ASH LANE is proof you can teach an old dog new tricks. The expectation was, Lane would suffer an 11th career defeat when he challenged the 6-0 Jordan Purkiss for the English bantamweight title in Brentwood earlier this month.
Lane knew why he was expected to lose. The last time he had been seen in a high-profile fight, he had been “destroyed” and at 32 years old he had boxed only eight non-competitive rounds in two and a half years since being thrashed by Qais Ashfaq in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
“People see that Ashfaq fight and think I’m on the slide,” said Lane, “but I got offered the fight at two weeks’ notice and I didn’t want it. I had retired. I was working in a warehouse. I ended up taking it for a bit of money before Christmas.
“I just thought: ‘I will have a dance, a bit of a fight and lose on points,’ but the size difference was unbelievable when I got in there and I found I had lost my sharpness, timing and my hunger.
“I wasn’t motivated. I was sending funny pictures to my missus when I was in the changing room before the fight. I was having a laugh. I didn’t care. But I got destroyed and thought: ‘I can’t retire on this.’ I looked pathetic.
“People see that since then I’ve beaten a couple of journeymen on points (Luke Fash and Stephen Jackson) and just think I’m some lad, floating around, waiting for a phone call. But I have been grafting so hard in the gym over the last 12 months. I’ve been sparring lightweights and putting them down. People underestimated me because they haven’t seen the improvements I have been making in the gym.”
Lane puts his improvement down to working with Lee Haskins, his former gym mate at the Sanigars’ gym in Bristol and the former IBF bantamweight belt-holder.
“I do everything Lee tells me to do,” said Lane, an honest interviewee and an honest fighter.
“I’m his slave. I listen and learn. When you’re young, you think you know it all. I’ve found out I knew f**k all and I’ve started to listen to Lee. I’m more patient now, faster, stronger and more explosive. There’s spite in my punches. I’m hurting people when I hit them and that hasn’t happened before.”
He hit hard enough to drop Purkiss three times in the third round and slice open a cut on left eyebrow that forced the Essex fighter’s corner to pull him out after seven of the scheduled 10 rounds.
“I asked for the fight,” said Lane. “I knew I could beat him. This kid interviewed me before the fight and said I was a step down from [Purkiss’ previous opponent Ramez] Mahmood and that I was going to get beaten up.
“That got under my skin. It really riled me. I was determined to prove him wrong. I messaged him and said: ‘I will stop him.’ I said I would break him down in seven or eight rounds and that’s what happened.
“I knew he was taller and had longer arms so I had to get my head on his chest and drag him into a dog fight. I knew he would start fast, but from the third round I beat him up. I was really turning up the heat in the seventh round and when I saw the blood from his eye I was planning to target it in the last three rounds.”
Lane first met Haskins when he answered the Sanigars’ appeal for sparring partners – and he ended up moving to Bristol from home-town Northampton, where he started boxing. Far Cotton ABC coach John Daly remembers a painfully shy Lane as a bullied teenager who took months to learn how to throw a jab. Lane hasn’t forgotten what Daly did for him and upon hearing his former coach had lost his mother last month, Ash made the 230-mile round trip from Bristol to Northampton to see him.
Even Daly didn’t fancy Lane’s chances against Purkiss, but did say before the fight: “Ash is looking fit and he always gives them a good fight.”
Lane was also boxing at 118lbs as well. He held the Commonwealth belt at 122lbs (2017 to 2019), but accepts, he was never a super-bantamweight. More recently, Lane abandoned plans to box at 115lbs.
“They were too big for me at super-bantamweight and I didn’t feel as strong at super-flyweight,” he admitted. “I felt like a machine at bantamweight. The difference was there in my punching and the way I took punches.
“Every time [Brad] Foster hit me [when Lane lost his Commonwealth title in May, 2019], I had to take a step back and rethink, but when Purkiss hit me I thought: ‘OK, good shot. Now I’m going to hit you back.’”
The punch Lane hit Purkiss with early in the third – a right hook to the chin – swept him off his feet and Lane went on to secure only the second stoppage win of his 17-10-2 career.
“I could come up with reasons for all my losses,” said Lane, a pro since 2011. The first Josh Wale fight (a nine-round retirement loss in March, 2013), I was inexperienced, the second fight with him (a 10-round points loss three and-a-half years later) I made mistakes.
“I drained myself making the weight for the Jason Cunningham fight (a 10-round points loss in February, 2016) and didn’t have the strength and it was the same when I fought Ryan Farrag (a seven-round stoppage in December, 2014). Kal Yafai (who stopped Lane in four in December, 2013) was just too good for me.
“I have been around the block gaining experience and knowledge.”
That experience and knowledge has been hard earned and after all the pain and disappointment, Lane is a champion again.
“I was saying to (manager) Kieran (Farrell) in the changing room before the fight: ‘I hate boxing – but I love it too,’” said Lane. “I hate the dieting, the politics, the nerves you feel in the changing room before you fight, but I love the training, feeling fit and the feeling when you get your hand raised and the respect and glory that comes with it.
“I will retire when I don’t want that anymore.”
What Lane wants is to become the first Northamptonian to wear the Lonsdale Belt. He reckons he has the measure of British and Commonwealth champion Sean McGoldrick having sparred him and added: “I’m going to be the first British champion from Northampton. I’ve been saying that for years and I’m going to make it happen.
“I feel that I’m in my prime. I’ve only got a couple of years left and I want the British title before I retire.”