FORMER British lightweight champion, Scott Cardle, 23-3-1 (7), has been keeping a relatively low profile since suffering his final defeat to Ricky Burns, a painful loss (rsf 3) back in November 2018. After that crushing evening in Manchester, he’d returned to long-time trainer and friend, Joe Gallagher, investing time in what he hoped would be a poignant last hurrah, a farewell to those raucous fans who’d followed him and celebrated his success.
Cardle poured every ounce of himself into those sessions, trying to recapture the exciting form that had made him something of a household name on Matchroom Boxing’s Sky Sports shows, but when his daughter was born, boxing relinquished its grasp, releasing the Lytham St Annes native’s obsession with the sport, and allowing him to excel in his new role.
When talking to Boxing News, Cardle knew that this was life now, where other fighters cut lonely figures, pondering a frantic, last roll of the dice, gambling this week’s wages in the slimmest hope of winning the lottery. Cardle is smarter than that. Though his Instagram post following our interview was tough to read, there was hope, and appreciation, that boxing drew its curtains before the sun had fully set.
“I think the universe just didn’t want that [last fight] to happen. I waited until just before Christmas time. I got the news that my wife was pregnant, and I said to myself: ‘I’m gonna get one more fight in, and then I’m gonna call it a day.’ I didn’t want to fight after my baby had been born. It’s a blessing, [fatherhood]. But I’m shattered,” laughs the 32-year-old, who’d just returned from a refreshing family holiday in Ibiza. “I teach people fitness through boxing now. I’m non-stop and I’m hoping to open a gym soon. So, things are going well for me. I’ll never look back in sorrow or in anger, I enjoyed the years that I had as a boxer, and I’m enjoying the years I’ve been retired now.”
It’s hard to speak to Cardle without assuming his upbringing involved playing football in the streets of Parkhead, Glasgow, or visiting friends in his parents’ home town of Barrhead. His accent, despite never being tied down, trained, or tweaked North of the border, is unmistakably Scottish. “I picked up this accent from my mum and dad,” he explains, “and all the way through English schools it just never left me. Where I am in Lancashire, there’s not much of an accent, really, so I’m quite glad I’m a bit different to everybody else. I always stuck out – it wasn’t a bad thing. My dad moved down here when he was 15, he had no intention of going back to Scotland and they raised their family in Lytham, here in England.
“With this accent in an English school, I had to learn how to fight, and that’s where boxing came into it all. By the age of seven, that was the first time I’d went into the gym, but I never boxed until I was 11. I lost my first amateur fight and that was in a Celtic supporters club. I walked in with the tri-colours on giving it [the big entrance] and there was nobody available for me on the night. My dad went to the matchmakers and said, ‘Listen, he’ll fight anyone.’ They put me in with the North West champion at the time and I jumped too far, but it was a lesson learned. A few months after that, I fought him again and I stopped the kid in the second round. That’s what made me think, ‘This is for me – I fancy this.’ I did go through the ranks, but once I got on there, I was an international from 15, 16 years old.”
Cardle’s amateur career and pedigree as a GB podium squad member was often forgotten after he’d turned professional, but we spoke of Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias, a gold medallist once again at Tokyo 2020. Iglesias had put Cardle out of the World championships in Milan, back in 2009, which the Cuban would also go on to win. The British fighter had toppled talented Frenchman, Alexis Vastine in the previous round, proving his ability on a global stage. Vastine, who captured an Olympic bronze medal just the year before losing to Cardle, has since passed away, killed in a helicopter accident in 2015.
For ‘Scotty,’ it was time to turn professional, and due to his burgeoning reputation up in Sheffield, he wasn’t short of suitors: “My last tournament was the World championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. Anthony Joshua qualified, and I lost against Vastine who I’d beaten before that. I had a good chat with Rob McCracken, and I think we both knew it was time for me to turn over. I had a sit down with Eddie [Hearn], then I had a sit down with Frank Warren and Frank – now Kellie – Maloney at the time. That was it, really, I had a chat with them all, but Eddie offered the most money by far.
“I believed in Eddie more than anybody else,” he continued. “I thought, ‘If I stick with Eddie, I’ll get the fights that I want. There was nine fights in the first 12 months, so, I think in a way it fast-tracked me to the Area titles and the English titles. It took a bit of time to get me to the British title, but I got there in the end. I was glad enough to take that [fight] and to win the title. I loved the transition. I thought it was great; I loved going into Joe Gallagher’s gym and I felt like it was a new sport, a new feeling. I was learning every day and it was quite special, learning from Joe who was training the best pros in Britain at that time. When I got with him, he was a very good trainer, but I feel like we all came at once and we all excelled at once. We buzzed off each other; we were all helping each other with upcoming fights. It was like a family.”
