“CAN we do that thing where you ask me about my favourite film?” was Scott Fitzgerald’s response when I contacted him in March after his 10-round decision win over Liverpool’s Anthony Fowler. I told him that our intention was to earmark four pages in Boxing News so that people could get to know him after handing Fowler his first professional loss. “But I’ve always fancied doing one of those 60 Second Interviews, am I a big enough name now?” he replied.
That first conversation turned out to be a 60-second non-interview as he asked me to call him back and then disappeared for a few months. Some post-Fowler partying played its part yet prior to the fight he had discovered that his girlfriend, Rhiannon, was pregnant and got caught up on the path towards parenthood.
When we talked again his two-day old son, Archie-William, was cradled next to him and “The Mad Man” was in a reflective mood. Life has certainly changed for the 27-year-old. “This is a big thing in my life, so I had to take some time to concentrate on this,” he said. “I found out about the baby on Valentine’s Day. You immediately realise that it isn’t about you anymore. You need to generate that money, not make mistakes, and realise that your future is all about the baby.”
The fact that the baby was not in birth position during labour meant that the medical team had to wheel Rhiannon away for an emergency caesarean, leaving everyone on tenterhooks for 20-minutes. “We were just waiting on any news, then they came out and told me our baby had been born,” he said. “I just held him in my arms. I couldn’t stop giggling because I was so happy and buzzing off the whole experience.
“It had been hard waiting, just trying to stay calm. You have to trust in the doctors to look after them both. Then it was over and I’m there doing the skin to skin thing with him on my chest. I still can’t believe it all happened yesterday. It is all brand new to us.”
I mentioned that I went out for a pale ale and a curry after my daughter was born, sometimes you forget that the person on the other end of the line is following a strict diet. “Aw, mate, don’t say that — I would love to have gone out for a curry and a beer!” he laughed.
“I know that these coming weeks and months will be challenging,” he added. “I’m looking forward to all that, the excitement of it all. That is why I need to go out there again and make that money for him. Once I’ve done that I can set up an account for his future. It is a good thing for me, I can think a lot better and do a lot better now.”
Fitzgerald also now has more of an understanding of why his father, former fighter Dave, had consistently tried to usher the hyperactive teenager into the sport. A lot of boxers seem to have ADHD. I have absolutely no statistical proof of this outside of my experiences with them yet “Fitzy” believes there is some truth to it.
“We are all definitely a bit like that,” he agreed. “It is brilliant that I got into boxing so could channel that energy. My mum wasn’t too keen. My dad started doing a bit of training with me, showing me different styles. When I left school I carried on training with him [at Larches and Savick ABC]. He’d give me a bit of a wage to keep me going. My dad took me right through to the pros and then to [current trainers] Mike and Dave [Jennings]. They all have my best interests in mind.
“My mum caved in because I was out drinking before I should have been. I was 14 and ended up falling off a roof I’d climbed on. I was lucky not to seriously hurt myself. There weren’t together at the time, but dad said to my mum if he was in the gym he wouldn’t have been out drinking so she agreed to it as long as I didn’t spar. Later on she found out by accident that I was fighting in the amateurs. She loves it now.”
The Preston-based contender’s shot against Fowler was the result of a social media campaign directed towards to his promoter Eddie Hearn and prospective opponents. He had looked around the current boxing landscape before deciding that things needed spicing up.
“I’d won a gold medal [in 2014], been on TV, but I hadn’t got to the Olympics or anything like that. I was seeing these lads with Team GB tracksuits and blue ticks on Twitter. I wanted some of that. I’m not too arsed about the blue tick — that was more of a joke — yet I’d won a gold medal and was being overlooked. I realised I needed to be shouting it out so I was giving the Matchroom boys and Eddie some s**t. Then the fight came out of it. Most of the time I can’t be bothered with Twitter.”
It was a dual challenge for Fitzgerald. He has made no secret of the fact that he has made copious use of recreational drugs in the past and, like most fighters, enjoys a drink and a lot of food between fights. Once the reality set in he realised that significant changes had to be made.
“I was always at it, sometimes for days and days — I’ve never denied that,” he admitted. “I was smoking and at it in a casino the night before fighting Bradley Pryce [a fifth-round stoppage in September 2017]. I stopped at the start of this year. I thought about what I’d achieved in my messing about times and what I could do if I took it more seriously. Giving all that up gave me a big confidence boost.
“The drug dealers are all gutted, the pubs are gutted, the lot of them are gutted now — everyone is shutting up shop,” he said when asked if the local entertainment economy had gone into a tailspin. “It had to be done. I spend a lot of time in Chorley now with Mike.”
