the gym and less time in KFC, he has plenty offer on the domestic heavyweight scene.”
That final comment may just have been the catalyst for the ‘rebuilding’ of Tom Little that has been taking place at the TRAD TKO Boxing Gym in Canning Town over the past couple of months.
That may sound a little dramatic, but believe me I have seen the transformation, both physical and mental, that has taken place.
I first met Tom when he was preparing for his pro debut, against Rolandas Cesna in July 2011. I was invited by Graham Earl to come to Luton to interview his fighters that were to take part in an event promoted by him at the Liquid Night Club in Luton.
To describe the difference between the Tom I met then and the one I spoke with earlier today is unreal. Back then Tom was yet another flabby heavyweight.
He’s biggest selling point was his hand speed, ridiculously fast for a Light Heavy, let alone a Heavyweight, but his stamina was very, very poor, he was running out of steam after just a couple of rounds on the heavy bag.
Today Tom is almost a lean, mean fighting machine. Whilst yes he is still carrying a bit of excess weight, he really is beginning to look much more ‘fighty’
The change is so extreme that I for one am looking forward to watching him in action, at Johnny Eames’ TKO Events promoted ‘Two Tribes’ event at York Hall in London on Saturday June 1st.
If he performs at the level he did in the training sessions Tom Little may just be the breath of fresh air the Heavyweight division needs to ignite the fans interest once more.
As I said before I was amazed at his extraordinary hand speed, as well as the ease he is able to open up his opposition with both hands, so am sure he will become a serious crowd pleaser.
OK, enough of my praising the youngster, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Following the grueling regime Barry Smith, young Tom took some time out to talk about his career to date, his disappointing loss to Tom Dallas and of course the transformation since his move to the TRAD TKO.
Rio: So you’re fighting Luke Martin at York Hall on the 1st June, what do you know about Luke and how do you see the fight going?
Tom: Luke Martin, well I don’t know a thing about him, don’t care all I know is I’m going to flatten him.
Training’s been really good, the sharpness is there and everything is coming together just right.
I’ve got a week of sparring to go, I’m really looking forward to that, then I’m ready to go, so Luke Martin watch out.
Rio: This will be your fifth professional outing, how has your pro career been to date?
Tom: I’ve had four fights, this will be my fifth, won three of them and my only loss was against Tom Dallas in Prizefighter.
I’m not going to make excuses, anyone that see it see that knows I didn’t get beat by the better man.
I was in a very bad place in my life at that time, I shouldn’t have been in a boxing ring, to be quite honest with you I shouldn’t have been around people full stop, I should have been locked away, because of the things going on in my head at the time.
That’s all behind me now though, I’m moving forward and I’ve got a good team behind me at last, in manager Johnny Eames and trainer Barry Smith as well as having a great camp at the TRAD TKO gym in Canning Town.
Rio: So you were lucky to get the three wins you have then?
I’ve been lucky, I fought the very capable Hastings Rasani in my second fight, funnily enough I was up here two days before my fight, Graham got Barry to give me some pads and he blew me out in two rounds, so you can tell what sort of fitness I was at.
It’s all changed now though, I’ve been at the TRAD TKO about fifteen weeks now, come down from about twenty stone and now weigh seventeen stone five. I’ve never boxed below eighteen stone before, ever.
For Prizefighter I only ever done roadwork and bag work and no other training for two weeks, so I’m confident now that I’m getting into good condition.
Rio: So you’re now in a ‘Good Place’ mentally and physically, so what can the fans expect to see of Tom Little in the future.
Tom: I know that people spout their mouth and say whatever, but I know there’s not a heavyweight in Britain that I can’t beat when I’m fit and believe me I am going to be in the condition of my life thanks to Barry.
This is literally a new start for me and I’m real pleased that Johnny and Barry have given me the opportunity to have this new start.
That loss to Dallas, a lot of people wouldn’t have given me a second chance, thankfully Johnny see something he liked and was happy to work with me.
Barry’s always liked the way that fight and he’d seen the things that needed changing. Everyone’s been working together and I’m confident that we really are going to shock everyone when they see me in action on June 1st.
Rio: Changing tack slightly, could you tell the readers a little about your early amateur career please?
Tom: I was amateur from the age of twelve, up to seventeen. I had twenty two fights won eighteen of them, done real well as an amateur.
The last time I boxed as an amateur was as a Middleweight, then I went away and done my own thing.
Rio: So you walked away from boxing whilst an amateur, what changed for you to come back straight in and campaign in the pro ranks?
Tom: Funnily enough I went back into the gym to help me give up smoking and met Graham Earl.
Graham then offered me the chance to turnover, it all happened really fast, I got my head down, had three fights, which I won, under Graham Earl whilst I was training out of Luton.
Never did feel myself that I was fit, always felt there was something missing, someone was missing something out of the camp.
It really did open my eyes up when I went in Prizefighter under short notice and was literally left to train myself.
My current trainer Barry was there on the night, he noticed but obviously couldn’t say anything because I wasn’t his fighter at the time.
It really showed, I went in against someone I wasn’t expected to get anywhere with and gave him the hiding of his life for two rounds, but in doing this literally collapsed with exhaustion.
This really opened my eyes, so I went away to think things over. I then left my manager, left everything and come up to the TRAD TKO, where I was welcomed with open arms.
Rio: Has this change of management and coaching made that much of a difference then?
Tom: Barry Smith has really turned things around for me, before I couldn’t do two rounds in sparring for any of my other fights because I just didn’t have it in the tank, now I can spar up to ten rounds.
It makes so much difference being here, I’ve always got a coach, everyone puts in the best work to help, but the biggest thing is there is always sparring here, not just sparring but quality sparring against great opposition.
There’s a couple of good heavyweights up here, plus fighter friends of the gym. I had some sparring with Dereck Chisora and that, so the TRAD TKO has done a lot for me, in the short time since I’ve been up here, I’m very grateful to them.
Rio: I know you are focused on the fight with Luke Martin right now, but after that is there any fight you really want Johnny to make happen for you?
Tom: I’m really eager to get the rematch against Tom Dallas, I want to prove to everyone that the better man didn’t win on the night.
If he wants to hide behind his manager so be it, they say he doesn’t want it yet, but he can’t hide for ever and I’ll be there in his way wherever he wants to get to.
This will be my first fight under the TRAD TKO banner and I know that it’s the start of bigger things for me, including hopefully the rematch with Tom Dallas, I’ll go to Kent and drag him out if I have to.
Rio: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today, finally is there anything you would like to say to the fans out there?
Tom: To all the fans out there, come to York Hall on the 1st June and see the real me, see what they were missing out on before because I didn’t have proper training before, they’ll see what I can do now that I have a serious people behind me and I’m in a good place.
Tom Little, against Luke Martin, is a supporting bout on the Colin Lynes versus Beka Sutidze headlines the BBBofC sanctioned Johnny Eames promoted ‘Two Tribes Go To War’ event at York Hall in Bethnal Green, London on Saturday 1st June 2013.
Tickets, priced £35 (Standard Seated) and £60 (Ringside) are available on line at www.tkoboxoffice.com or in person at the TRAD TKO Boxing Gym in Canning Town or direct from Tom Little or any of the fighters taking part.
By Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
This coming Saturday one of the UK’s top amateur stars, European Silver and Commonwealth Boxing Championships Gold medalist, Iain Weaver makes his long awaited professional debut at York Hall in London.
Back in July last year Iain was on the verge of hitting the big time, pro boxing wise, promoter Eddie Hearn had convinced him to sign with his Matchroom Sport concern with the promise of debuting on his September Alexandra Palace mega event, headlined by Darren Barker’s return.
However this failed to materialize, due to the British Boxing Board of Control refusing to license him after his brain scan highlighted a cyst.
Various appeals followed after independent neurosurgeons cleared him as fit to box, as the cyst was genetic, had been there all his life and presented virtually no danger to his health.
One of the neurosurgeons even stated, that during his career he had only seen one similar type of cyst bleed, and that was due to the person received major trauma after being involved in a serious road accident.
Even though Iain had enjoyed ‘elite’ status as an Amateur, fought 115 times and represented his country at the highest level with the cyst, as well as having various top neurosurgeons clear him, the BBBofC still refused to license him.
Earlier this year Iain successfully applied for a Spanish license, however as soon as it was announced, that he would be fighting in London on the 27th, the BBBofC successfully lobbied the European Boxing Union to assist in persuading the Spanish Federation to revoke the license.
