WITH promoters and broadcasters fudging their spring itineraries, May 27 will prove a channel-hopping headache for domestic fight fans. On Sky Sports, Boxxer returns to Bournemouth for Lawrence Okolie vs Chris Billam-Smith at cruiserweight, while on DAZN, the Manchester AO Arena hosts Leigh Wood’s featherweight rematch vs Mauricio Lara and, in the same division on BT Sport, Queensbury’s Belfast-boy Mick Conlan lands himself a homecoming vs Luis Alberto Lopez.
Yet after a breakout year in 2022 – including an impressive sixth-round dispatch of Isaac Lowe on the Fury vs Whyte Wembley Stadium undercard – crowd-pleasing Nick Ball remains quietly confident he’ll still make a splash alongside the headline acts.
At a compact 5ft 2ins, the 26-year-old Liverpudlian is routinely dwarfed by his 126lb peers. But led by head coach Paul Stevenson – whose stock includes super-bantamweight contender Andrew Cain and brothers Peter and Joe McGrail – Ball’s short stature has been moulded into one of the more daring styles in contemporary British boxing. With excellent footwork and power to boot, the relentless pressure cooker has tallied 10 KOs in 17 professional outings since June 2017.
“It’s either in you or it isn’t,” says Ball who fights out of the Everton Red Triangle gym. You can do things that can be adapted to your style and all that but once you get in the ring, it’s always gonna come out, and I feel like that’s where the aggressive style is.
“I’m going to force the action and put the pressure on. And since I’ve been with Paul, we do it well now. It’s like a controlled aggression. People wanna see knockouts and exciting fights. They don’t wanna watch boring boxing fights and technical this and that. Hardcore boxing fans know what they want, but I can fight and I can box, too. I’m not afraid to go forward and have a fight. No excuses.”
For Ball, pleasing punters has long been ingrained into his mantra. From humble beginnings, the scrapper cut his teeth shifting big ticket numbers on the North West small hall scene, before catching the eye of promoter Frank Warren.
But since binning his plastering trade for the squared circle, Ball has remained grounded by his austere apprenticeship.
“You can be as skilful and tough as you want but on them small hall shows, if you didn’t sell enough tickets, you didn’t fight. That’s the stress of it,” continues Ball. “Throughout the whole camp, you were obviously focused on training, but you were also focused on selling tickets. There was no promoter, you had to do it all yourself. But I wouldn’t have changed that for anything. I’ve earned everything that I’m getting now. Nothing has been handed to me, I’ve had to work hard for it. Some guys have a pathway where they get straight deals with promoters but, for me, coming up on them small shows made me the fighter I am.
“It’s humbling. I’ll never look down on shows like that. I always appreciate the support everyone has given me over the years. Without them, I wouldn’t even be doing this.”
At what will be a rocking SSE Arena, Ball is set to sock it out with Ludumo Lamati (21-0-1, 11 KOs), in the precursor to Mick Conlan’s IBF title challenge. While acknowledging the South African as a career stiffest test, a special showing from baby-faced Ball could tee up a potential fixture with the winner of the main event.
“I’m not gonna lie to you, I haven’t seen anything on him really,” concedes Ball. “I typed something on YouTube. There was a fight on there with a Mexican and I seen it was like a 10 or 12-rounder, so I skipped it right to the end. I didn’t even watch the full round. I think I watched a minute and a half and then turned it off. He’s tall, but he’s not a runaway fighter. He likes to come forward from what I’ve seen. They’re his best assets.
“But if he comes forward against me, we’ll just have to see what happens. I’ve heard that he said he’s coming to knock me out. So yeah, he better be careful he doesn’t get knocked out when he’s trying it.”
Now, standing on the fringes of the division elite, Ball assures he can shake up the aristocracy. Fighting since the age of six, his headstrong demeanour and unwavering self-belief make him a notable inclusion amongst the May 27 congestion.
However, the sawn-off Scouser warns that you’ll dismiss him at your peril.
“They underestimate everything about me. My size, probably the way I look, too. I’ve got a baby face, you could say. Everything. They underestimate me until they get in there with me! It’s been like that my whole life,” he concludes. “But yeah, I like being the underdog, that’s better for me. It makes me want it even more and go even harder! So I wouldn’t even change it. I’m not bothered. That’s on them; that’s on you!
“You’re just probably just gonna get embarrassed.”