A selection of interviews with boxers from around the midlands.
MKUU AMANI REPORTING FOR MBC
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MKUU AMANI
“I was really nervous and we was sharing the dressing room with Nate Campbell and his team. He saw I was nervous and said “You nervous boy?”
Two years after first entering a gym Brett Fidoe had reached just 13 years of age when he had his first bout as an amateur boxer. For the next 3 years, inspired by the world of boxing that seemed to live and breath around him, especially through his two boxing cousins Ernie and Billy Smith, Fidoe boxed in 18 amateur bouts.
He made his professional debut aged 21 after a 5 year break from the sport and after a tough start grabbed his first professional win in his third pro fight.
Sixty four fights later, and following a career that has seen him take on the likes of former English Bantamweight Champion Thomas Essomba, Don Broadhurst who was the BBBofC Midlands Area Super Flyweight Title holder and current Midlands Flyweight contender Matt Windle (whom he beat on points), Fidoe is about to challenge for a Midlands Area Title.
Now residing in Evesham the Midlands born boxer has found his boxing home at Eastside Boxing in Birmingham where, under Jon Pegg, his boxing is really beginning to show true promise. Four wins and one draw in his last five fights have cemented Fidoe’s claim for title contention and he now looks forward to challenging for the BBBofC Midlands Area Title on 29th March 2019.
The talented featherweight, also known as Brett ‘The Threat’ Fidoe but who also described himself in a recent facebook post as Brett ‘The Upset’ Fidoe, took a moment out to talk to MBC ahead of what many believe is the biggest fight of his career.
MBC – Do you remember how you felt before your first pro fight in Hartlepool back in 2012? What was that like?
“Mate. I remember it like yesterday. I was buzzing, wasn’t one bit nervous..just wanted to get in there and f**k him up, but obviously that didn’t happen, but I had all the Board saying how good a debut that was.
I think I may of got over anxious as I’d been out the ring for about 6 years.”
MBC – You stopped Mushtaq in Bham in your third fight and had that points win in Swindon in your sixth fight. You knew what it felt like to win during your early career. And then that win in Kings Cross the following year. That must have been amazing. And also you were the first boxer to beat Brad Watson after he’d just won 10 straight.
“Yes I did, but to be honest I just wanted to earn some money win, lose or draw… And the Watson fight I was buzzing for that. The more the boxer the better I perform. But I got to a point in my career where I wasn’t motivated for 4 or 6 rounders anymore and wouldn’t train as much. But then I got thinking about my fights and something just clicked and I said to myself, most of these kids who beat me I shouldn’t be losing to them. So started training more and thought ‘let’s have ago.’ And it’s showing so far. Come March 29th I’ll be Midlands Champ.”
MBC – Something must have clicked with you and the team? Training? Experience? What is it?
“Just started training more. And sparring more. And Jon got me doing more runs with him. Licky Hill, it’s a killer. The team has always told me that I’m capable of fighting for the British. So really it was just down to me to get myself in the gym more”
Licky Hills? What the hell is that (laughter) and when you do win the title is there anyone in particular that will come to mind? Anyone that you will think of as either inspirational or encouraging for the journey that you’ve been on or that after 66 fights, when you’re about to fight your 3rd title fight you think about?
“Licky Hills, its a running session..Mate, I’ve boxed with loads of inspirational fighters such as Kristian Laight. What an achievement. Lewis van Poetsch also made the 100 mark last weekend.
“But there’s one that I’ve never forgot.
“I was boxing Haroon Khan on the Amir Khan vs Julio Diaz bill in Sheffield. It was my first television fight. I was really nervous and we was sharing the dressing room with Nate Campbell and his team. He saw I was nervous and said “You nervous boy?”
“Yes.” I replied. “
“How many fight you had?”
“Can’t remember.” I didn’t have many at the time. “
“He said “Listen, take some deep breaths to calm yourself down and just enjoy the moment when you get out there. Just enjoy yourself in the ring.”
“And his Trainers called me Sparky (laughs). After the fight the one trainer watched it and said “Daaaaam!! You little sparky (laughs). But I’ve met a few good people on my journey so far.”
MBC – That’s an amazing story. And we’ve watched Kristian Laight a few times too.
“He’s a good lad.”