Never one to give up, Iain successfully applied to a different European sanctioning organization for a professional license and finally makes his professional debut at York Hall in London this coming Saturday.
I met up with Iain at the TRAD TKO Boxing Gym in Canning Town as he finalized his preparations for his long awaited pro debut.
Initially I had asked Iain about the ongoing saga, it had only been a few days earlier that he had been informed that he has been successful in his latest license application, but it was clear that the 23 year old from Ferndale in Dorset felt uncomfortable discussing the whole sorry affair, much preferring to talk boxing in general.
Rio: Finally you get to pro debut this Saturday at York Hall, it’s been a bit of a drama getting here but now you are, so how do you feel with your first fight being just a few days away?
Iain: Yeah, I think it’s great, I can’t wait to get into the ring.
It’s been a long time coming, the 27th can’t come quick enough though.
Rio: You’ve had a great amateur career, what would you say are the highlights of your career?
Iain: I think the highlights were really the European Silver medal and the Commonwealth Games, I won the Commonwealth Youth Games and the Commonwealth Seniors, that was a great experience for me.
It was really special to be a part of them and you know traveling the World with all the other GB lads was a great four years of my life.
Rio: The transition from Amateur to Pro is not always an easy move, how have you coped with the different areas in making the move?
Iain: To be honest, I’ve always had a bit of a pro style anyway.
I’ve always suited the pros better, I always started slow in the amateurs and tended to lose the first round and got stronger as the fight goes on. I think doing more rounds will suit me better.
I’m really looking forward to my debut as I feel I should have been fighting pro much earlier. If I hadn’t been on the Olympic squad and had a chance of going to London 2012 I probably would have switched earlier.
Rio: Since you bought up the Olympics, your nemesis Luke Campbell is turning pro with Matchroom Sport, so in the near future we could have ‘Groves-DeGale’ type of showdown between you two again, this time on the pro circuit.
Iain: Definitely, he suited the amateurs, he was hard to beat, he was a good kid for the weight, three threes suited him, but the pros are a different ball game and I think it’ll suit me more than it’ll suit him.
Rio: I’m going to stick with the amateurs – in your opinion who has been the standout amateur boxer, past or present?
Iain: To be honest it’s either (Guillermo) Rigondeaux from Cuba or Lomanchenko from the Ukraine.
I’ve been in tournaments with Vasyl Lomachenko and I’ve seen him first hand and he is a very special talent.
After watching Rigondeaux the other weekend and watching videos of him in the amateurs, I’ve got to say he’s probably one of the best amateurs ever as well as a World class pro.
He’s a southpaw and he’s quick, I watch him and try and get tips so I can do things that he does.
Rio: I Know Rigondeaux is already in the pros and a unified World Champion, but that aside who are your favourite pro boxers?
Iain: Yeah, but Rigondeaux’s got to be right up there, but when I first started making my move to the pros my coach said I reminded him of Pernell Whitaker.
I didn’t really know too much about him, didn’t know who he was, so I looked him up on YouTube and that’s the style I like, the style I like to fight at.
Yeah, Pernell Whitaker is probably my favourite one.
Oh and I was born on the same day as Muhammad Ali, so he’s one of my favourites also.
Rio: Thank you for taking some time out from your preparations to talk with me and good luck on the 27th, although I’m sure you don’t need it.
Iain: No problem, I’d like to say to your readers, it’s going to be a great show, there’s even a big title fight headlining. It’s not on TV, so the only way to see this is get down to York Hall on Saturday.
Iain Weaver will be making his debut, against a yet to be named opponent, on the undercard of the Oisin Fagan versus Chris Goodwin WBF Inter-Continental Lightweight title clash, that headlines Dave Murphy’s Thunderdrome Promotions ‘Thunder & Lightning’ event at York Hall, Bethnal Green in London on the 27th April 2013.
Tickets, priced £65 (Ringside), £35 (Floor) and £30 (Balcony) are available on-line at www.tkoboxoffice.com or in person from Iain himself or alternatively at the TRAD TKO Boxing Gym in Canning Town, London E16 4SA – www.tkoboxinggym.com – or the Ringtone Gym in Euston, London NW1 2PB – www.ringtonehealthandfitness.com – Tel: 07960 850645 or 07557 641597 for further information.
One-time world amateur medallist Joe Murray has endured a frustrating time since vaulting to the paid code in March 2009.
The 2008 Beijing Olympian has been restricted to just a dozen wins (five early) and is yet to debut at meaningful championship level.
But the 26 year old they call ‘Genius’ is hopeful of kickstarting his career after signing a promotional deal with Frank Warren last month.
After 14 months on the sidelines, the Arnie Farnell trained super-featherweight returns to the prize ring at Wembley Arena on April 20th and, after shedding some rust, shall be anxious to force his way into title contention.
Murray features on the undercard of an action-packed triple-title card headlined by WBO World Light-Heavyweight Champion Nathan Cleverly, plus WBO European Lightweight Champion Liam Walsh and Commonwealth Super-Flyweight title challenger Paul Butler, all live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546).
Name: Joe Murray
Family background: I’m the third of four brothers. Apparently our Grandad boxed and obviously our John did too. (Former British, Commonwealth and European lightweight champion John challenged Brandon Rios for the WBA lightweight title in December 2011).
Another older brother Stephen had about four amateur bouts but was far more interested in chasing girls. My youngest brother is only seven so it’s too early to see if he’ll take to it.
These days I live on a farm a fraction of a mile over the Welsh border, by Wrexham, with my girlfriend and little boy Hugo, who’s four months. It’s great, we get free prescriptions (in Wales)!
Trade: Farming. I buy and sell horses.
Nickname: ‘Genius’. They had a competition in the Manchester Evening News to find me one.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? We’d always watched the Rocky films and the wrestling. I’d always had ‘toy fights’ with my older brothers. But it really started when me mum started going to boxercise classes at Bob Shannon’s gym in Openshaw. She’s pretty tough, our mum. Still tells us what to do!
To keep us off the streets, she took us up to Bob’s amateur club, Shannon’s ABC. I’d have been about 13, our John 15.
What do you recall of your amateur career? After a year at Shannon’s, I moved to Ardwick Lads and, a year after, I went to the Northside gym. Then we spent a couple of years at Boarshaw. Basically, I followed (coach) Joe Gallagher around.
All told, I won 95 of 110 amateur bouts. Being really small, I didn’t get many bouts to start with. But I won the national schoolboys and junior ABAs. In the senior ABAs I never got past the north-west regional round. In 2006, (eventual champion) Nick McDonald from Liverpool outpointed me at bantamweight and the following year Kallum De’ath from Northside also beat me on points.
I must have boxed for England about 80 times and I only lost ten. I won the Junior Olympics in Louisiana when I was just 15 and I also won the Four Nations as a junior.
From the age of 18, I trained with Team GB at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and went straight onto the Podium squad. I stayed for three years until I turned pro. It was good but I didn’t enjoy being away from home and sometimes they treated you like a little kid. They always found something for you to do so you had very little free time.
I won loads of multi-nations medals, including a silver at the European Unions and a bronze at The 2007 World Seniors in Chicago, which qualified me for the Beijing Olympics. That was definitely my (amateur) highlight.
The opening ceremony was something else. I’d already beaten three of the eventual four medallists at Beijing but, like Frankie Gavin, I’d qualified about nine months earlier and was really struggling to hold the weight. My focus was solely on making weight rather than boxing training and I lost in my first fight to a Chinese kid I’d previously beaten at the worlds the year before.
There’s this huge misconception that there’s a huge party among the athletes inside the Olympic village but it weren’t like that for me. As soon as I lost, I was flown home with Billy Joe (Saunders).
I stayed on (amateur) for the 2008 Europeans in Liverpool at featherweight but lost in the first series to David Oliver Joyce of Ireland. I felt that was a bad decision. Previously, at the 2006 European Seniors in Bulgaria, I’d got to the quarter-finals
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? I’d done everything I wanted as an amateur. I’d been the Olympics, the World Seniors and two European Seniors so would just be repeating what I’d already done. Perhaps I’d have got better medals but I had enough already.
Tell us about your back up team: Initially I was promoted by the Hattons but last month I joined Frank Warren. I’m managed by Mike Marsden and, after a long time with Joe Gallagher, I’ll now be coached by Anthony Farnell.
