The noise was sharp. It penetrated my ears like a sharp jab splitting the guard. Cruising down the Vegas strip in the Lamborghini was quickly fading. I was waking up. The noise, my alarm, telling me that once again its time to get up, its time to get dressed, its time to hit the roads. Camp is back in session.
I am now back in full training for what will be my second outing of the year and professional contest number 15. I will be competing on Saturday April 28th at the famous and historic York Hall in Bethnal Green. Being from East London myself, York Hall has always held a special place in my heart and I’ve loved every time I have got to compete there. There is something about the balcony seats being just above the ring that gives you an almost roman amphitheatre feeling. The energy and atmosphere in there is electric and I look forward to once again stepping into the auditorium.
I am happy with the people and team that I have around me now. Everyone is pulling in the same direction and striving to get me in a title winning position. Its one thing to compete for a title but its another one entirely to be brought along at the right measure to win one. I feel I have the right people in place and we are all working towards this goal now.
The first initial weeks of training involves what I like to call the “donkey work”. This is the intro to the upcoming grind. Long runs, long sessions, lots of rounds on the bag, lots of groundwork. This is where you build your base fitness and conditioning, this gives you the platform to be able to go forward and up the intensity as the weeks go on. Its not about pushing at a high intensity right now, its just about building that rock-solid foundation. I love this type of training and have no problem performing it. I keep to this kind of training year-round, whether I have a fight scheduled or not. This is where my “Embrace the Grind” mantra comes in. I am always at perhaps 70% capacity, so it doesn’t take me long to ramp up the intensity to get ready to compete. This allows me not only to be able to take fights at shorter notice should an opportunity arise, but it also allows for injury prevention and ultimately longevity. Many great fighters of yesteryear lived by the philosophy “if you stay ready, you never have to get ready” and I am a big believer in that. Nothing is new under the sun; the blueprints have been laid out. The smartest people will look not only for inspiration from people that have been before them and done things they wish to do, but they will also look at what enabled them to do it and what things they can take and implement for themselves.
So that’s where I am at right now. Long days, long sessions, hard work but as a certain fistic icon famously said, “all work is easy work”. Or if that pugilist doesn’t float your boat a more beloved one said, “suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion”.
This Friday sees a domestic fighter add his name to the pantheon of British Boxing road warriors. I would forgive you for not knowing, it has gone completely under the radar. Friday March 16th at the Melbourne pavilion in Australia sees Tewkesbury’s own Adam Harper 8-0 travel across the globe to compete against Pacific IBF champion Michael Zarefa for the converted vacant commonwealth title.
Some may remember Harper for his last outing, a swashbuckling win on a Sky Sports Matchroom show against the heavily favoured Ryan Kelly for the midlands super welterweight title. Harper and Kelly engaged in a fan friendly toe to toe battle which had them on some shortlists for FOTY. On that occasion Harper’s marauding style saw him a points victor becoming Tewkesbury’s first midlands champion. The fight, the performance, on that kind of platform is normally the springboard to bigger things and more exposure. This hasn’t been the case for Adam who has been inactive since that win over 10 months ago. He now finds himself on the other side of the world, taking on a local favourite in his back yard. A man that has operated at a higher weight class, a man that has mixed I higher company.
The fight between Harper and Zarefa has come about due to injury to Harper’s original opponent, Former commonwealth champion Anthony Buttigieg. With both guys in full flow in camp an injury to “Butterz” once again looked to postpone the bout (Anthony had pulled out of a previous scheduled contest between the two due to an injury during camp). Adam was then approached with an alternative opponent (Zarefa, who was in camp for a fight and sparring with “Butterz” anyway) and the opportunity for the fight to go ahead for the vacant title. Not one to shy away from the opportunity Harper is intending to take it with both hands.
What is puzzling to me is how a domestic fighter, coming off the back of his most high-profile win, is travelling to the other side of the world to take on an opponent in their back yard for a recognised title and nobody knows. You would be hard pressed to find any articles, videos or interviews on this contest. After speaking to Adam Harper myself he has let me know this is not a case of him wanting to be isolated or fly under the radar. “To be honest mate, I don’t have a clue why no one wants to cover me. I’ve reached out to various online publications, but no one has bothered to message me back. It seems like if its not a Matchroom or Boxnation show then no one cares” said Harper during a Facetime call. Is this an indication of where we are at as fans right now? Is he right? We only care if it’s the glitz and lights of the Matchroom or Boxnation cards? I for one will be keeping an eye out for this contest and its result. To me Adam is embodying the spirit of the old school fighter “anyone, anywhere, anytime”. As an active boxer I draw inspiration and as a fan I feel admiration, so from all of us hard core supporters LETS GO CHAMP! BRING THAT BELT HOME!
Last week we were treated to a heavyweight battle that had us reminiscing of the heavyweight slugfests of yesteryear. Deontay Wilder vs Luis Ortiz lived up to the pre-fight hype and delivered a contest that had even the most hardened naysayers silent in awe. Most of the fight, at least the early rounds were spent with Ortiz out boxing the WBC champion and looking every bit “the most avoided” man in the division. The jab of Ortiz was finding a home while he displayed some brilliant body work that notably drained Wilder’s stamina. Ortiz was firmly in the driving seat and putting on the pressure. That is until Wilder did what Wilder does. Despite being under pressure Wilder was noticeably calm, relaxed & composed. He looked as if he was banking on setting up a fight turning shot, which he managed to do in the 5th round. The WBC kingpin uncorked a tremendous right hand that dumped Ortiz to the canvas and immediately changed the tone of the bout. Ortiz was somewhat fortunate that there was 10 seconds of the round remaining which saved him from Wilder’s trademark “windmill” attack. Perhaps with fellow compatriot Rigondeaux’s lacklustre performance against Lomachenko recently still in his mind, Ortiz was determined to come storming back into the contest and display his fighting heart which will no doubt have gained him a huge number of fans. Whilst Wilder was once again looking for the fight ending blows Ortiz delivered a huge counter right hook which all but had Wilder out on his feet. A tremendous barrage of punches followed from the Cuban but somehow Wilder refused to be knocked down. Wilder endured a torrid assortment of shots as Ortiz aimed to become the first Cuban to win the heavyweight title, Deontay however showed his fighting mettle by making it back to his corner on his feet. Having ridden that wave you had a feeling that Wilder grew in confidence and the end was near. This turned out to be the case as Wilder once again found a home for his bazooka right hand which put Ortiz down. This time when Luis rose there was too much time and too many follow up punches from Wilder which caused the referee to call a halt to the action.
Wilder, in this gripping slugfest ticked most boxes that remained unchecked by his critics. Could the giant take a punch? Does he have a fighting heart? Does he have stamina? Is his power for real? All these questions were answered last week with an emphatic yes. We now, however, have a whole new set of questions that perhaps will only be answered when the inevitable showdown between Britain’s own Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder takes place. For all his guts, power and heart, Wilder was shown to be crude, defensively open and devoid of ideas at times. Against an opponent listed at 38 years old (amidst a cloud of suspicion) Wilder proved he had the stamina, speed and power late in the fight to close the show, as did our own AJ against an ageing Klitschko. It remains to be seen how these two juggernauts will do when they collide with fighters just as young, just as quick, just as powerful as them. For every question that now remains about the two premier heavyweights in the world its is becoming obvious that only they will hold the answers for each other. Make no mistake about it, the two speeding trains are now on an inevitable blockbuster collision course. Whether the culmination is in 2018 is the only question that really matters now.