IT is hard to believe. More than 30 floors high up in the tower of a tall hotel, Rocky Fielding sits by the wide window of his room. The view takes in a broad New York avenue, the yellow cabs so far away they look like small toys, and overlooks Madison Square Garden itself. There on an advertising screen illuminated in electric light is an image of himself, alongside Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the biggest name in boxing today. And Rocky’s opponent on Saturday.
This has been Fielding’s view for the last week. It’s a constant reminder that he really is taking on the sport’s superstar.
“There I am there now. How can I not enjoy it?” Fielding reflects.
He looks down at Madison Square Garden and remembers, he can hardly forget, that three years ago he stood outside that historic venue, at one of the lowest moments of his life, and before going on a tour idly dreamed then of fighting at the Garden one day.
Then, in 2015, he had lost to Callum Smith in their Liverpool hometown. His mother had been diagnosed with cancer and her treatment was due to begin once Fielding returned from this trip to New York he’d booked in. “From standing outside there three years ago with my girlfriend saying one day I’d love to fight here, after losing a fight, thinking what’s going to happen to you? To be here, doing it. It’s crazy,” Fielding said.
On Saturday (December 15) his whole family will be there to support him, including his mother. She won’t watch the fight itself. But she will see his picture and his name up in the lights on the wall of Madison Square Garden.
For this real life Rocky, his journey couldn’t have begun further away from Madison Square Garden. He spent his childhood boxing, his teenage years getting into to watch any professional show he could but Fielding began his pro career without a promoter, without a television broadcaster and he was even losing money on the bouts he took. “I didn’t know that side of the game,” Fielding told Boxing News. “My first fight cost me more in medicals than what I was getting. My first two or three fights.”
It took an offer out the blue, at only five days’ notice, for him to get his first appearance on Sky Sports, when he entered and won a Prizefighter tournament in 2011. His one round defeat to local rival Callum Smith in 2015 left his career in the doldrums. But even after beating John Ryder and David Brophy he couldn’t catch a break. At the start of this year had no fights lined up. He was finding it increasingly hard to make a living and with a baby on the way, his second child, he was contemplating whether he’d need to quit the sport to get a job.
Then he got a call, giving him five weeks to prepare to box WBA ‘regular’ super-middleweight titlist Tyron Zeuge. Rocky needed that belt. “Winning that world title I had to, for my family. I had to win it, for my future, for my kids,” he said. Even though his son was too young to understand, Rocky promised to bring him back the belt. He did just that. Fielding beat Zeuge in Germany and could now look for more lucrative paydays. His career was saved.
But then another unexpected phonecall took Rocky to a whole new level. Canelo Alvarez wanted to fight him at 168lbs and Fielding didn’t hesitate. “The first six months of this year not knowing where I’m going to the last six months, I’m a world champion fighting Canelo at Madison Square Garden and that’s why I’m buzzing and that’s why I’m loving it,” the Liverpudlian said.
“When I lost to Callum people thought that was me there. I knew it wasn’t. I knew there was something there to me. When all the problems went, I trained with Jamie [Moore], I done Brophy, I knew I’d do it. Then I thought, right, next level, get me something and nothing came now look I’m in this position here.”
The Briton does tower over the Mexican, who steps up to 168lbs for the first time. Fielding has enjoyed the head-to-head face-offs with Alvarez that make clear the height difference between the two of them. “I got a buzz out of it. Good energy from it. The height is big, isn’t it?” he said. “It’s my weight. I have been at this division for a while. I’m big at it, I’m strong at it. I spar bigger guys, take bigger shots against cruiserweights and light-heavies. That plays a part as well.”
However can Rocky Fielding make the most of it? There is a universal truth to boxing. That a good big guy beats a good little guy. We know how good Alvarez is. His performances against Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin, whether you agree with the results or not, confirm his talent. The question though is how good can Rocky Fielding really be. On Saturday he pits himself against against one of the most skilled fighters in the world, at any weight.
“Anything can happen as well. The experience he’s got and the world title fights he’s had and the big fights he’s had, it does weigh up to what I’m bringing and what I’ve got. I’m not stupid,” Rocky said. “They’re an experienced team. He knows what he’s doing.
“He’s confident, isn’t he? That’s why he’s stepping up. That’s why he wants to fight. I’m not being fooled by what he is saying.”
But Fielding adds, “It’s boxing. Anything can happen. Once Saturday comes and it’s fight mode, I’ll push all that to the side and everything else around it will be gone. I’ll be fully focused on the fight now and winning and that’s it.”
“I’ve got to be prepared for what he’s got. Hopefully my strength and my power can play a big part. I think it will,” he continued. “It’s a big challenge for him, as in the weight, size and moving up, and it’s a big challenge for me as in what he brings and who he is. I’m just up for it.
“I’m up for a good scrap on Saturday. I’ll give it everything and that’s it.”
Even Canelo Alvarez isn’t flawless. “He’s human,” Rocky said. “We know he’s only 28 but it’s 50 odd fights he’s had, the camps that he’s been in…” There is a toll there. “His cuts are still fresh, they’re red and they’re raw. Stepping up with the weight, there’s loads of factors,” Fielding said. “He’s just come off a 12 round war in September [with Golovkin]. He’d be stupid to look past me, he’d be stupid to think he’ll walk through me.”
Perhaps the occasion, the opponent, this whole new level, can bring something new out of Fielding. “Bringing the best out of me, something that no one’s ever seen, not even myself. I’ll do it in the ring. I’ll see where I’m at. I win, what happens to me then? That’s all I’m thinking about, is winning. I’m not looking part anything. It’s the biggest,” Rocky says.
“It’s a dream come true to fight at Madison Square Garden, but everything else around it is for my family, for myself. I’ve took it as the challenge it is and that’s what I’m in it for. It’s a great story the journey I’m on.”
He has thought too about how this journey ends. He’s visualised it. He sees himself “just mixing it” with Canelo. “Just catching him. Just catching him coming in. I just think he’s going to come and I’m going to catch him and unload,” Rocky says.
“But by any means.”
On Saturday we’ll see if this final dream can become a reality.