‘Arnie’ (Farnell) and me are just starting to gel and I’m buzzing. Paul Butler, Matty Hall, Ronnie Heffron plus a few good young pros are also at his gym in Failsworth and we all push each other on. ‘Arnie’ gives us individual slots so he’s always looking over us.
(Expert nutritionist/conditioner) Kerry Kayes has always been around my career and I know I can ring him any time I need for advice.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I’m never really out of the gym but ideally I like six weeks notice before a fight so I can get my weight ‘spot on’.
When I’ve a date, I’ll train Monday to Friday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I do my sprints at the track and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I’ll run six miles. I take a longer run on a Sunday morning.
I normally arrive at Arnie’s gym for noon but there’s no set routine. We have sparring days, bar-bag days, body bag days…Other times we’ll focus on developing different techniques on the pads or do circuits. You never really know what’s coming.
Like most boxers, I most enjoy sparring. It’s the closest to actual boxing. I still spar our John quite a lot and I did quite a bit with (welterweight) Mark Thompson for his recent Prizefighter. At Joe Gallagher’s, I did loads with Stephen and Liam Smith, Scott Cardle, Anthony Crolla… I’ll spar anyone.
I least enjoy running, especially at the track. It’s just really hard work. At the start of a camp, we’ll do four- one kilometre runs and we’ll try to get under three minutes for each. Closer to the fight, we do six 800 metres, then drop it to ten 400 metres and finally fast sprints.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I’m very clever at working people out. I’ve fast hands, fast feet but can also fight inside. The left hook-right hand is probably my favourite combo.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? You need to keep all your tools permanently sharp. I continually go back to the basics and re-learn what I thought I’d mastered early in my career. Beware bad habits!
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? I boxed four-two minute rounds in the amateurs and you seldom found out the opponent’s true (physical) strength. You could steal fights by getting a few points up in the first two rounds then basically running away.
Winning the early rounds of a 12 round professional championship is no guarantee you’ll win the fight.
That said, you don’t always need to hold your feet to be successful as a pro. Floyd Mayweather has a great amateur style, still and he’s doing okay. Ditto Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan. They all retained great foot movement.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? My brother (John). He’s very underestimated. Everybody talks about his toughness but he’s also very calm, clever and cunning. He knows when to rest, when to work. He can always sense when you’re tired, then jumps on you.
All time favourite fighter: Arturo Gatti. He had the heart of a warrior and always brought entertainment.
All time favourite fight: Barrera-Morales I. Non stop war. Neither wanted to get beat.
Which current match would you most like to see made? I’d still like to see Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. That fight should definitely have been made a good few years ago. On his game, Pacman could still give Floyd problems with his southpaw style, fast hands and feet. But Mayweather would win. He figures ‘em all out really fast and always makes it look so easy.
What is your routine on fight day? I just try to stay really relaxed because nerves burn your energy. I’ll be up quite late and have brekkie about 11ish. Throughout the day I’ll take in a lot of water to re-hydrate after the weigh-in. I’ll mainly just watch films and have a laugh with me mates. I’ll have a light sandwich around 5pm but like to fight on a relatively empty stomach. That makes me feel sharper.
In the changing rooms, I lark about with the others to stay relaxed. Fight day is what you do the sport for. I’m there to have fun. It’s not the death penalty!
Entrance music: ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ by the Rednex because I own the farms. I’m gonna enter in dungarees and a straw hat!
What are your ambitions as a boxer? I want to win the British and European titles and I hope that Frank Warren will get me those opportunities. Ultimately, I just want to get as far as I can, knowing that I gave it 100%.
How do you relax? I like to ride horses and go out hunting. I like to go out roading on the bikes and I like to go the (horse) races at Bangor and Dee.
Football team: Man United. Our John’s Man City. Whenever we go the derbies together, he always gives me away if we’re in the City end!
Read: Boxing News plus Horse and Hound to keep up to date with the price of horses. I also spend a lot of time on the Internet.
Films/TV: I like comedies and horror movies. ‘Snatch’ is probably my favourite film. On TV, I like a bit of Corrie and crime series.
Aspiration in life: To achieve as much as I can, have a good time and give my children the best possible future.
Motto: It’s a horse one. ‘Ride It Like You Stole It!’
By Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
This coming Friday, March 15th, promoter Frank Maloney returns to the York Hall in Bethnal Green for his latest offering ‘Loaded and Dangerous In London’, which is headlined by Matt Skelton versus John McDermott for the vacant English Heavyweight title.
This event is a sort of homecoming for Peckham London born Frank, having not promoted at the Capital’s home of boxing since his huge show in June 2009, which was headlined by Jason Booth’s successful British Super Bantamweight title defense against Rocky Dean.
This classic Frank Maloney Promotions event featured the cream of his stable, including sadly missed former Beijing Olympic Bronze medalist Darren Sutherland, Akaash Bhatia, Ashley Sexton, Martin Power plus a host of local prospects and debutants. Of course being a FMP event it had to include a Heavyweight bout, in this case Tom Dallas versus Stas Bilokon.
Before I get carried away and start talking too much about that excellent event, I’ll change tack and move on to Frank’s greatest passion within the sport and of course his interview.
Frank is Mr. Heavyweight Boxing, OK, he lives and breathes boxing so maybe that should be Mr. Boxing, but that aside he has singlehandedly worked his socks off to try and breath some life into the Heavyweight division over the years.
His love affair with the ‘Big Boys’ may not have started when he began managing Lennox Lewis, but I can’t help but feel that was the biggest shot in the arm to this particular tryst.
Over the years Frank has taken virtually every British Heavyweight under his wing at one time or another, so when we got together, following the ‘Loaded and Dangerous in London’ press conference at the TRAD TKO Boxing Gym in Canning Town, I didn’t have much difficulty getting him to talk about Heavyweights and Heavyweight Boxing.
RIO: You have a big Heavyweight fight coming up on Saturday at York Hall. You’ve always been one of the biggest supporters of the Heavyweight Division, why is that?
FRANK MALONEY: I wouldn’t say a big Heavyweight Championship fight, I’d say an interesting Heavyweight Championship fight.
You know you’ve got two Heavyweights that people say are past their sell by date, but I’m a great believer that no Heavyweight is past his sell by date, because one punch changes the whole history of the Heavyweight division.
You know how many times we’ve written people off, they’ve written off Mohammed Ali, they’ve written off George Foreman, you know they’ve written off Larry Holmes, yet they kept coming back. They had written off Kevin McBride, then he came back and knocked out Mike Tyson.
The Heavyweights is an interesting division, an interesting situation, there’s Boxing and then there’s the Heavyweight division and everyone knows I love Heavyweights.
I’d like to bring all the old Heavyweights together, get them in a tournament to just see who the best man standing is, but they did that with Prizefighter didn’t they. The average age in that was thirty eight years old and guess what the guy that everyone loves to hate, Audley Harrision, has reinvented himself and come back bigger then ever.
Just imagine if Audley Harrison won a World title, he would have been the greatest star British Boxing could have ever had. Boxing would have been in every National Newspaper, every TV station, because this guy is a crossover star.
I have a lot of respect for Audley Harrison, I’ve had the pleasure of working with him, I’ve had the pleasure of slagging him off, but have to say knowing the guy I would have loved to have handled his career for him. Could I have made him a better fighter, I don’t know but if he had ever won a World title Boxing in this country would have totally changed.
RIO: You worked with Lennox Lewis, who was the most successful British Heavyweight, besides your current boys, such as David Price, which other Heavyweights did you take under your wing?
FRANK: Yeah I worked with Lennox and James Oyebola, he won the WBC International title and the British title under me.
I worked with Julius Francis, who was an average Heavyweight, yet he won the Lonsdale belt outright and ended up in with Mike Tyson.
I built Kevin McBride’s career up, until a bookmaker came chasing me for his debt and I gave him back his contract.
RIO: With the current World Heavyweight division being dominated by the Klitschko brothers and the domestic scene by upcoming stars such as Tyson Fury and David Price, is there a future for the loser of Friday’s big fight?
FRANK: It’s interesting, obviously there is a future for the winner of this weekend’s Heavyweight fight, but even the loser still has a future, he could still easily be recycled.
I mean it’s Boxing, every promoter is trying to recycle fighters from all divisions, as we have no new stars coming through.
We haven’t got great trainers out there no more, we’ve got fitness coaches. Saying that you come here, they’ve got some really good trainers, Johnny Eames is a very good trainer who learned his trade in the amateurs, like myself.
