PRESTON’S Scott Fitzgerald (13-0, 9 KOs) almost broke boxing Twitter when he decisioned Liverpool’s Anthony Fowler back in March. A 10th round knockdown sealed the deal for “The Mad Man” and some very vocal boxing fans immediately took to social media to voice their approval. For some reason, Fowler has become a divisive figure among a section online fans and for some of them he is emblematic of the things they dislike about modern boxing: the blue tick, the endorsements, a perceived sense of entitlement and his use of the platform to promote CBD oil are generally offered up as reasons for this aversion.
Fitzgerald’s attitude towards his former foe was fostered during the build-up to their fight, “Fitzy” felt that he had been brought in as a scalp, a fighter with an ‘0’ whose wild abandonment between fights had spilled over into his training camps.
Indeed, the 27-year-old admitted that he had pushed things too far in his private life in this week’s in-depth interview with Boxing News, but he also told me that the opportunity against Fowler was a sobering moment in his life and once the reality kicked in he kicked on in training.
“Being written off by people motivated me,” he said. “I knew hardly anyone was picking me. I was confident of getting the win so was happy to prove everyone wrong and to prove myself right. I showed people what I can do when I put my mind and body to it. It was a confidence boost for me.
“I still had slight doubts going on over whether I was good enough based on the struggles I’d had against Craig Morris [W rsf 10 in August of last year] and the fact Fowler had got to the Olympics — that probably explains why I started slowly under the lights — but then I got to the third round and thought I’d take him head on to see how strong he was and what he could do. It turned out that his power was above average yet it didn’t bother me.”
After a tough tussle the pre-fight animosity usually fades away yet there is still a lot of needle between the fighters and their fans. Fitzgerald has been advised by those close to him to deny Fowler the chance to set the record straight; however, he feels that there is still some business to take care of.
“People tell me not to give him the rematch,” he said. “I really should have stopped him last time, though. Eddie [Hearn] mentioned Callum Smith fighting at Anfield next year. Put my name down next to Fowler and I’ll take the money to wallop him about again, only this time it will be in his own city. I won’t say it will happen in front of his own fans because I don’t even think the people in Liverpool like him. His act is just cringey and fake. It is not what boxing should be about and people see right through it.”
Of course, there was a night out in Preston to celebrate the victory, as he partied word started to filter through to the winner that he was being hailed as a hero. “I had a good night that night and over the next couple of weeks because everyone in Preston was buzzing for me,” he recalled, somehow.
“It was an enjoyable time. Now it is out of the way and next time I won’t do the same thing, I’ll control myself a bit better because I’ve learned more about how to handle that type of thing. I just wanted to give everyone a chance to celebrate with me. I’d go in a pub and they’d shout ‘Nice one — get in there lad!’ It was great. I didn’t have to buy my own drinks, they wanted to treat me. People were even coming up with aftershave and gifts. I bought them all drinks for showing me so much support.”
“I knew the stuff on Twitter would happen before it happened because I knew that no one can stand that lad,” he added. “I thought I’d go in there, beat him up, and he’d get it from the proper boxing fans — I could see it all along. I don’t go on Twitter that often, but I quickly jumped on there and people were going mad for it.”
Some fans saw it as a victory for fighters who are either not fashionable or have flown under the radar. His follower count immediately started to swell and his mentions went through the roof. Despite this, Fitzgerald admitted that he did not take full advantage of his social media gains in the aftermath of his biggest win.
“It was funny seeing people give it to Fowler, but social media is too much hard work for me,” he said. “I started using it to get interest in a fight with him and people went mad for me on there. When Twitter and all that is good it is great, if you go on a downer then I’ve seen that it can be the total opposite. It is just the way it is so you can’t take it all too seriously.
“It was mad that I went from about 5000 followers to about 40,000 just because of that win and a few tweets I put out before it. I’m not one of those who will be sat on it all day and night, though, because that just isn’t me. I probably need to speak to someone about how to handle it better. You just do what you can do, don’t you?”
A British title fight against Ted Cheeseman for the light-middleweight belt is next on the agenda for the reformed character. Fitzgerald has released video footage to rubbish rumours that he will struggle at the weight again, he initially came in six ounces over the limit for the Fowler fight, and he told me that the recent birth of his son, Archie-William, has been a massive driving force. Both families have been chipping in to make things easier for the fighter ahead of the Cheeseman fight, allowing him the space and time to focus on the job in hand. However, baby bowel movements stop for no one so he has had to get stuck in a few times.
“I’ve actually just managed to get a new nappy on him and that was hard enough!” he said. “It was a right shitty one, too, but I got it done proper and I am loving it. [His partner] Rhiannon has stayed with her mum for a bit and that will help us out. My dad and my mum are over the moon with the baby. I can’t wait to get through Cheeseman so I can get stuck into being a dad.”