Gallagher’s gym was booming with Cardle, the four Smith brothers, Anthony Crolla, Scott Quigg, the Murray brothers, and many more passing through its doors. Gallagher himself, sometimes portrayed as a cantankerous figure, won the Trainer of the Year award from both Boxing News and Ring Magazine in 2015, with the aforementioned stable challenging for all manner of meaningful titles.
Cardle, carving his own path, would blast his way through 10 opponents in his first year as a professional boxer, before facing the now-“Cinderella Man” of British boxing, Maxi Hughes. Despite recently compiling an impressive five-fight win streak, Hughes was beaten by Cardle, who’d been ready to sit tougher exams. A year after beating Hughes for the Central Area title, he knocked out Paul Appleby, before capturing the English title just six months later when stopping Kirk Goodings in the first round. But that wasn’t enough.
“I remember starting boxing when I was seven, and I can remember being in the gym when somebody came in with the British title. I remember looking at it, thinking, ‘Wow – what do I do to get one of those?’ I had to have that.” The lure of the historic Lord Lonsdale title, the pinnacle of many fighters’ careers, was realised in London’s O2 Arena, back in 2015. Beating Craig Evans in his first 12-round outing, Cardle had etched his name more permanently into British boxing history, and he just about managed to keep the belt safe in the aftermath.
“I took it to Marbella the day after the fight; I got a flight out there with the boys the morning after and I took the belt with me. I’m just glad I never lost it, to be fair. It was a feeling like no other; I just didn’t want to let that belt leave my side. It was the start of a great run, but I’m gutted I never secured those three defences. Most of them were in Glasgow and all of my family are up there, so those were incredible nights. I’ve had some great highs in this career and winning and defending the British title, they were all great nights. It’s been special, it really has. “I’ve had a career to be proud of in a way, but I had bigger dreams. I had world title ambitions, and sometimes that’s not meant for everyone.”
Cardle went on to fight Sean Dodd twice, a pair of modern domestic classics, before beating Kevin Hooper to defend his belt, and then losing it on his fateful third defence, to Robbie Barrett. Then came the slide. Exchanging wins for losses, soaking up some damage, and trying desperately to find that spark during a period of recession. Things had changed in the gym towards the end, and Cardle was honest in his assessment: “I was only going to the gym for the banter; I was just going to have some craic with the boys. I remember leaving, thinking, ‘What did I just do there? I’ve just travelled 40 miles to get here, just to have a bit of patter with the boys.’ I didn’t get out of those sessions what I wanted. That’s what made me sit down with Joe and say, ‘Listen, I’ve got to move on.’ I’m still in touch with Joe on a daily basis now, and I have a great relationship with him.
“I just feel like, we were a family. And once we got together on the Monday after a weekend, we were all in the ring, supposed to be shadow boxing, but we’d all be talking about what we got up to at the weekend. All the single lads telling their stories, then, it starts getting out of control. To be fair, Joe’s always been a strict coach and he’s never really stood for that. I feel like, there was a time when Joe was thinking, ‘What is going on here?’ It’s totally understandable. I feel like other lads might feel different, like Scott Quigg, he’s a different kettle of fish! He doesn’t want to talk to anyone when he’s in the ring. He wants to get on with it. That is only admirable; that’s a different machine.”
He ended his career with two punishing defeats in his last three professional contests; a firefight with a vicious Lewis Ritson, which left Cardle’s head rocking after a second-round barrage despite a lively, promising start. And, of course, his last fight with three-weight belt-holder, Ricky Burns. Stopped twice, and with questions to ask of himself, he stared into his new life of responsibility as a father and a husband. He mentions “putting miles on the clock” on a few occasions as we probe the impact boxing has had physically and emotionally, and his voice, to those unfamiliar with Scott Cardle interviews of the past few years, maybe does sound as though it’s labouring.
But how does he really feel? And how do those close to him feel, about boxing?
“I did put many miles on the clock, and I know that – I can still feel that. I’ve put those miles on. It is hard to take; it’s hard to look back. I’ll never say that I regret things because I did it my way, and that’s the way I lived. But I could have done things much better. Don’t get me wrong, I feel alright, I feel like I’m still switched on. But I can definitely tell that the miles I’ve put on the clock are showing. I think it’s quite apparent for a lot of people to see as well, especially my loved ones, my wife, my family. They all see a difference in me. It’s a commitment, boxing. You’ve got to commit. These are just all the difficulties [that come with it]; I won’t say the worst case because there can be much worse than what I experience, but I do see the odd effect that boxing has had on me. I roll with the punches, and I get on with it, but I think my nearest and dearest will know that as well – it’s just how the game goes…”
Flicking back to his Instagram post from October 11, you can see he is showered with adulation and heartfelt praise. Former titlists such as Callum Smith and Kal Yafai “love” Cardle, while family, fans and friends can’t speak highly enough of his honesty. The picture is of Cardle, his wife and his beautiful young daughter, enjoying their holiday, now living their lives without the pressures of a training camp or moments of doubt in the wake of damaging defeat. They’re at peace now.