I look at it this way, when you go to secondary school you don’t take your primary teacher with you, when he finishes senior school and goes to university, he doesn’t take his senior teacher with him.
In Boxing it’s a little bit different as you can take your amateur coach with you when you step up to the pros, but you have to have someone else from the pros involved as well.
No one is learning how to box, every fighter now is much fitter than they have ever been but they haven’t got the skills they need to fight, that’s the problem.
RIO: You say about the lack of ‘stars’ these days, is there anyone from the current crop that you feel could one day become a true star?
FRANK: I think the simple answer is that there was no rush to sign any one of the 2012 Olympians, which was actually staged in our own City of London.
The last big signing was 2008 Beijing, and none of us promoters have got our investment back from then.
TV has changed the face of Boxing, I would say we are just about above a minority sport in Britain, you know and there are still people trying to bring it back.
If you find the right fighter, you will bring it back, but at this very moment we are a struggling sport.
Football’s taking everything, look what Sky bid for the last football and who got cut back the most, Boxing.
I’m not a great believer that there should be one promoter, which would be bad for the sport if it becomes a monopoly.
We had that during the time of Mickey Duff and the BBC, Boxing was OK but no one else got a look in.
Frank Warren took on the establishment, now in a certain way you could say Frank Warren is in the Mickey Duff situation and you’ve got young Eddie Hearn taking him on.
It’s interesting, is it even history repeating itself, we don’t know. Personally I think there’s still a lot of life in Frank Warren, I wouldn’t write him off as he’s a little bit more adaptable than Mickey Duff and them was in their day.
Frank’s got his sons working in there, which seems to be the new trend in Boxing.
Yeah it has changed, when I started there was no Internet, there was no Twitter, there was no Facebook, there was no mobile phones, I think I had one of the first mobile phones, it was as big as briefcase, I remember being down at the Becket with it.
So it has changed, but if we’re going to survive we need to adapt. Look at Don King, the greatest promoter the World’s ever seen, look at Bob Arum, the oldest promoter but still top of the pile.
You’ve got Golden Boy trying to make it more corporate, Boxing can’t be run like a corporate business, I don’t care what you say Golden Boy are bankrolled by a major TV station, let them go out and promote, you know work to get bums on seats, then see how well they do then.
RIO: OK, so do you think that’s because we look at Boxing just as a sport, instead of taking the wider view that Boxing is part of the Entertainment business and needs to compete with other sectors for those ‘Bums on Seats’ as you put it?
FRANK: It’s the entertainment business, Boxing isn’t recession proof and people in Boxing need to learn that.
Us promoters know that, as we have to put our hand in our pocket, but now you’ve got lawyers coming into your office, you’ve got trainers coming into your office and they’re telling you how much a fighters worth. I’ve got a message for them, put your hand in your pocket and you pay that sort of money, because you’re not recession proof, you know we are hit by recession.
We’re the only sport where the TV rights have been cut down, instead of going up, everything else has had them go up, Darts, Football, Formula One, which are the main sports on TV at the moment and they are taking all the money at the moment.
Sky have cut back so much on Boxing, that was a business decision by them because they claim they were not getting the viewing figures, you can’t blame them.
Loaded have come in on the ground floor, they’re like a Conference league team in Boxing at the moment, they’re just dipping their toes in the water, but you know what but if people start coming and demanding a hundred grand for a show and all that, even thirty grand for a show, Loaded will walk away from Boxing.
It’s just not there at the moment, we’re not recession proof and we have to accept that. Maybe fighters may have to take a pay cut, maybe we’ll have to sit down and look at the whole thing again and rebuild the game.
RIO: Funny that you have made such a point of the recession, I can’t help but notice that the tickets for Loaded and Dangerous in London start at £30, whereas the starting price over the past couple of years have been £35 or £40.
FRANK: We’re trying to bring people back to boxing and there’s not a British title fight on the show, so we haven’t got the same sanction fees.
We as promoters, well my company we do sit down, myself, James Russell, Mark Harnell and my daughter Emma, who is now on board, and we look at the situation and then cost a show, we say we need x amount to break even and this is what we’ve got to aim for.
I don’t know if it’s true but I’ve heard that Amir Khan’s cheapest tickets are £75, as I said I don’t know if that’s true, I’m waiting to see the posters.
Our average ticket for David Price is £40 and that’s up North, so yes, it is unusual for standard tickets to be just £30 these days.
Saying that I do believe the right fight sells, now will Carl Froch-Mikkel Kessler get the PPV numbers, which will be interesting as neither of them have crossover appeal, it’s just within Boxing they’re known.
Will they do as well as people think they will do, I’ll be watching that with great interest.
RIO: Getting back to this week’s show, I know you would prefer to remain neutral but I’m sure the fans would be interested in knowing who you think will emerge victorious on Friday.
FRANK: It’s a very interesting fight, I think that Matt Skelton can’t change the way he Boxes, so he will try and bully John to the canvas, he’s got it in his head that he’s already knocked John McDermott out.
John, who talks a great fight, the problem with John is he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in himself, you know if John gets it right John McDermott is one of the best Heavyweights out there.
He’s got a great jab, but he’s never believed in himself, he’s the unluckiest fighter in the history of British Boxing in the Heavyweight division.
RIO: So you’re not going to make a prediction then, OK, we’ll move on, you’re showcasing some upcoming young talent on the show, are there any standouts in your view?
FRANK: I’ve got to hold my hands up and say I don’t know much about them, because I’ve not promoted in London for about two or three years now, so it’s nice to come back to London and York Hall.
I’m really looking forward to it and working with Johnny (Eames) here at the TRAD TKO, who some of the young fighters are with.
I’ve left James Russell to put the whole card together, James is the sort of oil in my engine, he takes full credit for this show.
It’s the young upcoming fighters that need exposure, that’s what we’re selling to Loaded, it’s the upcoming fighters that they can highlight and develop. They’ve got the magazine, in fact I’m going to try and get them to come down and do an article on the TRAD TKO gym, because this is an old traditional gym and it’s a proving ground for young fighters so yeah I am hoping to get Loaded to do an article on it.
We’ve got a years contract with Loaded, with a years option, we’ve sat down with their management team and we’ve discussed the way forward, I do believe there’s an opening there for young fighters to get the exposure they deserve, but if people do not tune into it they’ll pull the plug on it as well.
It’s down to all of us, promoters, trainers, boxers, media and to get it out there and the fans up and down the country to watch the shows.
RIO: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today and I wish you all the success with ‘Loaded and Dangerous In London’ and all your future promotions.
FRANK: My pleasure.
Loaded and Dangerous In London, which takes place at York Hall, Bethnal Green in London on Friday 15th March 2013, is headlined by Matt Skelton versus John McDermott for the vacant English Heavyweight title and will be broadcast live and exclusive on Loaded TV (Sky platform channel 200)
Tickets, priced £30 and £70, for the Frank Maloney promoted ‘Loaded and Dangerous In London’ event at York Hall on Friday 15th March, are on sale now at www.tkoboxoffice.com or direct from the TRAD TKO Boxing Gym, Gillian House, Stephenson Street, Canning Town, London E16 4SA.
Erick ‘The Eagle’ Ochieng interview
By Michael J Jones
TRAD TKO’s Light-middleweight contender Erick “The Eagle” Ochieng is riding a crest of a wave following his best year as a pro in 2012. Virtually unknown this time last year, Ochieng has put himself firmly on the fistic map with four impressive victories in twelve months, also picking up (and defending) the English title.
At 25-years-old and 12-1 (4), the novice pro looks set for more title glory in 2013 as he appears to improve with every contest. Trained by Brian Lawrence in London, “The Eagle” holds fine victories over fellow prospects in Liam Cameron and Nick Quigley but also showed a clever boxing brain to clearly beat tricky veterans A.A. Lowe and Max Maxwell.
A successful boxing career never seemed likely in the Londoner’s younger days however. After moving to the UK from Kenya aged eleven, the younger Erick would have a shock upon arriving at his parent’s house.
“I was brought up in Kenya by my Gran but she passed away” explains Erick. “I moved over to be with my parents in the UK but when I got here I found out my parents had separated!”
The youngster’s parents had moved to the UK when Erick was five. Upon arriving at the ‘family home’ he found his mother living alone. Erick found life difficult as he had to take in a completely new way of life he had never previously experienced.