MBC – so, you might not want to give too much away, but I still would like to ask if there’s anything in particular you’re gonna be focusing on in your training ahead of the fight?
“Now that would be telling (laughs). Just that who ever watches the fight – it’s gonna be fireworks for sure.”
MBC – We can’t wait. and we wish you the best. You’ve been brilliant. Thanks for sharing
images: (c) pmedialive
“I just wanted to fight, just to lose weight. I didn’t really want to become a boxer but I had that first win and got hooked.“
Returning to the ring this Friday 24th May 2019 on BCB Promotions’ ‘Back to the Banks’s edition is Wolverhampton’s talented southpaw Lauren Johnson.
The welterweight boxer has a perfect 3 fights 3 wins professional record and will be looking to add to her winning tally when she steps through the ropes in Walsall on a fight night that comes 11 months and 16 days after she beat Klaudia Vigh on points to claim the Challenge Title.
Johnson’s points win over Vigh made it a hat trick of wins of that type.
She out-pointed Bulgaria’s Borislava Goranova at Walsall Town Hall in September 2017 after opening her account with a victory over Poland’s Monika Antonik at the same venue in March.
It’s known that Johnson brings a great disposition to the sport both in and out of the ring. She smiles a lot but means serious business too. With this and her solid fan base it’s easy to see why she is a popular figure.
Wanting to find out more about the sleek looking dreadlocked fighter they call ‘The Black Widow’ MBC sent me along to ask her a few questions. Thankfully she took some time out to answer some.
MBC – Can you sum up your last fight?
LJ – had my heart beating (laughs) That was a stupid fight man. I didn’t box. Lucky I didn’t go down in the 1st.
MBC – Yes, it was a shaky first round but you came back strong.
LJ – Yeah man. I had to focus after that first round
MBC – That’s three out of three now. And your next fight is just around the corner. Where did this begin for you? Tell me about your first fight.
LJ – December 16th 2012. I’d only joined Walsall ABC two weeks prior. My first fight was at ABA Novice National Finals. I don’t know my exact amateur record but I had about 10-15 fights at Walsall ABC and moved to Wodensborough in 2014.
MBC – Why boxing? were you just searching for a sport at the time or is there boxing history of some type in your family?
LJ – At the beginning before I moved to Wodensborough I did a lot of my own match making because I just wanted to fight, just to lose weight. I didn’t really want to become a boxer but I had that first win and got hooked. So I boxed GB girls in like my first few fights
MBC – So weight loss was your first goal?
LJ – I walked in the gym – not a boxing gym – at 15 and a half stone and began training with Tony Wilson. Then he invited me down to the Boxing Gym where after a while I got carded and boxed two weeks later. I started boxing at 28.
MBC – So how alien was boxing to you when you joined Tony Wilson? Did you watch boxing at all?
LJ – No. I saw something about Savannah Marshall after I started training with Tony. He told me to look her up
MBC – Wow yes. ‘The Silent Assassin.’ (laughs) And since you’ve started your career have you discovered other boxers that have inspired you?
LJ – Anne Wolfe
MBC – ‘Brown Sugar’. Because?
LJ – Nothing was gifted to her. She had to grind. No matter how hard, her upbringing, the adversity, she never gave up. Didn’t try sell it off looks or sexualise. Just pure talent
MBC – Some described her as the ‘female Mike Tyson.’
LJ – Yup (laughs) You seen her famous knockout?
MBC – Absolutely! Held titles in three different weight classes same time. Nice choices so far. Are there more boxers who you like or who’ve influenced how you train?
LJ – Thomas Hearns for that Kronk style. And I like Julian Jackson. If you went down you stayed down. And I think Gervonta Davis can be a problem.
MBC – Each one of those boxers, I can see why you chose them. And I can tell you get excited talking about them.
LJ – I can’t wait to get back in the ring
MBC – It’s been almost a year since your last fight. How frustrating has it been for you and how have you been keeping active?
LJ – I’ve just been working with my new trainer, bringing out my attributes, making sure they’re strong and we’re ready. I’ve been around Richie when I was amateur so he knows me. I know how he works and he knows I’ve got a boxing brain.
MBC – Turning Professional must have been exciting.
LJ – I was 31 and just thought, because of my age it was the right time to push on something new. So Errol Johnson came and met me and he agreed to become my manager.
MBC – And exciting not just for you but for the whole sport.
