YOU didn’t need to have audio on a video posted on Twitter earlier this year to know that the kid dressed up in a traditional Mancunian all-black scally outfit was terrified. The glistening trail of tears and snot told its own story as he put his hooded head down and whispered “I’m sorry, bro” to someone just off camera. His day probably started out as too many do for a teenager in the area of Moston: go out, meet up with some mates, and then cause a bit of trouble.
He must have assumed he had struck lucky when he broke into a decent looking car and began rifling through its contents. He was probably working under the assumption that if he was caught he would have a good chance of out-running the owner.
Sadly for him, though, the car was the property of light-heavyweight contender Lyndon “King” Arthur, 15-0 (12), who caught up to him before he could scatter and dragged him in front of a camera for a ticking off.
Standing at 6ft 2ins and with one of the most chillingly stoical deadeye stares in boxing, Arthur reduced the would-be thief to jelly. Things only got worse for him, as the 28-year-old contender hauled the youth to the Moston and Collyhurst Boys Club, where Pat Barrett was waiting to impart some words of wisdom.
“I tried to get him into the gym but I think he is too far gone in the aspect of where he is — I guess it is part of growing up around here, really,” said Arthur when talking to Boxing News. “We just told him to come and train, but kids have their own minds nowadays.
“I don’t think he was aware it was my car. It isn’t a case of it being funny, it is a case of him learning from that and not stealing from someone’s car before he gets stopped by either getting hurt or being in jail. Again, it is probably being a product of growing up in a place where kids doing nonsense like that is the norm.”
The area has seen hard times under Labour and Conservative governments, neighbouring Harpurhey was named the “most deprived area in England” in a 2007 government study called ‘Indices of Deprivation’.
Entire generations have become lost in this part of north Manchester as the city centre encroaches on and gentrifies surrounding areas then pushes the lost ones who cannot afford to partake in gentrification further afield. Arthur knows how challenging it is to remain focused and disciplined in an area that was one of the first to be featured as part of the recent “Poverty porn” craze in a show called People Like Us.
“For me, it was a case of growing up and away from that kind of thing,” he said. “You realise that if you stay doing what you do on the streets you won’t be as successful as you can be doing something like boxing. I’ve been to schools, told my story to the kids — it is something I like to do. I want to let kids know that no matter what happens in life you can go out and be successful.
“I tell them that I was once in the same position they are in by going down the wrong path and that it is never too late to turn what could be a bad thing into a good thing. I always try to tell people to turn it around.”
When Arthur decided to turn his attention completely to boxing he knew he needed to knuckle down if he was to make it in an unforgiving sport and an equally demanding business. “It wasn’t like it was hard for me to change,” he admitted. “It was just going into something different. When I said I was drinking and all that it wasn’t like I was an alcoholic or something, I was just out on the streets doing what all teenagers do. It was just the fact of changing from being a little s**t to not being one. It is all part of growing up.
“I don’t be on the streets too much around here no more, but in terms of the recognition people are starting to take notice now.
“I’m not out here claiming people are fanboying on me all the time although they are starting to come up to me. It is nice that I’m a positive product of this environment.”
His brother, Zennen, boxed before he was shot and killed close to the gym in 2002 so it was no wonder that Lyndon followed him into the sport and under the wing of their uncle Pat. After a relatively short amateur career, he took up the family business.
“My brother boxed, rest in peace, and I was around Pat so subliminally and subconsciously I was always going to be a boxer, to pick up where Zennen left off,” he said. “I never knew it until the right age and the right time, and then I walked into the gym. It has only been eight-years now, amateur and pro. I’m nowhere near the finished article. I’m getting there. I will take my spot in the limelight with the rest when the time comes.”
Barrett is a hard taskmaster as well as a perfectionist. Ironically, towards the end of his career he was trained by former soldier John Davenport — “He thought he was still in Vietnam fighting a war!”, he once told me — yet he has taken this hard-nosed approach and married it to the technical style of boxing that Brian Hughes MBE used to impart.
“There were certain sparring sessions where I came away with a headache and thought: ‘You know what, I don’t want to fight no more’,” Arthur admitted.
“Every fighter gets that, everyone you speak to knows that feeling right there. Then it is alright again the next day. I love boxing, I will always do it. A lot of fighters say you don’t see the hard work and grind that goes in. It is true and it is not just about the fight: there are the sacrifices in the gym, the dieting, selling tickets, and all the rest — it is a hard game but a fun game.
