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‘I’ve never let my condition hold me back.’ Kieran Gething on his triumph over adversity

Kieran Gething
Scott Rawsthorne/MTK GLOBAL
Not even a congenital disorder or a family tragedy could stand in Kieran Gething’s way of becoming the champion of his country. And he is not stopping there

I WAS born with talipes – also known as club foot. It’s impacted my life – both inside and outside of the ring. Since starting out in boxing, I’ve had to gradually learn how best to manage the condition. To this day, I have to carefully monitor and handle certain aspects of my training – especially roadwork. I can’t do too much running because of the shortened tendons in my foot. I haven’t got full movement in my ankle and it can get painful grinding on the joints. Away from boxing, the condition has also affected my personal life, like having the mickey taken out of me when I was at school. It affects my confidence because of the muscle wastage on my leg, but my youthful exuberance outweighs that!

I started boxing when I was only a kid. My dad, Gary Gething, was a former pro. I remember him taking me to the old boxing gym in Pontnewynydd – the one that was run by Jack Evans decades before. At first, I wasn’t that interested, so I stopped going. I didn’t get back into the sport until my younger brother, Connor, asked me to go to the boxing club above Pontypool Market with him. He was having some trouble with bullies there. Being the older brother, I thought I could help! I was 12 years old at the time. I’ve been boxing ever since.

Since the start, I’ve never let my condition hold me back. I’m stubborn – I’ve done things my own way. As an amateur, I always put the work in. Through this hard work, I eventually had the honour of captaining my country, Wales. I look back now and I’m so proud of that. I was so proud at the time, too.

I don’t know if it meant as much to others as it did to me, but think of all the people who would love to captain their country in football or rugby. Doing it in boxing was my equivalent. It didn’t mean that I was the best fighter, but it meant that the other boxers looked up to me or at least respected me.

The first time that I captained Wales was the day after my dad’s funeral. He took his own life. You never think it’s going to happen to the people that it happens to. During this time of grief, boxing provided me with a positive outlet. It gave me something to focus on and it pulled me through and drove me on. Instead of going down the road of drink and drugs, I went down the road of dieting and boxing. Unsurprisingly, the second road made me feel a lot better about myself. For lent that year I gave up meat – aside from fish – and performed great in my fights after that. But for bad timing – and some bad judging! – I could’ve gone to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

I try not to dwell too much on the idea of making my dad proud. If anything, I try to make myself proud, as I’ve got big ambitions and high expectations.

I know I made my dad proud from my very first fight, let alone when I won my first Welsh vest. Everything after that was a bonus for him. Even if I’d just stopped then, he’d have been over the moon.

In 2015, the year after my dad’s death, I won the Welsh senior title, just like he had done before me. It was a really amazing achievement for me. I pretty much started celebrating while the contest was still going on, as by the last round I knew I’d won it. At the bell I was really overcome with emotion. To make it even better, Connor was in my corner.

I turned professional the following year when I was 22. I drew my first fight and then lost my second. In spite of this, I never questioned myself – I only questioned the system! I have a much better understanding of the pro game now. I look back and I know what I did wrong in those early days. With this first-hand experience, if I ever decide to guide anyone else’s career in the future, I think I could do a better job than most. I learned a lot then and I continue to do so now.

For my first six fights as a professional, weight-wise I was boxing around super-welterweight and middleweight. I was still trying to pin down my ideal division at this point. As an amateur, I’d boxed my entire senior career at 69kgs – just under the super-welterweight limit in pro terms. Back then, I never thought I’d be able to get down to welterweight as a pro. If you’d told me that I’d end up being Welsh champion at super-lightweight in the pros, I’d have laughed in your face!

My first fight at welterweight was in 2018 against Bradley Pryce, who’d obviously been a big name in Welsh boxing. To get the victory over him in what was the final fight of his career was a good moment for me. It was my first televised fight and the performance was great. That display helped me to get my first paid sponsorship. Growing up, I’d always followed Bradley’s career from afar. I remember my dad being an inspector at a bunch of the shows that Bradley boxed on. A week or two before I fought him, I looked through some old boxes and found backstage passes and programmes from some of his fights, including ones that he’d headlined.