“I had it in my head I would come home to a happy family but there was always that relationship gap between me and my mum. Coupled with the cultural shock of moving to a new environment, I ended up being caught up in the wrong crowd.”
Disillusioned and struggling with a new way of life, Erick went off the rails and was soon moved to a foster home.
“I just wanted to be like my friends; they liked to smoke weed, stay out late, steal…..in the end I was actually happy I was being moved to a foster home as I thought that meant freedom (away from home).”
Still barely in his teens, Ochieng had a spell in a few different foster homes before returning to his mother’s house but was soon back to his old ways.
“My mum told me I could only return if I lived by strict rules but I wanted to do what my mates were doing which was making money and riding motor-bikes!”
Erick was put in care for a second time and was moved to a home in Tottenham where his life would change forever. While there, a care-worker (and former boxer) would take some of the local boys on the pads. Erick joined in and enjoyed the training. Just weeks later he took the five minute trip to the local gym; Tottenham ABC.
Erick remembers “I started out with absolutely no technique, but I was very strong. I started out in the proper gym and I got told by one of the trainers I had talent. I was training hard but I was still being bad…..then I had a vision.”
After attending Church in a service that focused on using talents, the young amateur started thinking about how he could better himself. He decided to give boxing everything he had before one day having the vision that would solidify his future intentions.
“I had a vision of myself holding two world titles. I think it was the WBC and WBA belts; one was around my waist and the other around my shoulder. That made me know what I was to become and gave me the drive I needed.”
The inspired teenager started training as hard as he could and was soon ignoring his so-called ‘friends’ to focus fully on his new love.
“Jesus Christ saved me” states Erick pleasantly. “Within weeks I was just going to college and then training; there was no time anymore for anything else. Jesus saved me and boxing helped me. Before my first amateur fight I was beating up guys in the gym who had a lot more experience than me.”
The strong up-an-comer would go a solid 55-10 in the vested code before turning pro in September 2009. After six straight wins the prospect would lose his unbeaten record to Yorkshire’s Luke Robinson over four rounds, but Erick is philosophical about his only defeat to date.
“I don’t see that as a loss, just a learning experience and a blessing in disguise” reflects the Londoner. “We were told it was a six rounder but when we got there it had been changed to four rounds. Robinson came out like a rocket and threw a lot of punches while my shots were the quality ones. The referee scored on volume and not quality so he got the decision by a point.”
The beaten fighter didn’t dwell on his first reverse and was thrown-in less than two months later with former amateur star and unbeaten prospect Liam Cameron in Sheffield in his first bout over eight rounds. It looked a daunting task coming off a defeat but Ochieng was very confident beforehand.
“My loss made me work even harder than before. Liam Cameron was a former ABA champion and 9-0 but the pro game is totally a different ball game to the amateurs. I know if I am prepared I can beat anybody” says Erick without arrogance.
Ochieng pounded out a clear decision over Cameron and, after another victory, was rewarded with an English title shot at York Hall against Liverpool star Nick Quigley. The scheduled ten-rounder was fought at a frenetic pace before Ochieng was crowned the winner when the former Prizefighter finalist couldn’t come out for the last round.
“He came for war in that fight. I expected him to use his height and reach and try and box me behind the jab but he came with a different tactic; just to get in my face! I ended up beating him at his own game, I was beating him inside, off the ropes….great champions can adapt and I showed I could (adapt) in that fight” Erick says with pride about a fight he calls his favourite performance of last year.
The new champion followed up his title winning effort with excellent defences versus A.A. Lowe, Ryan Toms and Max Maxwell. In each fight Ochieng has shown he can box to orders against a variety of opponents.
“I can fight in various ways” explains the Matchroom-promoted champion. “I can put pressure on, box ‘in a pocket’, fight inside….a lot of people didn’t realise but they’ll soon understand. I’m after anyone who has a title, I’ve got the best team behind me, they’re job is finding the opponent; my job is to beat them.”
The 25-year-old trains twice a day under the knowledgeable Brian Lawrence and lists Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield as his favourite fighters; “anyone I can learn from.”
With light-middleweight probably the best division in the UK, the 12-1 Ochieng looks set for more title action this year starting on March 9th at Wembley. British champion Brian Rose, Commonwealth holder Liam Smith and European champion Sergei Rabchenko need to watch their backs as an Eagle has them in his sights…
“Last year was a great one for me but I’ve come on in leaps and bounds and next year will be even better” promises the likable Ochieng.
It appears “The Eagle” may just have landed.
The Channel of Champion BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546) starts an action packed 2013 with its first live domestic show on Friday 18th January from a sold-out Walsall Town Hall featuring two big British title fights.
Main event on the show sees unbeaten Birmingham star Frankie Gavin making the first defence of his British Welterweight title against West Midlands rival Jason Welborn, while chief support features Hove’s Ben Murphy take on Walsall’s Martin Gethin for the Vacant British Lightweight Championship.
Murphy, a Southern Area champion who’s facing the biggest challenge of his career, talks to boxing writer Glyn Evans about his background.
Name: Ben Murphy
Born: Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey
Family background: I’ve a sister who I’m pretty close with and two much older brothers who moved out when I was young and I don’t have a great amount of contact with.
Today, I live in Hove with my missus and daughter who’ll be four in January.
Trade: I do some personal training and I also teach yoga.
Nickname: I don’t have one.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? I always liked it and watched it but didn’t start participating until I was 22. Growing up, the martial arts were more my thing. I did Taekwondo and, when I was 19, I went out to South Korea to train for six months. After returning to Britain, I found there was nothing to match the training I’d been doing out there so I drifted into Thai boxing and then (conventional) boxing.
What do you recall of your amateur career? I started with the Exeter club, briefly passed through the Paignton club, also in Devon, then ended up at the Hove ABC which was run by (former WBO heavyweight challenger) Scott Welch.
All told, I had about 25 bouts – the last 15 at Hove – and lost four, I think. I achieved nothing massive as an amateur but really enjoyed myself. It was fun. I won the National Novices for under ten bouts then, straight after, beat the Novice champion for under 20 bouts, at the weight above.
I went in the ABAs one year, but I’d only had about 15 contests at the time and I got beat by Ben Jones of Crawley (the future English super-feather champion). I lost on points to Bradley Skeete, knocked out Todd Miles of the Repton, who was rated number three in England at the time, and also beat a Welsh champion called Alex Urrutia.
I definitely wish I’d got into boxing earlier but, that said, I’m very happy with my journey so far. I’m quite proud that, having started so late, I’ve made it to box for the British title.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? By the age of 26, it just dawned that if I wanted to fight, I might as well get paid for it. I also realised that my style was more suited to the pros. I was never one to dance around and pick opponents off. In the amateurs, refs were always on my case. I’d be trying to slip and roll but all I’d hear was ‘Head up, Murphy!’
Tell us about your back up team: I don’t have a promotional deal as such but I’m managed by Mickey Helliet and trained by Paul Newman, a former pro light-heavy from Bognor Regis, at Scott Welch’s Hove Boxing Gym.
Paul’s just a bastard, an ex Marine who trains me proper hard. He’s still got that military thing in him. He’s a slave driver but he makes me very solid.
I also take advice from a few other people, particularly Tony Dib (Anthony Di Barnardo) who runs a company called Balance In Motion. He helps me with strength and conditioning plus administers acupuncture.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I train six days a week and take Sunday off.
I’m usually training all day. Even without a fight scheduled, I’ll sometimes run up to 16 miles a day with a ruck sack on, just to put endurance in the bank. I’ll cut that back as a fight date approaches.
Most days, I’ll spend an hour and a half doing yoga, and maybe an hour doing strength work, in addition to two and a half hours at the boxing gym. There, I’ll chop and change my routine accordingly. I do all the usual; bags, pads, sparring, circuits, ground work but I have no set schedule. I listen to my body and let it guide me as to what it needs. I might focus specifically on strength, flexibility…I like to keep things fresh.
I do quite a lot of ‘alternative’ stuff. I beat my body with sticks to toughen it up and incorporate a lot of yoga, meditation, Tai Chi which all helps me focus, not just regarding boxing but in life generally.
I believe you have to be connected to yourself all the time and those practices help keep my spirit centred. They give me balance, and when you’ve got balance, you can develop strength, speed and power.
