HERE’S an idea for a good night in… Go onto YouTube and type in ‘Wayne Alexander’. There you will find some dramatic domestic dust-ups from the early noughties. At the time, fans wondered who was the best of a clutch of quality British 154-pounders that included Richard Williams, Anthony Farnell, Gary Lockett and Steve Roberts. No question, Alexander was the most exciting.
Boxing News described his savage scrap with Paul Samuels as “a British Hagler-Hearns”, and against Takaloo in their grudge fight, Alexander showed horseshoe-in-the-glove-type power to turn certain defeat into crushing victory. The rivalry between Alexander and Takaloo had been simmering for a while, since Takaloo decked Alexander in sparring and “went and told the whole world about it!” remembers the shaven-headed slugger from Croydon.
“There was even a story that I was carried out of the ring on a stretcher!” added Alexander, laughing.
Because Takaloo wasn’t eligible for a shot at Alexander’s British title – he was born in Iran – they didn’t settle their differences in the ring until September 2004.
Takaloo defended his WBU title at Bethnal Green’s York Hall that night and in the second round he was only a punch away from keeping his belt after a left hook to the body had Alexander backpedalling.
“I was in desperate trouble,” said Alexander. “One more attack on the same place and I would have gone down.
“The will to win kept me on my feet. I would rather die than lose to him. But that punch took all the wind out of me, and Takaloo knew it.
“When you watch the video you can see him smiling as he goes in to finish me off. He thought his left hook was going to do it, but I landed mine first…
“I boxed for 25 years and that one punch defined my career for most fans. Mention my name and that’s what people talk about.
“I had practised that shot for years, the left hook off the roll. Nigel Benn used to do that and I used to copy him. When I needed it most it worked perfectly.
“I was still gasping for breath after the referee waved the fight off. I’ve never thrown a left hook as good as that before or since.”
That win brought Alexander the WBU title that he defended against a reluctant Thomas McDonagh, but when he got the chance to fight for a more meaningful version of the world championship, the call came at around 24 hours’ notice.
Harry Simon, a Namibian talent also promoted by Frank Warren, had taken the WBO super-welterweight title from Ronald “Winky” Wright, and his fourth defence was scheduled to be against American southpaw Robert Allen in Widnes in February 2001. The day before, the fight fell through.
“Ernie Fossey rang me at around five o’clock in the afternoon offering me the fight the next night,” said Alexander. “I was in the gym [a British title defence against Joe Townsley was a couple of weeks away], but turned it down.
“They were desperate to find an opponent and rang me back two or three more times, offering more and more money until I took the fight.
“I could have been fitter, but I really believed I could knock him out and I had nothing to lose. I was going to get well paid and even if I lost, I would still have my British title.”
Though talented, Simon was known to blow hot and cold, and with Alexander’s punch, there was always the chance of an upset.
“I had him going in the second round,” remembered Alexander. “I hit him with a right hook and he wobbled but stayed up. By the third I was running out of steam and I broke my right hand.”
As Alexander faded, Simon started to put more into his punches and dropped his challenger with a hurtful flurry to the body in the fifth, before the referee called the fight off.
“He was definitely the best fighter I ever fought,” said Alexander of Simon. “He had power, skill and a good chin.”
For Alexander, the goal was always the British title – and he went through hell to get it. After Mancunian left-hooker Ensley “Bingo” Bingham was stripped, the Board paired him with Enzo Calzaghe-trained Paul Samuels for the vacant belt, and this clash of unbeaten but vulnerable punchers lived up to expectations at a noisy Goresbrook Leisure Centre in Dagenham in February 2000.
“People underestimate Samuels’ power,” said Wayne. “He was definitely the hardest puncher I fought. He burst my ear drum and cut me – and I won in the third round!
“He caught me with a shot in the second round and I was out. One more shot then would have knocked me out, or at least knocked me down.”
Alexander’s head cleared, he rallied, then came through another mini-crisis in the third to smash the Welshman out of the ring. “Winning the British title was a dream for me since I was a kid,” said Wayne.
The hope was lucrative defences against the likes of Farnell, Roberts and Williams would follow, but the big fights didn’t materialise. “Thirty years ago we all would have fought each other – and I would have beaten them all of course!” said Alexander. “But at the time there were lots of different titles around and our promoters took us different routes. I had the British title, Farnell was the WBU champion and Roberts had the WBF title.
“The one who would have given me the most trouble was Richard. He was the complete fighter.”
Alexander knew how good Williams was, having lost to him in the London final of the ABA championships in 1995. The fight was typical Alexander. Both took standing eight-counts in a ferocious second round, and Williams had more left in the tank in the last, flooring a desperately tired Alexander twice to snatch the majority vote.
“I was knocking everyone out, tried to knock Richard out and couldn’t,” said Wayne. “I gave him a standing count but couldn’t finish him off, and by the last round I was shattered. I went down a couple of times through exhaustion. I lost a majority, but in the pros it probably would have been a draw.”
That loss ended Alexander’s reign as ABA champion. The previous year, he had won the light-middleweight title after an up-and-down, one-round shoot-out with Coventry southpaw Steve Bendall, boxing for Triumph ABC.
Alexander regards winning the ABAs as “one of my top three nights” in a career that started at Croydon ABC when he was a “hyperactive” 11-year-old.
Somewhere up there in his best memories is the night he captured the vacant European title by blasting out Italy’s Paolo Pizzamiglio. His worst night? “My last fight [a one-round loss to France’s Serge Vigne in December 2006]. “I was guaranteed a world title shot if I won and I went in there too confident. I was in my thirties, not training as hard as I should have done and got a bit complacent. I wasn’t living the life and went in there thinking I would knock him over. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor!
“Within a couple of months, my love for the game had gone. I could have carried on for another year or two, but I would have been a win-one, lose-one fighter and I never wanted to be that. I would rather not fight than lose and make money. To me, losing was the worst thing in the world.
“I was being offered fights with people who didn’t want to fight me five years earlier, people like Jamie Moore, and I wasn’t enjoying training any more. I was never the best trainer anyway. I used to train very hard when I had a fight coming up, but in between fights I was lazy. I used to let my hair down and when I went back to the gym I had to start all over again.
“I underachieved. I should have done more. I regret not winning the Lonsdale Belt outright.”
Nevertheless, Alexander seems content enough. Currently living in north west London, he’s the father of two girls and his security work at bars, clubs and festivals keeps him busy.