RYAN DAVIES, a 27-year-old boxer from Blackpool recently made his professional debut under the name of R.P Davies. Once a member of the unlicensed circuit, his switchover was delayed when medicals uncovered issues with his heart. Now all resolved, Davies is now ready to take his place in Blackpool’s exciting new boxing scene
First of all, you recently won in your pro debut, beating Jason McArdle, how was it?
He was quite a hard lad to be honest, it was my first pro fight and it was quite tough. I thought I boxed well for the first two rounds, I felt slightly tired in the third and then I had to dig in during the fourth. I got as fit as I have ever been in my life for it, but I think the occasion – with it being my first one – kind of sapped me a little, but it was a decent performance and it shot me up the rankings so I was quite happy with it.
There’s a lot of pressure on fighters in your situation to sell tickets, how did you handle that side of it?
To be honest I did quite well with the tickets, I’m from Blackpool and luckily I’ve got a quite a good fan-base over there. I think I brought about 150 people down with me. On the night how loud they were for me was brilliant, it was in Doncaster but when I came out all you could here was my lot, they were brilliant for me really. I’m quite fortunate to have a tiny bit of a following, so it’s just about trying to build that now. It definitely lowers the pressure. When I’ve got a fight coming up all I want to be thinking of is the fight, the last thing I want is to be thinking “Jesus, I’ve got to sell another x amount of tickets”. Obviously there is always a bit of a pressure but that’s the game we are in now. It doesn’t matter how good you are, some of these promoters will be more interested in a kid who can sell tickets than a kid who is good at fighting. You can be average at fighting and sell 500 tickets, or you can be really good and sell four – they’d rather have the average kid. But at the moment I’m doing alright with tickets.
Coming from Blackpool, how important is it for you to be a part of what is becoming a resurgence in boxing around that area?
Although we don’t really train together I think the lads in Blackpool look out for each other a bit. I think we have some good fighters in Blackpool; Brian Rose has done fantastic for his world title shot in New York, Scotty Cardle showed the other night he has some big fights coming up and is right in the mix, I can imagine Adam Little doing very well as he’s on the cusp now, there’s Jack Arnfield again who is on the precipice – I think he’s 17-0 now so it’s that make or break time now to step him up – and then there’s Matty Askin the British champion up at cruiserweight. So yeah, I think as a town we’re doing very well. I’ve known Brian since I was ten years old. I didn’t compete but I’ve been in boxing gyms since I was a little kid, one of the first gyms I went to I was sparring with Brian. He’s a great ambassador not only for us in Blackpool but for boxing in general because he’s such a likeable lad. I’d love to emulate that sort of success, my aim if I’m being honest is to try and win the British title, it’s a massive challenge but a realistic goal that I think I can achieve.
You were fighting on the unlicensed scene when you looked to turn professional at 24, but were knocked back through medical issues – can you describe that period?
A lot of people were advising me to fight professionally and it was through a contact that I was invited to train down at Ricky Hatton’s gym. I did a bit of sparring in front of him, which was brilliant, and he asked if I would like to make my pro debut on one of his shows. As you can imagine at 24 I was very excited, but then I went for my boxing medical and they found an anomaly with my heart, so I was knocked back. It was a shock to me at the time because I’ve always been quite fit; I’ve never had anything to do with my chest or anything like that. So I went to the Board and they needed to know if it would ever be a problem in the ring. It came at the wrong time really because it was when Fabrice Muamba had collapsed playing football. I think that made it worse because they were even more cautious. Don’t get me wrong I’m very happy they did the tests on me, because in my mind now I’m in no doubt. They did every test going, they had top specialists in the country looking at me. Eventually they said there was a slight anomaly but it would never be something that affected me in the boxing ring, it just took them a while to get to that conclusion.
During that time were you still thinking about boxing or were you just worried about your health in general?