Later on that year I received a shot at the Welsh welterweight title against Tony Dixon. After the draw and the loss in my first two fights, I’d won six in a row, so I was confident. I lost by a single point after 10 rounds, but it was fair enough. I thought the referee, John Latham, did a good job in there. It was only because I suffered a knockdown that I lost. Even so, there was still a good case for me to have won the contest regardless, but he was the ‘home’ fighter, so sadly you have to temper your expectations when you’re in that situation.

Nevertheless, I loved the fact that we won the Welsh Area Fight of the Year, so that really validated the performance for me. After losing to Dixon, I only had to wait just over three months to get my hands on the Welsh title, though at super-lightweight instead of welterweight. I beat Henry Janes in February last year to become champion and successfully defended my title for the first time four months later against Craig Woodruff. At the moment, I’m better suited to super-lightweight rather than welterweight. I’m still only 26, so I’ve got a little more filling out to do. I think I could possibly move back up to welterweight around the start of 2021, if making super-lightweight gets too challenging. The fight should be the hardest part of camp, not weight-making.

At the end of last year I got the chance to take part in MTK’s Golden Contract tournament. My opponent in the quarter-final was Jeff Ofori. Although the three judges scored the fight as a split draw, the deciding vote went to the referee, as there had to be a winner on the night. The referee went with Ofori, which I think was the wrong decision. In my opinion, his successes were minimal compared to mine. Having said that, I can understand how it could be scored another way – I just don’t agree with it.

It was amazing being a part of the tournament. I fulfilled a dream by being on a Sky Sports card and everything was so professional and smooth. I really can’t wait for my next opportunity on Sky. It was very disappointing to be knocked out of the tournament without even officially losing, but you have to look on the bright side. I think it makes a potential Ofori rematch even more interesting.

I’m looking forward to getting back in the ring next month against Gary Cully. Fighting behind closed doors will be a lot different to the rest of my pro career so far, but I imagine it’ll be like the old amateur tournaments where there’s only about five people watching and all you can hear is your coach! I don’t think it’ll affect my performance like it will for other boxers. I don’t feed off the crowd. I feed off my own goals, like bringing home a major title and getting into the world rankings as soon as possible.

Outside of boxing, I run my own construction company – G. Gething & Sons. I chose the name because my dad had a company called the same thing when my brother and I were kids. It can be very stressful juggling both professions, but I’ve been putting things in place that’ll hopefully make the business self-sustainable, so that I can step in and out around my fight dates.

Considering how unpredictable boxing can be, it’s definitely important to have more than one source of income, especially as I’ve got two little girls – Isla and Iris. Who knows, maybe one day when they’re older they might want to give boxing a try. If that’s something that they want to do, I’ll help them as much as I can, but I’ll probably step aside and let my brother take them in the corner. I’ll be watching through my fingers! Boxing is a hard sport, but it’s helped me in so many different situations. I’ve written about these experiences in my book, Insight.

I wrote the book in the hope that it helps others. It’s self-published and available on Amazon. It came together almost exactly how I wanted it to. I also write a weekly column in the Abergavenny Chronicle, just letting the people in my hometown know what I’m up to. I’ve recently been touching upon how to stay positive during lockdown. I hope the readers find it useful and interesting because I have a real affinity with my local area. I want to bring boxing back to Abergavenny one day. With MTK behind me, it could definitely be a possibility. If it doesn’t happen on their watch then I’d promote it myself, for sure. I’ve dipped my toe in promoting in the past, so I’d have an idea of what I’m doing. I also have friends who promote that could help me. To win a title in my hometown is a dream of mine – the king of Abergavenny Castle! I used to play by the castle as a kid and it’s right by my family’s farm. You know what they say about dreams… they can come true.

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