LJ – Yeah definitely. I had a bit of information that a few big name girls were gonna turn pro so I knew women’s pro boxing was about to rise. We’ve got a long way to go but it’ll get there.
MBC – And what can we expect to see from ‘Black Widow’ when you return to the ring? What will you have been particularly focused on in training?
LJ – An all around better performance. We have to see what kind of opponent we get to see the game plan but we will be prepared. And just all around using my boxing brain so I can read my opponents.
MBC – Thanks for speaking to us Champ.
Tom ‘Rolo’ Rowlinson
“I went on a two week holiday and I had to fight 3 days after I arrived back in England.”
On November 25th 2017 at a packed out Imperial Banqueting Suite in Bilston, Tom ‘Rolo’ Rowlinson became the new Midlands EBF Champion. He took the time to answer some of our questions just a few days after his successful Title challenge.
Name Tom “Rolo Junior” Rowlinson
Age I am 20 years old
Weight Division I box in the light-middleweight division
Gym My dad John “Rolo” Rowlinson coaches me at a selection of different gyms but if I had to narrow it down to one I’d have to say ‘Elite Gym’ in Wednesbury would be the gym I represent.
When did you start boxing? I initially started boxing around 5 years ago and I’ve been fighting since 2013.
Congratulations on winning the Midlands EBF Title. How did you celebrate your win? I celebrated winning the EBF title by going on a relaxing spa break away in Oxford, with my girlfriend the following day.
Is winning the title the highlight of your career? I would probably say winning the EBF title has been the highlight of my career so far because the opponent is a highly rated boxer and he used to have the upper hand over me when I sparred him around a year ago so it was really good for me to see how much I have improved especially over the past year. Although winning my first belt for the Midlands Area title for another organisation, in July, was also a key highlight in my career.
What do you think of your career so far? I think my career is definitely heading in the right direction. I have been receiving a lot of praise from other boxers, other people involved on the circuit and supporters recently, so it is good to know other people can see that I am doing well too. I am only 20 years old, I have two titles and still have plenty more years to grow and mature so I must be doing something right. I aim to become professional within 3-4 years which I think is a target that’s definitely not out of reach.
What are you currently working on in training? The opponent who I beat to win the EBF title is quite an aggressive, come-forward fighter who likes to have a bit of a scrap and I knew I had the skills to outbox him but I didn’t really want to step into his game and get dragged into a brawl so I was concentrating a lot on the defensive work, ring positioning and counter punching. At the moment I’m having a bit of a rest over the Christmas period as I have been pretty active all year round and feel like I have earnt my time off but I’m still doing bits and bobs so when I start my fight camp again I won’t have too much to catch up on.
What’s your recommendation for a training camp diet? It really depends what weight you are and what weight you need to be for your upcoming fight as you may need to gain or cut weight to make the fight happen (meaning your diet would be different depending on the circumstances). However, I do eat a lot of steamed fish, chicken, porridge oats, rice and fruit.
What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve had to overcome? I’d probably say my toughest challenge was when I won my first ever title because I went on a two week holiday and I had to fight 3 days after I arrived back in England. This was challenging as even though I was eating clean, training at gyms and running whilst abroad, I couldn’t get nowhere near as much sparring as I would have liked. Another thing was I had my opponent changed the day before and I ended up having to box someone who was just under a stone and half heavier than me.
What are your aims for 2018 My aims for 2018 will be to maintain the two belts that I am currently holding and win a British title. I would also like to earn the opportunity to box abroad.
Name your top 3 boxing heroes That’s a tough question. I’d probably go with Roy Jones Jr, Vasyl Lomachenko and Mike Tyson all for the fact they are so unbelievably entertaining to watch. Lomachenko is definitely my favourite boxer who is currently active. He just makes everything look so easy.
By Mkuu Amani
“you can tell your coach ‘yeah I’ve been for a run this morning and whatever but when you’re knackered they can see it.“
Middleweight southpaw Tyler Denny grabbed his 8th Professional win when he beat Raimonds Sniedze on the exciting undercard of BCB Promotions’ ‘Neutral Ground – Battle of the Baggies’ at Walsall Town Hall on 4th May 2018.
It was Denny’s first return to the venue and first fight in fact since he upset the odds to beat Tom Stokes and claim the Midlands Area Middleweight Title back in September 2017.