It worried me in general, when I was told about it boxing was probably the last thing on my mind. I saw how worried my mum and dad were. At 24 you don’t want to be hearing them talking about pacemakers and that sort of thing, I was thinking “I run eight miles a day how can I need a pacemaker?” In my head I knew I would be alright because I had never had a problem with it, it was a real shock that it had come up. It was more for peace of mind for my mum and dad to be honest that I was doing all these tests. It’s already a risk going into the boxing ring but they don’t want me in there if it’s even more of a risk. I was still training and sparring regularly but in terms of competitive boxing there was a massive period of inactivity. At first I thought it would be sorted in a couple of months, but it just kind of went on and on. I just thought it was never going to happen. I started training a little bit less because I had condemned myself to an early retirement.
After three years out you were finally passed to box, how did that eventually come about?
I was in correspondence with the British Boxing Board and the NHS for all that time. There is a lot of red tape in stuff like that, I was getting messages from the NHS saying there is no reason I can’t box, but the Board wanted a doctor to put down in writing that everything would be alright for me to box. As you can imagine that’s not a simple thing to get, a doctor is putting his reputation and everything on the line, if anything went wrong at all. There’s no guarantee. It’s highly, highly unlikely but there’s no guarantee that Floyd Mayweather couldn’t just keel over in the ring. There’s nothing to say that he would but things happen. So for a doctor to say there is no way anything could happen to this lad is a big statement. But we worked on it and spoke to a specialist we got to know, and he said “listen Ryan, you’re at no more risk than any other man who steps in a boxing ring”. As soon as he said that it put my mind at rest because he was a leading heart specialist. Then it was about putting that across to the board which was difficult – and understandably by the way. I was glad they were so strict, they have their own things to look out for and have to be very safe, but in a way that’s no good to me. I understand what they are doing, but from my side it was slightly frustrating, I knew I was alright. But over time I got all the confirmation and they looked over that and together came to the decision that they were happy for me to fight.
And soon after you signed a promotional deal with Dennis Hobson…
Yeah, through a contact I knew he got in touch. It was a bit like a job interview really. I went down to Sheffield to meet Dennis and at that time I didn’t have a ton of offers, I was out of the mix a little bit. I sparred in front of him and he must have been reasonably impressed because he offered me the chance to sign. I didn’t really know much about him before I went to meet him, but he’s such a nice guy, he’s made me feel very welcome. He seems to genuinely want to help me; he doesn’t seem to just want to make money out of me which a lot of promoters are probably like. I believe I’ve signed with the right team and hopefully he can take me where I want to go. I train out of Dennis’s gym in Sheffield but I only go there once every two weeks. Most of the time I train at Sharpstyle Amateur Club in Blackpool, doing my own thing with my Dad who is still my trainer.
How is your style different due to the fact that you have only boxed unlicensed fights and don’t have the amateur background?
If I had been an amateur when I was 11 or 12 I think I’d be different because they are all taught the same way. They get the fundamentals very right. With me I was training in my garage with my Dad, we were watching Evander Holyfield and James Toney, you know. I tried to copy that to an extent, nowhere near as successfully obviously. But I think that has given me more freedom in terms of my style. If you go into an amateur gym at 14 you’re getting told left hand up, jab, jab, straight punches. I’ve always been more of a hooker and use the uppercut; more than just straight punches. It’s a strange one, I’ve not had an amateur career but in some ways I think that’s helped me. A lot of the problems with some amateurs is that they start so young – and I know this from my own friends who have boxed – that by the time they are 18 or 19 they have boxed for years and at that point drink and girls come in. They have been so strict from 11 years old, and then at 18 they discover nightclubs and things like that. I’m the opposite; I kind of got that out of my system when I wasn’t fighting. My ambition for boxing is what I imagine a 14 year old kid’s is, I’m like a kid in a candy shop. I’ve spoken to people who have been boxing since they were children and they say the last thing they want to do now is box, the last thing they want to do is get up in the morning to go running because they have done it for 15 years. In my opinion I think it will help me, but at the same time I have to adapt quickly, because I’m not as experienced.