“If you stay in the gym and listen to Pat you can be as good as you want to be. Pat creates a good balance. Pat was Brian’s prodigy and was a product of working in that gym for a lot of years so those methods of Brian’s are embedded in Pat’s method. The journey so far has been good. It has been planned and slow. I’m getting there now. I need to announce myself on the scene with either a good knockout or a one-sided victory. Then it all starts.”
Given his intimidating air, you would be forgiven for thinking that Arthur worships at the altar of the likes of Mike Tyson and Nigel Benn. Instead, he has a soft spot for the eccentricities of Chris Eubank, his polar opposite in personality yet someone he feels was a kindred spirit when that first bell sounded.
“When I was younger, my mum used to buy me boxing videos and he would be on them,” he said. “I’d watch his highlights, looking at how tough he was and the way he fought. Then I was intrigued by the way he spoke.
“If you listen to him speak before seeing him fight you wouldn’t think he’d be able to do so much damage and be so tough in the ring. It was intriguing for me and I was drawn towards him. He had the warrior’s code, as he likes to say, and stepped in with people like Nigel Benn and all of them fighters. He was great to watch. It was damaging for him, but good for us all to look at.”
They crossed paths earlier this year when Sebastian Eubank fought on a Steve Wood-promoted bill at Oldham Leisure Centre. Arthur found himself within touching distance of his hero yet his reaction was typical of his cool and collected demeanour.
“I was in the changing room. I didn’t go over to speak to him and I’m not someone who will ask for a picture. I was just there in the presence of him. I guess he is a people person. I just don’t have that thing of going over to ask someone for a photo in my nature,” he said.
Arthur isn’t keen on the term “Flying under the radar”. However, that is exactly what he has done, coming through on Black Flash shows as well as cameos on other promotions before signing with Frank Warren. Barrett hosts some of his events at the Middleton Arena, a place that can generate an atmosphere when it is bouncing and local fighters are on the card.
“Of course, man, because many of us started on those small hall shows, so you have to go back and watch those shows because you always get the odd cracking fight,” he said when asked if he will continue to be a face on the off-TV circuit. “If you don’t go you might hear about a great fight and think you probably should have gone.
“[The recognition] happens now when I go to shows. It is good for young kids to have someone come from the same kind of background as them in regards to starting off on those shows. I’ve been on world title undercards before, this next one [Josh Warrington-Sofiane Takoucht] is another good one for me to be on and to shine on.
“I do miss the small shows, though, because the Middleton Arena is a small venue that always felt big when it was full of people and the atmosphere in there was wicked. I actually miss amateur boxing as well as those nights.”
“It was just fun going away with your friends, visiting and boxing in different cities,” he replied when I said that some fighters cannot wait to turn professional. “You don’t know who you are fighting so you end up eyeing up bigger and smaller guys wondering who you will get then having to figure it out. Those are the best years of your boxing life. You are stress free. You don’t have to do tickets. You only have to worry about training and fighting. It was fun times. Professional is a completely different ballgame.”
It has been a hard road, too. Arthur also lost his father at a crucial time in his life. His mother stepped in to fill the void, becoming increasingly involved in his career once she realised it was a vocation and not a fad. “My mum is my biggest fan,” he said.
“She has respect for what I do. She helps me a lot in this boxing business. She is my biggest critic and will deliver the boldest truths if she thinks I didn’t perform well. My sister can’t watch. She doesn’t like it and can’t come because of the stress. As an amateur, my mum didn’t like to watch it, either, but she has got used to it now.
“I don’t know how she will feel when I get hit back properly. I do my hardest to work on defence so she doesn’t see anything like that. This is boxing and we know you can’t swim without getting wet. My jab is a key part of it. It is the key weapon in boxing. As long as I keep working to perfect it then I’ll do alright.”
Following Anthony Yarde’s loss to Sergey Kovalev the hunt is on for the next emerging light-heavyweight talent to either rival or surpass him, Arthur believes that he can prove that the rumours of a hidden king are well-founded. He is certain that his Commonwealth title fight against Ghana’s Emmanuel Anim, 14-2-1 (12, in Leeds on October 12 will serve notice that he is a latent threat.
“My time is coming — it is mad that I’ll hold the Commonwealth title by October,” he declared. “I can’t wait to put in a performance.”