I most enjoy sparring. It takes your focus to the next level and I travel all over the place to get it. There’s no part of my training that I don’t enjoy. If there was, I’d stop doing it.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I think most would view me as an aggressive, come forward brawler but I’ve got more to me than people think. Still, strength is definitely my key. Being so short (5ft 4in) is actually good. It works for me. I’m used to fighting taller guys but opponents usually haven’t met anyone who comes in as low as I do.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? Everything.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? Completely different games. Pro fights are so much longer that you can’t just run away and constantly move backwards as some successful amateurs do. In the pros, eventually, you’re going to find yourself in front of the opponent, forced to go toe-to-toe. There’s more contact in the pros and that definitely suits me.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? Probably Gary Buckland (the reigning British super-feather champion outpointed Ben over six rounds in Murphy’s sixth pro fight). He was good all the way around; strong, quick, elusive. Good fighter.
All time favourite fighter: I can’t pick one. All boxers have strengths and weaknesses. I’ll watch Mike Tyson for his power and elusiveness, Sugar Ray Leonard for his smoothness…At the moment, I’m watching a lot of (Cuba’s WBA Super/IBF featherweight champion) Yuriorkis Gamboa who’s amazing. He’s always so smooth and relaxed yet so fast and powerful.
All time favourite fight: It’s between the Morales-Barrera trilogy and Corrales-Castillio I
Which current match would you most like to see made? Yuriorkis Gamboa against Adrien Broner. Helluva fight. I’ll go with Gamboa to nick it.
What is your routine on fight day? I’ll have a nice long lie in. Throughout the day I’ll eat some nice food, lots of carbs; sweet potatoes, porridge and veg.
Then I’ll do some meditation and Tai Chi to relax myself. I actually enjoy that time, the hours building up to a fight. For a period from about three weeks before a fight, I can feel my awareness gradually building up and sense myself getting more and more focussed. Fight day, it reaches a pinnacle.
Entrance music: I’ve not even thought about it. I’ve pretty much had something different every fight.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? Winning this British title.
How do you relax? Meditation
Football team: I quite enjoy watching football on the tele but don’t support anyone. I like watching Barcelona.
Read: I read loads of books; anything to do with the spirit, religion, Shamanism.
Music: I’m into all music.
Films/TV: I’m really not a film kind of person and I can’t watch tele; don’t like it. If the missus has it on, I’ll leave the room and go and have a read elsewhere!
Aspiration in life: That’s the ultimate question! It’s all about my daughter, bringing her up well, teaching her.
Motto: ‘In life, there are no ordinary moments!’ It’s something I’ll be stressing to my daughter.
Despite negligible amateur pedigree, Romford cruiser Tony Conquest has romped to a top ten world ranking with the WBO after just ten fights.
A gas engineer by trade, the unbeaten Queensberry promoted 28-year-old has already claimed Southern Area and WBO International titles but, as he informed boxing writer Glynn Evans in this recent interview, it’s the Lonsdale Belt that he covets most.
‘The Conqueror’ will edge a few steps closer to securing his chance at British champion Jon-Lewis Dickinson if he can impress against Rotherham’s Neil Dawson in a scheduled 12 rounder for his International strap at the ExCeL London on Saturday evening, live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546).
Though you gave a classy performance to outpoint Toks Owoh for the Southern Area belt last November (2011), people really started to take notice of you as a serious contender when you spectacularly avenged one time amateur conqueror Leon Williams. (Conquest wiped out the former British champion in just 146 seconds in July). That must have got a few monkeys off your back.
Yeh, it was nice to shut a few people up. Despite my progress a few were still saying I wouldn’t be able to handle him and expecting a repeat. (Williams had blown Conquest away in 54 seconds in the 2007 London ABA final). Finally, people started to acknowledge that I might have a bit of ability.
On a purely boxing level, I was over the moon because Leon was a former Southern Area and British champion so it’s a great scalp. I did a tiny feint, Leon threw a long left hook, exposed his chin and I drilled him with a short right hand. I noticed his head twist so steamed in with all guns blazing. He dropped, then when he got up I pinned him on the ropes and finished him. It’s on You Tube but it’s a shame it never got any TV coverage.
It was also a bit sad because I’ve been quite friendly with Leon for some time and he’s a good guy. But this is a hard, ruthless business.
Two months after, you consolidated with an impressive seventh round retirement victory over Dublin’s Ian Tims for the vacant WBO International cruiserweight title. What did you take from that victory?
The satisfaction of defeating a tremendously tough man. I think Ian realised I was a lot quicker quite early so he backed off and forced me to commit; constantly beckoning me in, trying to lure me onto a big counter.
After the blowout over Leon, it was pleasing to get a good few rounds in and show off some of my boxing skills. But there’s a lot more I can give and do. No one’s seen me at my best yet. That’ll come when I get my chance at that Lonsdale Belt.
In what aspects do you feel you’ve improved and matured as a fighter throughout 2012?
I’ve developed in all areas but perhaps the most significant is that I’ve acquired more seasoning. I’m learning what you can and can’t get away with in good class. It’s a long transition between the amateurs and top pros and it takes time to breach it.
In the amateurs I had a tendency to over train; tried to succeed simply by throwing more than the other fella. I felt if I outworked ‘em, I’d win. It’s not always that simple. I’ve added patience and now understand that, as you step up, it’s as much about quality as quantity.
I spend a lot of time talking things over with my coach Jason Rowland. He emphasises the need to settle, not rush. A lot of it is just common sense.
In what areas do you still need to need to develop, so that you can really flourish when matched for more significant titles?
Everything really. Mastering the art of boxing is a continual curve and you never stop learning. You probably forget more than you permanently take in. There’s so much to digest.
Jason really scrutinises me in the gym and he’s never shy to tell me what I’m doing wrong! He’s a very harsh taskmaster, likes every shot to be perfect. But I really want his approval so I always graft double hard in the gym to get stuff right.
What have you seen of Saturday’s opponent, Neil Dawson from Rotherham? What problems do you envisage him causing you?
I watched his Central Area title fight when he got stopped in six against Matty Askin – that was on You Tube – and I was ringside for his last fight when he outpointed Menay Edwards over six rounds at the York Hall (September). That was one of the best small hall fights you’ll ever see; both hurt the other constantly.
Neil’s one tough, fit fella who looks very strong and has a big right hand. He’s got two hands and a brain like me and I know he’ll be coming to win my belt.
Why isn’t he going to get it?!
Because of my unquenchable desire. It’s a desire that’s going to take me all the way through to the Lonsdale Belt. If anyone get’s in my way, I’m going to get them out of my way. On Saturday night Neil Dawson will be in my way so I’m going to have to shift him.
I’ve got ability, heart, desire and I train like an animal! Hopefully, it’ll be a good, hard fight that entertains the fans and makes people take more notice of me. In time, it’ll line me up for a British title fight but there’s no rush. I’m still young for a cruiserweight. I’m happy to play the waiting game.
What are your goals for 2013?
To have a real good campaign that includes me making more defences of my WBO belt and finally getting the British title. A Lonsdale Belt outright has always been my main aim.
Also I might have to go over to Germany for some sparring. All the best fighters, the Eastern Europeans, seem to be over there.
Birtley’s Jon-Lewis Dickinson recently collected the vacant British title in a drab 12 rounder over Bulwell’s Shane McPhilbin . What’s your assessment of him and the other leading domestic contenders?
The Dickinson-McPhilbin fight was messy but it was just a bad clash of styles which happens sometimes. Shane’s a strong brute and Dickinson struggled to get his distance but he kept calm and patient. You’ve got to give him credit for that.
I rate Jon-Lewis very highly, definitely the best of the bunch. He’s got a lovely long jab and a terrific engine. It’d be a privilege to share a ring with him some day and together I’m sure we could put on a really good fight.
Matt Askin’s a former ABA champion with a good record and he seems very heavy handed. That China Clarke is a big old lump and there’s a couple of real class amateurs coming through in Danny Price, a good stylist, and Scotland’s Steve Simmons who’s seasoned, clever and huge for the weight.
The division has needed a bit of stardust of late but, with those lads coming through; it won’t be long before it’s rocking again.
Tickets, from £50, are available from www.tkoboxoffice.com – tel: 07960 850645
This Saturday TRAD TKO Boxing Gym’s high flying middleweight Billy Joe Saunders shall be eager to add the coveted Lonsdale Belt to the Southern Area and Commonwealth titles that already furnish his trophy cabinet.
