I first really started boxing aged five, hitting bags at home. I didn’t start sparring until I was about eight or nine. But at five I was boxing. You could say I grew up with it. My dad was a massive fan. I just sort of inherited his love of the game. He used to tell me about all these fighters, I’d watch them on VHS videotapes. Your Tysons, Lennox Lewis, Muhammad Ali. All these guys just fascinated me. These were my heroes growing up. It’s important to have these champions, great fighters to inspire you as a kid. Because it can get boring otherwise if you’re not looking at some of the best and trying to learn from the best, there’s no point doing it.
He [his dad] put up a punch thing, so I was just whacking the s*** out of it, having fun, being a kid with this thing ‘I’m a boxer’. That feels a lot better than you getting punched in the face. It was fun as well as hard work but I didn’t see it as hard work. It was fun. Great times, great memories, and good learning for myself. Being able to be disciplined but just enjoy what you’re doing as well.
Now it’s not so much fun anymore, it’s serious, so much is on the line. We’re pros now, it’s a serious business.
I loved drawing when I was younger. I love art. I was surrounded by it, I couldn’t get away from it so I was just totally into it.
I had my first amateur fight at 11. I’ve been around so many clubs, Repton, Dale Youth, Lynn, West Ham, Fisher. A wealth of experience I think I’ve collected. When you go from one club to another, especially Repton, it’s no joke. It’s serious.
You get used to different guys, different clubs, the different principles they have at their gyms.
From that sort of experience you have to develop and that’s what I did.
My first contest was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I don’t know, I was scared but I weren’t even scared of the other kid. It was a strange sort of feeling. I felt sick, I didn’t like the gum shield. I didn’t like the headguard but I went out there and it was easier than I thought. I was like, ‘Wow, this ain’t bad.’ I stopped the kid in the second round. I definitely worried more than I should have but there you go. Live and learn.
Now when I know I’ve prepared properly for my fight, I don’t feel no nerves at all. It’s showtime. It’s what I’ve been waiting for. What is there to feel nervous for? You have to react, you ain’t got time think of emotions that hold you back. It’s all about showing up and turning up.
There was one fight that stood out. I lost my second fight and this kid he was non-stop. He was non-stop. Before I could know what was happening he was punching me in the face at a million miles an hour and I lost. I didn’t get hurt or nothing. He was just overwhelming me. When I was throwing one [shot], he was throwing five to one. I wasn’t boxing great either that night. I was still over eager from first fight. I thought I was the dog’s bollocks, that I’d never lose a fight in my life. But hey it happens. The kid was very experienced as well. And I had a rematch with him. I beat him, I boxed better second time round.
That hurt my dad, the loss, it hurt me so much but it hurt my dad a lot. I don’t want to let him down again.
He had the vision before I did. He was serious about it. Without that mindset I don’t think I’d make it.
My life has been 20 years of his life [so] we’re going to make it together. He’s been there every step of the way.
We want to get that ‘heavyweight champion of the world’; hearing those words would just be the icing on the cake. What it’s all about.