“LOCKDOWN has been full of baking and drinking,” Tyrone Nurse laughed while explaining to Boxing News how his upcoming August 8 fight with Kerman Lejarraga, 30-2 (24), materialised out of the blue.
“Originally, I couldn’t see myself fighting this side of Christmas,” explained the former British super-lightweight champion, 37-6-2 (7). “I didn’t see anything occurring until 2021, so I knocked training on the head and had a bit of time off to properly rest and recover. It was all a bit of a surprise when this one popped up. I got a phone call from my Dad [Chris Aston] and heard that we had been offered a fight.”
After indulging his sweet tooth over the past couple of months of limited activity, Nurse’s main concern was the weight he would be asked to return at. The Huddersfield fighter had contested inside the super-light, welter and super-welterweight limits over his last six fights, and breathed a sigh of relief when the 154-pound weight class was confirmed.
“I didn’t think I’d have enough time to get down to welterweight,” he added. “I asked where the fight was, and I was told the news: it’s in Marbella, Spain, against Lejarraga. I replied ‘great no worries’ and I get a free holiday while I’m at it!”
Nurse’s flippant reaction to Lejarraga being named his 46th opponent is indicative of his confidence mixing it with the best. His Spanish opponent is unbeaten in his career against fighters not named David Avanesyan, building a feared reputation in front of partisan home support.
“I’m that type of guy,” Nurse added. “If I’ve got enough time to make weight, I’m happy to fight anyone. It’s just a shame that a belt isn’t on the line.”
Lejarraga is 3-2 in his last five outings, losing twice inside schedule to the talented Russian, Avanesyan. Despite no longer holding the European welterweight title, the Spaniard is looking to rebuild at 154 and has chosen his fourth Englishman to lure onto the Continent.
“They’ve put 1,500 tickets out, and they sold straight away,” Nurse continued. Lejarraga’s reputation precedes him in Spain. An intense, vocal crowd has proven instrumental in the “Revolver’s” rise.
“To be fair, the idea of boxing without a crowd doesn’t appeal to me, so I’m glad there’ll be fans in the arena. Whether the crowd is with you or against you, it makes no difference to me. Once you get in the ring, you can’t hear them saying ‘knock him out’ or anything like that. It’s just noise. You can’t differentiate who the crowd is backing, so I’m glad there will be some fans in there.”
Denton Vassell [l rsf 4], Bradley Skeete [l rsf 2] and Frankie Gavin [l rsf 4] have all tried and failed to dethrone Lejarraga over the past four years. Nurse seems reluctant to read too much into these defeats but takes lessons from their attempts.
“The main thing I’ve learnt? It’s hard work against him!” he conceded. “I didn’t see the Vassell fight, but to be honest he was at the back end of his career – that’s not to say that the same thing wouldn’t have happened in his prime. With Bradley Skeete, if someone catches you with a good body shot there’s not much you can do about it. Bradley was boxing well, and it was working for the limited time, but a body shot is a body shot. And we all know what happened with Frankie Gavin and how much better his career could have worked out, so again, it wasn’t a prime Gavin, so there isn’t much use going off his fight either.”
Without sizeable knockout power to fall back on, Nurse has enjoyed his greatest successes boxing to a game plan, utilising his slick movement and back foot boxing. Through talking to fighters that have shared the ring with Lejarraga – namely Frankie Gavin and Michael McKinson, 18-0, who sparred him last year – fighting “scared” is a notable tactic that Nurse deems worth exploring.
“I’ve been told that if you fight scared and are wary of him, not getting hit, it’ll frustrate him into making mistakes. It’ll help to give you that bit of edginess, that bit of sharpish with your eyes. I don’t ever recall getting in the ring and being scared, but I understand what they are saying by it.
“I’ve gone into fights with punchers before knowing that they can hit me and not being overly cautious of that, but with this guy, if he hits me he could cause some serious damage. It’s obvious, but the less he hits me, the better.”
“Movement from myself is going to frustrate him; he’s a bit of a one-pace plodder,” Nurse went on. “His right hand is his danger weapon more than his left hand. His left hook is a little unorthodox but quite easy to read, and he steps in with a nice stiff jab, but there’s not a great deal of variety. When he does get to you and gets you on the ropes, he headhunts. This is stuff I have picked up from other people, but when we are a closer to fight night, we will get our game plan spot on.
“When you’re used to being the man, and someone comes and does that to you [two losses vs Avanesyan] that’s the kind of thing that can destroy some fighters and they are never the same again.”
Nurse expects to return to the welterweight division in 2021, but for now, the 30-year-old is grateful for the opportunity to box so soon after boxing’s restart. As an Englishman in Lejarraga’s Spain, he’s hoping fourth time’s a charm.
When pushed for a prediction, the underdog counters with lightning-fast humility, akin to his slick in-ring style that has underpinned his career: “A Tyrone Nurse win, sunshine and a scrap.”