I was only eighteen when I sparred AJ but I enjoyed some successes up in Sheffield. Given he’d been Olympic champion, that gave me a bit more confidence.
That said, he’s the best I’ve shared a ring with. I’ve sparred him before most of his recent fights. He’s just a massive man, very strong, so I really needed my wits about me. He’s got a very solid jab, good defence and you certainly wouldn’t want to catch a clean right hand off him. In my view, he’s definitely the best in Britain, number one in the world.
On other sparring partners
When I was only 17, I sparred Dereck Chisora who’s very tough and a good guy. I also sparred [2016 Olympic finalist] Joe Joyce and Frazer Clarke regularly and did well, held my own.
Recently I went to Brighton to work with [10-0 pro] Nick Webb and Scott Welch’s son. They all try to help me out and they all try to bash me up! Still, I’ll give it a go against anyone. These are experienced pros but I’ve never been troubled.
I’d love the opportunity to spar David Haye, a very good fighter. My dad has promised to take me over to the Mayweather Gym to spar later in the year.
On getting into boxing
Dad used to go to The Peacock Gym in Canning Town just to keep fit and I’d just toddle along to watch. It started from there. As a kid, I took part in a lot of sports. I weren’t that interested in football, still aren’t, but I sprinted for South London Harriers, where I also did the long jump and threw the javelin.
I just seemed to take to boxing quite quickly. Shortly after, we moved to the Repton gym, then to Dale Youth – where I won most of my junior titles under a fabulous coach called Gary McInnes. Later I passed through the Lynn and the Fisher clubs before finishing up at Islington. We changed gyms so often because the coaches didn’t seem to get along with my dad!
On his amateur achievements
All told, I think I had 75 amateur bouts and I lost about six. I won two English schoolboy titles, two junior ABAs plus the CYPs. Last December , I won the [GB championships]. I spent a year and a half as part of the GB Elite set-up in Sheffield and lived up there from Monday to Thursday. I probably boxed for England about a dozen times, competing at the European Youth championships twice and winning gold medals at multi-nations in Tammer (Finland) and Brandenburg (Germany).
On leaving GB
There was no guarantee the selectors were going to put me in those competitions. Though Joe Joyce is heavily rumoured to be turning pro, they were clearly grooming Frazer Clarke to take over. He’s currently number four in the world I believe and had been at Sheffield a lot longer than me. That’s why I opted to learn the game in the pros instead.
On pro trainer Martin Bowers
I’ve been around Martin for a long time, at least ten years. I trust him and he’s a good motivator. That said, I’ve always believed that the fighter makes the trainer rather than the other way around. I train with Martin during the day at the Peacock Monday to Friday, then do a couple of hours on my own at another gym in the evenings. Most days, I’ll run around Greenwich Park a couple of times and my ‘old man’ takes care of all my strength and conditioning.
On adapting to the pros?
I’m a forward fighter with a lovely jab. I’m quite aggressive and try to use a lot of head movement. I’ve not always been a heavyweight. At 12, I was 54kilos (8 ½ stone) and at 16, I was still just 75 (just under 12 stone). But once I developed into a heavyweight two years ago, I started blowing most opponents away; big right hands and body shots. Ask AJ and the others if I can punch!
Now I’m in the pros, I’m going to have to concentrate more and place my shots better. I’ll need to be even more aggressive. Look at (unbeaten WBC heavyweight champion) Deontay Wilder. He doesn’t hang about.
I’d like to get at least six fights a year – as Frank [Warren] has promised me – and I’d like the right fights, a mixture of domestic opposition and imports so that I can move up in rounds and class. I want to bash ‘em all up, 100%. I love bashing people up.
I intend to win every title I can; Southern Area, English, British, Commonwealth, Inter-Continental, the sooner the better. I’ll give anything a go.