ANTHONY FOWLER’S M&S Bank Arena dressing room on March 30 was intended to be a jovial environment filled with handshakes, smiles and back-pats. Instead, his fight night headquarters resembled something of a counselling session as a shell-shocked Fowler, bruised all over but most evident on his ego, kept his head in hands as those who’ve gone before him, those who’ve endured heartbreaking defeats, offered tokens of advice to the 28-year-old. The words of Dereck Chisora and Tony Bellew, present and past gym-mates, were intended to stick, but at that time, just raising Fowler from his state of disbelief was the priority of the war-scarred duo.
In the weeks leading up to this moment of harrowing realisation, a scenario he was incapable of envisaging, Fowler had been embroiled in a volatile quarrel with former amateur teammate, Scott Fitzgerald. Threatening to overspill at press conferences, tempers were somehow kept in check, but when the time arrived for both to back up their countless pre-fight boasts, Fitzgerald responded to the task in a more impressive manner. After 10 hard rounds, including one that saw Fowler go down, the man from Chorley got the nod by the tightest of margins.
With his wrist in the hands of referee, Steve Gray, Fowler was forced to endure a lengthy wait for the news he never believed he’d hear. An agonising expression on his face, Fowler believed he might’ve done just enough to get the verdict, but forever a figure of confidence and belief, there loitered a small doubt in the back of his mind as he tried to work out just how many rounds could conceivably be scored to him. A last-round knockdown scored by Fitzgerald was an unwelcome leveller in Fowler’s overworked mind, and it was that moment which made the difference as he suffered the first loss of his pro career by a solitary point.