MBC managed to catch up with Denny to ask him a few questions about his recent success and his career in the ring so far.
About the ‘Neutral Ground’ Event and his undercard fight.
What were your thoughts about the fight, what did you learn from it and what was it like fighting under BCB for the first time?
“It was good just to have a fight again because it’s been too long. I’ve had a lot of hard sparring lately and then that (fight) was just like the opposite really. I want them big fights now. I’ve not fought for a while so I was never gonna go into a big hard fight this time but my style is more like a counterpuncher and that, so when they (the opponent) don’t fire that much I think it’s harder for me really.”
So you prefer when a fighter comes at you?
“Yeah definitely. But I had to be the aggressor this time and I was walking him down and it’s not really my style.”
Was that the game plan out of the window then?
“Well I knew what he was like. A tall guy and that, so I knew I’d have to probably take it to him. He’s a lot taller than me. But I think when I get in with a live opponent who’s coming to win…Well, I don’t think he (Sniedze) really came to win. Maybe he did want to at the beginning but after two rounds or something he just thought ‘I just really wanna see the end of the bout here.’
“Whereas my last fight I fought Tom Stokes and he was game and he was coming forward and I was just catching him as he was coming in and then moving off.
“I think you’ve gotta have a bit of everything. And to keep fighting different opponents you have to have different styles as well. Every fight’s different. A ‘Plan A’ fight for me against a neutral opponent I’m normally on the back foot to counter and slip and stuff like that but that fight I was pushing him back all the time which I don’t mind but if you watch me most times I’m on the back foot.
“As long as I get the win. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to win ain’t ya.”
What was the event like for you and how did it feel fighting in front of so many people?
“Yeah, that main event. There was a big build up as well.I enjoyed being a part of it and there was a lot of press around it with the press conference. And because the main fight was at my weight I had even more of an interest in it. I’ve sparred with both of them before. I did pick Welborn to win to be fair but I think Tommy boxed all wrong really in my opinion.
You know Welborn well?
“Yeah, we’re good mates really and both from Rowley Regis so I’ve known him for a long time. He was at our gym before when he fought Macklin and when he beat Morrison we were training together and sparring together at the same gym but he’s moved back to Errol and Paul Mann now. I get along with him.”
So where does that put the possibility of a Denny vs. Welborn fight?
“Well it’s awkward really but if the opportunity comes I’d have to say yes because it’s a big fight. British Title or something. We’d have to put friendship aside. We’ve spoken about the possibility of fighting and we both think it’s a brilliant fight.
“Im pretty sure there’s a (Langford vs. Welborn) rematch clause anyway. I know no-one’s really talked about it but I’m pretty sure there’s a rematch clause.”
Yes, It was such a close fight we wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been called a draw.
“It was a close fight. Even if Langford had got it by one round I don’t think anyone would have called robbery or anything. I think all the rounds were close. I just think Langford went about it the wrong way – he tried to fight Welborn and I was just shocked really. With his amateur fights and his pedigree I don’t know if Welborn got to him or something with all the stuff they’ve been saying in the build up. He shocked me really because he was just standing toe to toe with him. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done loads of rounds with Welborn and he does draw you into a fight when you don’t want to but it seemed a bit ‘Plan A’ for Langford to just stand there with him and it never went well straightaway, second round he got a countered.”
“He (Langford) still had some success with what he was doing. Probably round six to ten Welborn’s pace dropped and Tommy was just peppering him with some little combos. When he did that and stood back he looked good. I dunno, I expected more jabs but it was more exciting than I thought it was gonna be.”
About his Career.
So where did it start for you? When did you first climb into the ring and what was it that got you in there?
“My mate used to always do boxing when we were kids but I was always playing football. He kept saying to come down to Old Hill Amateur Boxing Club. I went there when I was about 16 and never looked back really.
“I never used to diet or anything and I only used to train twice a week and I used to fight at light heavyweight but when I think back now I think I never really took it serious as an amateur. Tuesday and a Thursday I used to go down there. It was just for fun really and it is now but I can see some potential now to put the effort in and get somewhere. It was just a hobby and something to do before.”
Okay well maybe it was just a hobby but at some point you had a fight coming up.
How did that come about?
“In amateur boxing you can just say you’ll box and then they’ll say ‘ok, well you have a fight next Tuesday’ and you’re like ‘ok then.’