The former teenage Olympian, now 23, collides with feisty Trowbridge scrapper Nick Blackwell in what promises to be a highly combustible encounter for the vacant British title on Frank Warren’s unmissable ‘Three Kings’ promotion at the ExCel Arena in London’s Docklands, live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.com
Already ranked 15th by the WBO, manager Warren has designs on fast tracking the Romany gypsy to a world title challenge before 2013 is through. However, in this recent interview with boxing writer Glynn Evans, the southpaw they call ‘Superb’ insists his antennae are fixed solely on a brutal demolition of Blackwell at the weekend.
One of your highlights this year was the 30 second blitz of Southampton’s Tony Hill to win the vacant Commonwealth title, then retaining with contrasting wins over Welshman Bradley Pryce (pts12) and Australia’s touted Jarrod Fletcher (rsc2). That must have been satisfying.
It was and the best is still to come, believe me.
Many expected the Hill fight to be close but I caught him early with those little gloves and I do know how to finish. Because he’s so tall (6ft 2in), we’d trained specifically to get underneath Tony and everything went to plan…. just a bit quicker than we thought it might!
Bradley Pryce was a stiff opponent, a good fighter but he wasn’t that hard to work out technically. He had nothing skill or power wise to concern me. I probably had a harder night when I won the Southern Area title last year against Gary Bolden. For some reason, I just weren’t all there that night (against Pryce). If I had been, trust me, he’d have gone the same way as Hill and Fletcher. But I needed to go 12 rounds and that fight prepared me mentally to do it in future.
A lot actually fancied Fletcher to beat me and were really surprised when I did what I did to him but (coach) Jimmy Tibbs and me both knew what was going to happen. We’d watched DVDs of his amateur win over (James) DeGale and identified that he was a bit too ‘straight up’ and open for a counter left over the top.
I knew from how well my camp had gone that, when I caught him clean, it would be over and he made a big mistake by trying to push me back so early. He was unbeaten, up and coming himself so I knew it was my chance to make a statement. I was over the moon with the outcome. That’s my best performance to date.
How do you account for the dramatic progress this year? In what specific areas have you improved?
I didn’t really get pro boxing at first. I thought provided I drank water and ate fresh food, I’d be okay. But now I really live the life, take all the right vitamins and supplements. I’ve not really shown what I’m about in the ring but people at our gym have seen a big improvement. Hopefully, my next opponent with hang around long enough for me to really show my classy boxing.
How have the maligned hands been bearing up? What added precautions have you been taking to protect them?
Since the two ops they’ve been fine, touch wood. I had a little ‘stir up’ around round five of the Pryce fight but thankfully it was only bruising. Now, before training, Jimmy wraps ‘em with two bandages and a sponge. They’re being well looked after.
Since appearing for Team GB at the Beijing Olympics, aged just 18, you’ve repeatedly said you had no regrets about turning pro and missing out on London 2012. However, when the Games came around and you saw all the hysteria, did you have second thoughts? What did you make of the boxing at the Games?
I’ve still no regrets. The same money isn’t there now that was available when me, DeGale and Gavin signed pro with Frank after Beijing and I’m more than happy with the progress I’ve made in the pros. But, of course, when I was watching it I kept thinking: ‘I could beat him. I’d have won the gold!’
I thought Tom Stalker was very unlucky to be eliminated. I think he caught the backlash of a few debatable decisions that went Team GB’s way earlier. That sort of thing can happen in the amateurs and it’s why I don’t really regret not hanging around for 2012.
Which of the Brits would make good pros and what advice would you give them?
Stalker will make a good pro. When we used to spar he could always adapt. (Anthony) Joshua did well to come through a couple of close decisions. He’ll make a good pro when he’s ready.
Firstly, I’d advise them to listen to the right people and try to learn something new every day at the gym.
What have you been up to away from the ring? You’re a proud traveller. Are you still upholding your gypsy traditions?
I live a quiet life to be honest with you, Glynn. I love sleeping and try to spend as much time as possible with my two young boys. They’re both very different. One’s quiet and loves the computer games, the other is loud and likes to be outside on the horses.
I’ve been doing a bit of TV work on BoxNation and any publicity is good publicity but I like to cool it all down as a fight draws close.
Of course, I still follow the gypsy life. Recently, I bought a top class horse for racing in the carts. He’s called Roy’s Boy and I drive him. So far, he’s won three out of three and we’ve a very big race scheduled for 2nd February next year.
I still go out hunting when I can and I like the hare coursing but we usually end up getting chased by the police. It’s a good job I’m fit. I always get away!
On Saturday, in addition to defending your Commonwealth strap for a third time, you challenge for the vacant British title. As a fighter with major international aspirations, how important is that to you? If victorious, retaining the Lonsdale Belt outright would take up most of 2013. Are you prepared to make that sacrifice?
Believe me, the Lonsdale Belt is the one I always wanted since I was a little boy and this is easily the hardest I’ve trained for a fight. Whenever I’m out running, that Lonsdale Belt is occupying my mind as much as the opponent.
Sure, I can successfully defend the title three times. I’m still only 23 and in no rush. My team are starting to talk about Europe soon but there’s lots of good domestic fighters who could provide good tests. Prince Arron is moving up from light-middle, then you’ve got Kerry Hope, John Ryder, Eamonn O’Kane…
How has your preparation gone for Saturday?
Preparation has gone extremely well. I really couldn’t be any fitter than I am. I’m really bouncing and now it’s just a matter of maintaining my weight.
For this fight, I began sparring two weeks earlier than I normally do. I’ve been working mostly with light-heavies. No names!
What have you seen of co-challenger Blackwell?
I’ve only seen his British title challenge when he got stopped (retired after four) against Martin Murray who’s clearly a world class fighter. In fact, I thought Murray won his WBA challenge to Felix Sturm so, for me, Blackwell’s only defeat has been against a world champion. He took the risk, fair play to him. He’s about the same age and, Murray apart, there’s not much difference in our records. I’ll let them worry about me, rather than waste my time worrying about me.
What type of fight are you expecting? Why will you win?
I expect Nick will try and push me back but so did Hill and Fletcher and look what happened to them. Ideally, I’d like to be able to get my jab going and really show my class. My inside work has really improved so if he’s stupid enough to try and rush me, he’ll get knocked out very quickly. That, I guarantee. He won’t be able to outwork me and he won’t be able to out punch me so it’s difficult to see a way how he can win.
Finally, the show is billed as ‘The Three Kings’. How important is it to you that the fans and media are talking about you, as opposed to Ricky Burns or George Groves, after the dust as settled?
Obviously we’ll all be out to steal the show. Coming away with that British title is all that really matters. If I’m the one the media and fans are raving over, that’ll be a bonus.
Tickets, priced from £50, are available at www.tkoboxoffice.com – Tel: 07960 850645
Former British super-middleweight king George Groves hopes to kick-start his charge towards a world title in2013 by doing an emphatic number on veteran Jamaican hardcase Glencoffe Johnson this Saturday.
Co-headlining Frank Warren’s ‘Three Kings’ bonanza at London’s ExCel Arena, live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546), the 24 year old from Hammersmith puts his 15 fight unbeaten slate and Commonwealth title on the line against the 43 year old ‘Road Warrior’, a one-time world light-heavyweight champion who’s been stopped only once in 70 fights – by Bernard Hopkins 15 years ago – in a career hat spans almost 20 years.
‘The Saint’, who is trained and managed by Adam Booth, shall be making his first UK start of the year and, speaking to boxing writer Glynn Evans recently, claimed he is anxious to remind his sizeable home following of exactly what they’ve been missing.
In your solitary outing this year you overcame a bad cut on your right brow to wipe out Mexican banger Francisco Sierra in round six over in San Jose, California last July. Were you satisfied with your performance?
Yeh, I was very happy. Even Adam Booth was happy!
It was great just to get back into the ring after seven months out and I felt I put on a great performance which was also entertaining. The cut added to the drama.
Sierra was a dangerous opponent, a definite force. He had a good record with some good names on and came to win so I needed to be on top form otherwise it was curtains! He was very big but I knew if I kept landing he’d not stay up all night. Mind, it took four clean shots to finally break him.
Apart from your ring performance, what other positives did you take from the trip?
I learnt so much. California was exciting but brought added nervous, which I dealt with. I also had to cope with jet lag and managing my weight which is always more difficult away from home.
I got great exposure. I met with the people from Showtime and the US press. They were aware of my wins over (James) DeGale and Paul Smith. After the fight, they gave me great reviews. It was a pro Mexican crowd but, though they booed me in, they cheered me out. Everything was sweet!
