Daniel Hughes pays tribute to the domestic journeyman boxer with a portrait of the human story behind the name listed on the right hand side of the bill.
In from work and another day is done. Working in a factory, building site or mini-cab may be a full-time profession, but you’re a part-time boxer also. You put your feet up and the missus has dinner ready. You should go to the gym tonight to keep yourself ticking over. Failing that, how about a five mile slow jog to keep the pounds off? But you’re tired.
‘Go tomorrow.’ You tell yourself that at 37-years-old you know how to manage your body. Your body knows how to manage you: backache, sore knee and a few random headaches plus that hand you injured many years ago nags away.
Yeah, go tomorrow.
You smile to yourself as you reason that it’s early September and you know it’s coming towards Autumn. The nights will start drawing in – as is your boxing career – but you had a dozen fights last season, every two to three weeks and the most fights you have had in a season. You’re popular.
You forget your record; records are for DJ’s. You’re lying to yourself: 6 wins, 2 draws and 62 defeats in a 70 fight career history which you like to kid yourself is the wrong way around.
You weighed yourself yesterda in the morning before going to work and you are ok in the fight with the scales, you are winning in fact: only 4 lbs above fight weight as a career lightweight. There’s no need to run through the weights as an unbeaten champion; those dreams have long since passed. You may not quite be fighting fit though; training has been a little lax lately and the eight week training camp you joked about treating yourself to in LA at the Wildcard Gym can be put on hold for another month or two. Freddie Roach doesn’t know what he’s missing…the wife told you before going to bed last night what’s missing: money as the gas and phone bills have come in heavy this month, never lightweight.
The wife comes down the stairs in the morning, an hour after you. Your lunch has been packed and you shout up the stairs to the kids to get ready for school, don’t end up like Dad in a dead-end job he doesn’t enjoy and still pulling on the gloves in a thirteen year pro-career that started off on the left hand side of the bill, lower mid-card. Exclusively right-hand side now, bang bottom right in fact. Show-stopper, no; show-opener, yes.
The business; you know how it works now. That pro debut that everyone came to, you were a decent amateur and you laugh to yourself. Over a hundred tickets sold first time out, fighting for a thousand quid. It was a pain selling them, let alone trying to collect the money. You won against a journeyman fighter; something you promised you’d never be. Four rounds, points, 39-37 and everyone promises to come to the next fight.
You shift barely 30 tickets against an experienced pro and it ends in an unspectacular draw. You feel robbed at the time but the robbery was you could only cover your opponent’s purse in ticket sales. The promoter is disappointed and a lot of family and friends can’t make your third fight, whenever that is against whoever it is, it seems.
The phone rings and your manager gives the news that there are no dates on the horizon with the local promoter but he’ll see what he can do. He has connections nationwide…the weeks turn into months and then the phone goes. Do you want a fight at the other end of the country, away from home? £1,200 for 4 rounds against a hot prospect you have read plenty about who is 5-0 with four stoppages. ‘Why not?’ you think, at least you will get paid this time out.
You don’t get the nod. The the referee scored it 40-36 against you; he gripped your left hand tightly but didn’t raise it. The hot prospect was good to be honest and the 300 people that came to see him think so too. Your manager is pleased as was the promoter, who tells you there may be some more ‘work’ available.
The pattern is set and you get a name on the circuit as a reliable pro, a short notice ‘have gloves, will travel’ type. A 70 fight career that you are proud of: the fact that you’ve only been stopped four times, of which two opponents went on to British honours, the other two world titles and you feel you helped bring them on.
The phone suddenly rings: “What are you doing Saturday?” Eight hundred quid for a four rounder in Scotland is on the table, as are the gas and phone bills.
You take it, asking the promoter for one concession only. No, the make of glove is not an issue, you have only one pair anyway. Can you make it nine hundred quid and make it cash as it’s short notice? The promoter laughs, he accepts for he knows you well. The big cheques and the Wildcard can wait for another day you tell yourself.