“You’ve always gotta be half ready. It was at the drop of a hat really until I went into doing tournaments like the ABA’s. Then you’d know you’d be fighting in like a month or so and proper knuckle down. I tried to get down to 75 kgs cos I used to fight at 81 kgs but I never knew what I was doing with my food really. Now I’ve got Brett Smith who helps me out. If I’d have had him back then I think I could have done a lot more and fought at a weight more suited to me. But it was the dedication as well. I only used to train twice a week and when I did have a fight I didn’t really think anything of it and just did it as a bit of fun.”
How did you get on as an amateur?
“I won 25 and lost 10. I think I won my first one then lost three in a row and had a record of won one lost three. I won ten in a row after that.”
With that kind of record you must have been thinking ‘I’ve got something here.’
“Yeah. That’s when I started believing really. Before then I used to just turn up and whatever would happen would happen. But then I learned that winning is a habit and I think losing’s a habit really too. You learn how to win. You find a way.”
So you started your pro career with a win at The Venue in Dudley.
“Yeah. I’m only from Blackheath as well, only about 3 miles away so I could sell tickets as well – which is a big thing in Pro boxing because if you don’t sell tickets you don’t fight. It’s as simple as that really.”
And what made you decide to turn Pro?
“I was training as an amateur but my mate Steven Pearce fought at pro. I got talking to him and he said to come down to the gym. I think that’s when I started to improve as an amateur as well because my last ten fights as an amateur I was training with the pros and I saw how they trained. I think it helped out a lot. Then I started sparring and one day I was sparring with Andrew Robinson and his promotor turned up and he said to me ‘why don’t you go pro?’ and I was thinking, yeah I could do. Andrew was pro at the time and his promotor saw me and said I should go pro and he wanted to sign me up. So that was it.
“He (Andrew Robinson) helps me out a lot in sparring because he’s tough and he’s fit and he keeps coming.”
You were pretty active in you first fights in 2015.
“Yeah, I was doing well and on a bit of a roll and then I think I got injured. I hurt my hand sparring with Mike Byles. He had a hard head. I had to pull out of a fight. I was about two or three weeks away from the fight and my hand just swelled up.
“I was meant to actually fight Byles further down the line for the Challenge Belt but he pulled out so I ended up fighting Anthony Fox instead. Which is probably a harder fight. Anthony Fox is tough. He beat Ryan Aston last week or the week before? He’s a lot better than his record suggests.
“I did expect Ryan to win but I wasn’t mega shocked because I’ve been in there with Ryan myself and I know he’s a tough guy. I wasn’t blown away by it but you’d still think that Ryan would win”
End of 2015 start of 2016 two draws for you. How much did injury play a part?
“I can’t totally remember but with those draws, in hindsight I was wounded at the time. I fought Lucas and to be fair I thought that was fair ‘cos I didn’t box well. I fought Hoskin-Gomez and I was really shocked at that decision. I lost the last round but I was three up and it was only a four rounder. I’d won the first three quite convincingly in my eyes so I was shocked at that. but now I look back it probably did me good anyway. It gave me a bit of a kick up the arse. I never want that to happen again.
“When I got those draws, mentally it did feel like a loss and I was a bit gutted. But because I’d got those two draws that’s why I think Tom Stokes was so keen to fight me for the Midlands Title. Because of the draws I think he was looking at it like it was gonna be an easy win for him whereas if I’d won all of my fights I don’t think they would have been so keen. So it probably played out well for me.
So then the Title Fight. A really big fight for you. How did you prepare for that fight?
“That was a massive fight for me and to be fair I couldn’t have prepared more than I did. I was sparring with Tommy Langford for that actually. I had a lot of sparring and sparred with Sam Eggington. Every Sunday and Tuesday I was going to Eastside Gym in Birmingham with John Pegg. Obviously Lyndon (my trainer) would take me but we’d just have loads of sparring up there and I think that was key. That (fight) was my first ten rounder. I’d only done one six rounder and one eight rounder before and all the rest were fours so I just wanted to make sure I had the energy to go the ten rounds – which I did. I think I faded for two rounds towards the end but then I came back.
“It was a good job that I fought Anthony Fox ‘cos he gave me eight hard rounds and that was good preparation for Stokes really. “
And how did you celebrate after winning that Title?