Golden Boy Promotions, whose show it was, were over the moon. I’ve always had a good relationship with them since Robert Diaz, the matchmaker who basically runs the boxing side of their company, watched me box as an amateur at Brent Town Hall. I think they saw Ricky Hatton bringing thousands of fans over to Vegas and kept an eye out for Brits who might do something similar in future.
Oscar De La Hoya was tweeting about me and GBP even offered me a fight on their 1st December date, which turned out to be Cotto-Trout at Madison Square Garden though we didn’t know that at the time. However, after speaking with Frank, we decided to go with the ExCel show instead.
Fighting in the US is definitely something I’d be keen to repeat, especially in the summer months when it can get very quiet in Britain.
Though the Sierra gig was your only ring action of 2012 thus far, you speak frequently about developing and improving during your time in the gym with coach Adam Booth. What specifically have you added to your game this year? What new can we expect to see on Saturday?
For a start, tests show that I’m fitter which enables me to throw more shots per round, whilst still picking them correctly and throwing them with spite and venom.
I’ve also become bigger and stronger and, as a consequence, I’m hitting harder. Some sparring partners that I’ve used for quite a while are now unable to last the rounds with me that once they could.
Finally, my defensive moves have improved. I’m definitely more comfortable in the pocket which is important because I’ll need to get close to Glencoffe Johnson.
How disappointing was in for you to forfeit the British title before you were able to win the Lonsdale Belt outright?
It was tough but inevitable. Firstly, I had the back injury, then I was offered a world title shot, then I got the nose injury, then the Olympics put the kibosh on any summer shows in London, then I got cut in America.
Then the Board took the Belt off me…..the Belt I won from James DeGale and defended in style against Paul Smith. Instead, they award it to the winner of Kenny Anderson against Robin Reid?! How does that work?
Kenny Anderson was made my mandatory which I felt was a sham cos he’d done nothing to merit a rematch since I smashed him before. In fact he’s gone backwards. I need to be moving forward, fighting at a higher level. Bashing up Kenny Anderson again would be a complete waste of time for me. Even if I did beat him I’d still need another defence afterwards to keep the Belt for keeps.
But..whatever! I’ve outgrown the British title. I’m at world level now.
Having sacrificed your British title to operate in international class, what changes do you envisage? How will you need to adjust?
Sometimes at a lower grade you’re able to startle opponents, impose yourself simply with your demeanour. That doesn’t happen in top class. Mentally, the opponents are far stronger and more assured.
Also, at world level you have to be unpredictable. Glencoffe doesn’t have a set rhythm which makes him difficult to read.
The top boys will expose your technical mistakes. For instance, fighters who might get away with a low lead hand at domestic level will suddenly find themselves exposed and tagged repeatedly. Any mistake and you’re made to pay so total concentration becomes very important.
What did you make of the Hayemaker in the jungle? Any plans to follow?
I thought David showed himself to be charismatic. He allowed his sweeter, softer side to come across and he represented boxing very well. It’s a pity he didn’t win. Perhaps he needed to get his glutes out a bit more!
I don’t think I’ll be following. It might be good with regard to making weight but I’m not sure I could mind my Ps and Qs for three weeks!
After a year away, you must be looking forward to performing again to a big London crowd.
Without a doubt. Last year I did the O2 and Wembley, now the ExCel. It’s a great chance for my friends, family and the fans I have from all over the UK to come and follow me. In the other big British cities, fans all unite behind the local kid but London’s a far tougher crowd to break. I’m getting there gradually. I’m happy.
With just 73 pro rounds on your roster, you could certainly benefit from some ring time. To that end, Saturday’s opponent Glencoffe Johnson, stopped just once in 70 fights, appears the perfect foil. …
I do need rounds but there’s two different types; those when you just ‘carry’ the opponent and those where you’re forced to have a real fight. Glencoffe should provide the latter.
He’s not easy to work out and I expect him to set me different problems every round.
Like I say, he’s not easy to work out. Even at 42, he still has a decent work rate and forces opponents to work very hard because of the way he constantly presses his attacks. He’s a momentum fighter with an unpredictable rhythm. He’s also got fast hands, long arms and obviously holds a good shot. I need to get in my comfort zone.
You’ll enter as a prohibitive favourite to win. What do you hope to get out of Saturday’s fight? How important is it that you become the second man to stop Glencoffe?
I’m ranked highly now with all the four major sanctioning bodies so now I’ve arrived in world class I want to build on those rankings. I want to keep my options open with all the organisations so that if any door opens, against any of the champions, I can jump straight in. Already, we’re knocking loudly.
Clearly Glencoffe knows how to survive, even if he doesn’t come to survive. Stopping him would make a huge statement. I do expect to stop him but don’t expect him to just fall over.
For the time being, it looks like you might have to bypass the European belt on your passage to the world title?
Degale (laughs)! Look, I’ve already taken care of him twice and need different fights if I’m to improve. Right now, Glen Johnson represents a far better fight for me developmentally, than a return with James DeGale would.
James is going his way and came through a hard fight himself this weekend. Hopefully we can re-acquaint sometime next year or, if not, definitely the year after. Our paths will definitely cross but I really don’t think he wants any part of me. Like Kenny Anderson, they become broken fighters after they fight me.
Ideally, what will 2013 bring? If you could pick, which champion would you target?
Having missed out on a world title shot this year when I had to pull out of the (Robert) Stieglitz fight, it’s logical I want my chance as soon as possible. I’m ready now, without a doubt.
Personally, I’d love a crack at Carl (Froch, the IBF champion). He’s been such a great champion and I’ve so much respect for him. But he’s said he only wants a few more fights and I’d love to be one of them. That would be a huge fight for Britain. I’d fight (current WBO king) Arthur Abraham any where, any day of the week.
(WBC and WBA Super beltholder) Andre Ward is the elite of the division, the best by some way. Ideally, I’d prefer a few more before facing him. No one’s even got close. I’d like to be the first to really trouble him in about a year’s time.
Tickets for Three Kings, priced from £50 are available at www.tkoboxoffice.com – Tel: 07960 850645
World Boxing Federation Women’s World Welterweight Champion, and Pound-For-Pound Queen, Anne Sophie Mathis is just a few days away from her June 15 rematch with Holly Holm in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mathis stopped Holm in their first fight last December by seventh round knockout, and is confident she will be able to win again. The WBF World title fight will be promoted by Fresquez Productions.
The following is a Q & A with Mathis, courtesy of Bob Trieger.
Q: Last time was your first fight in the US. Do you expect things to be more comfortable this time around? Not so much the fight but being in New Mexico, cultural and language differences, food, etc
A: I do not think that the fight be easier, it will be harder because the judges will not allow me to win on points. I shall need a KO to be sure to win a second time.
Q: How, if at all, do you expect this fight to be any different than the last?
A: By being a little bit realistic, I do not think that she will come and look for the confrontation!
Q: Is there an advantage for you because you stopped here the last fight and does that weigh in a fighter’s mind?
A: It is certain that it is an advantage, but especially what is going to move me forward is to know the place and the fighter, and to be 100 % ready physically and mentally.
Q: Not looking ahead but, assuming you win, where do you go from here?
A: No matter the result I hope to fight (Cecilia) Braekhus at the end of the year. Otherwise I may retire from boxing.
Q: were you pleased with the notoriety you received from beating Holly?
A : I was very satisfied with the response I got from the media in America. But the French media is not interested in female boxing.
Q : Are you any different than you were the first fight?
A: I haven’t changed, except for progressing mentally and technically. I focus on the level of my opponent, and I study them to fight them the best way. I don’t underestimate anybody, but I trust in myself and my work.
Q: It’s obvious you have a big punch. Holly said she got away from her game plan of boxing. Do you expect here to drastically change her style for this fight?
A: I think it’s impossible to change your boxing style in only a few months. She will fight the way she fights. She wants to dominate, but when she is dominated the plan falls into the water. I have studied most of her fights, and I think I know her better than she knows me, and I know how to beat her again.
Q: Without giving away any secrets, do you plan to fight the same type of fight?
A: I won’t say a word about it, but I will be stronger than in the first fight.
Q: What type of fight do you expect?
A: I expect that she will fight defensively, and that she will try to hit and run to avoid the confrontation.
Q: Any prediction?
A: It’s going to be a knockout, or I probably lose on points. They will give it to her, even if I deserve to win. They tried everything to put me off in the first fight, and I don’t expect any favors from the judges.