Rumours about Fitzgerald’s blasé approach to his craft may have informed the decision to throw him in with Fowler. He had a very good amateur career, a nice-looking record, albeit one that lacked depth, and had struggled at times against Craig Morris in his first 10-rounder [w rsf 10]. Throw in rumours that he was partying non-stop and it is easy to see why Fowler pushed ahead with it. Still, Fitzgerald had the added motivation of genuinely not liking his opponent.
“Fowler was banging people out on his way up, people saw that and wrote me out of it,” he said. “I didn’t care, though, because I knew I was going to beat him. He is just a fake, isn’t he? If he boxes in Newcastle then they are his favourite people in the world. He boxes in Ireland and they are the best fans out there. I don’t think you can get away with being that fake.
“I’m not too bothered about him. I beat him. The fight is done. He thought he would just beat me and go about his career, he was casual about it and overlooked me. That got me going. I saw him banging out his crap on Twitter before it and thought ‘That isn’t what you should be doing’ — it motivated me.
“I worried a little [about the scorecards], but the knockdown in the last round meant I should have done enough. That first scorecard came out and I just thought ‘They’ve just done that for the drama. The second and third card will be for me’ and they were. When they said ‘And the winner is, The Madman…’ I thought ‘Yes! That’s me, that’s me!’ and went a bit crazy.”
‘The drug dealers are all gutted, the pubs are gutted, the lot of them are gutted now — everyone is shutting up shop’
As for a rematch, a part of Fitzgerald wants to deny Fowler the chance to gain revenge, a larger part of him thinks about the money he could earn.
“He saw me on TV recently and called me a sumo wrestler, he is a proper muppet. Even if you watch our post-fight interview I’m more humble than him, he just came across as a tit. If they offer the right money he is getting it. I will stop him.”
A fight with Brian Rose was made for July and then spiked after he discovered to his cost that you can’t be a halfway boxer. Changes were tabled after he picked up a few hand injuries preparing for the contest. Once it was cancelled Fitzgerald decided to use it as an opportunity to have an operation on a long-standing finger injury.
“I had five weeks where I didn’t even look at the gym or go out on the road,” he recalled. “Then I went to Tenerife to get going again in training and that is when it all caught up on me. My body just fell to bits. My dad advised me to take the time to make sure I was spot on when I fought again.
“It was a low for me for a few weeks. I was eating a lot. I wasn’t out that much, but I was eating whatever I could get my hands on — it doesn’t make life easy for yourself, does it? I got through it and that low won’t happen again. Life is mad, isn’t it? You have to just manage the lows and get through to the highs.”
Like life, boxing has its ups and downs; Fitzgerald paused for thought towards the end of our talk and took it all in.
“Where would I be without boxing? I don’t have a clue about working and all that because I’ve only done bits and baps. I remember thinking that working wasn’t for me so I didn’t know what I was going to do. I got to 21, was eating McDonald’s in bed every night and I thought to myself: ‘I’ll start taking this boxing thing seriously now’. That was at the start of 2013, by April I had won the ABAs and I went on to GB trials. It became a big thing in my life. I hope my son can look on with pride at his dad.”
As we wound down, I decided to grant Fitzgerald his wish by asking him a few quick-fire 60 Second Style questions, starting with his favourite film. “Can’t we save that question for the back page?” he countered. “I’d love that! I used to read that page and wonder if I will ever get in there myself. Can you ask someone for me?”
Consider it done. In the meantime our readers will have to guess what it might be. It is usually Scarface, but fighters are full of surprises so never say never.
RESPECT THE CHEESE
Fans who expected to see fireworks from “The Mad Man” ahead of the fight with Ted Cheeseman have ended up with “The Daddy” instead as recent lifestyle changes have settled Fitzgerald down. “Cheeseman has not said anything about me so I’m not going to shout about him,” he said.
Indeed, this training camp has been a sedate affair. Trainer Mike Jennings has kept a close eye on his man, asking him to base himself in the sleepy town of Chorley in order to concentrate on the task at hand. “Mike has a garage room that has been converted so I just lie about watching films and TV and chilling. I’ll win the fight and get back around Preston for a bit as it has been eleven weeks.
“I know people want to see the madness, but that is not what it is always about. Boxing is a sport, you have to respect people and if you do that you get back that respect. We are just going to do it in the ring. You know what, though, it is still mad that I’m on TV and there is still a bit of that madness there about me. I think Sky need that because they don’t really have it. You need characters.”