“I was just buzzing for ages, because I was a big under-dog as well. I remember seeing the odds and a few people bet a bit of money on me and earned quite a bit to be fair (laughs). A few sorted me out with a few drinks.
“That said it feels a bit awkward because that was seven months ago and I’ve only just had another fight since. I was expecting things to kick on from there but for one reason or another it just hasn’t.”
On signing to BCB and looking at the future.
You’ve recently joined the Black Country Boxing stable and the fight at ‘Neutral Ground’ was your first under the BCB Banner.
“My contract was up with my old promotor around February. After Christmas when I still didn’t have a fight I sat down with my coach and we decided I’d speak to Errol Johnson and BCB. I spoke to Errol and when I see everything that BCB are doing, they’ve got some good movements. I think they’re doing the best in the Midlands at the minute.
“Leaving my old promotor was a hard decision for me really. To be fair it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in boxing – telling him that I’m leaving and I’m going to someone else – because on paper he got me the Challenge Belt and he got me the Midlands Title fight and it was awkward but I just felt like that was as far as we could go. And when I think about it the Midlands Title fight was on a BCB show against a BCB fighter and really I was just an opponent. Now I’ve signed with them maybe I can be their main guy and have opponents found for me.”
It’s funny how things work out.
“Yeah. I never would have thought that I’d be signed with them after just beating their guy. It is funny how things work out.
“It’s an amazing difference from where I was at really. You was at the Genting Arena – a massive show. The main fight never happened in the end with Frankie Gavin but they still made it happen. That would have never happened with my last promotor. Them kind of shows – and even just now with the British Title fight. Dave Allen was in there. It’s kinda mad really. You don’t really get stuff like this happening in the Midlands.
“There’s a lot going on in the Midlands now and it’s only gonna get bigger. Jason just becoming British Champion, Lennox Clarke doing a lot, Andrew Robinson’s got a good fight coming up, I’m sure I can get some good fights. There’s a lot going on man. Exciting times I think.”
And where are you looking to take your career next?
“I’d like the British (Title) but I just wanna be active really. That’s the main thing. I got a little cut on my eye after that last fight, from an elbow but hopefully that heals up good and I stay active. Especially after having seven months off I just want to be active now.
“There’s the British (Title) out there. Liam Cameron’s got the Commonwealth Title. I’d like that fight as well. I think that would probably be a tougher fight than for the British. Cameron knocked out Nicky Jenman recently and it says a lot about Cameron. He’s massive at the weight, I dunno how he does the weight. Elliot Mathews has got the English title which I got made for an eliminator but my opponent moved camps so nothing’s come of that. I just want to be in some meaningful fights.
“I’m with the right team now. BCB gets stuff done and they have loads of shows whereas my last promotor wasn’t having enough shows. Maybe two or three a year whereas BCB they’ve already had three shows this year and have another one in June in Wolverhampton.”
“And I know that this isn’t just a hobby for Errol Johnson, it’s his living. That’s another reason why I wanted to join up with BCB.
Sounds like you’ve been very self motivated throughout your career.
Yeah. Lyndon Scarlett’s my coach and he helps me out a lot but I think with boxing you’ve gotta be self motivated really because it’s only you getting in that ring. The hardest part about boxing is living the life outside of the gym. The discipline side, your eating and going for your runs because you can’t lie can you? The scales don’t lie. If you say ‘I ain’t been eating this and that’ the scales will say otherwise. With your fitness, you can tell your coach ‘yeah I’ve been for a run this morning and whatever but when you’re knackered they can see it. You can’t lie and you’ve gotta put 100% in man. It is hard but I’m motivated.”
Are there any boxers out there that you’re particularly inspired by right now?
“Billy Joe Saunders. I think because I’m a southpaw as well I just like watching him and his little counters on the back foot. That’s probably more my sort of style. To try to hit and not get hit. I’ve probably watched his performance against David Lemieux twenty times.
“Lomachenko. He’s like next level. It’s hard for any boxer to do some of the stuff he does. I think he’s just got mad talent. I don’t think you can teach that sort of stuff. But yeah, Billy Joe Saunders is the main guy I like.”
images: (c) pmedialive
“My first pro fight in Spain under a Spanish license was a silly mistake but at the time I saw a good opportunity and a wage.”
Over the years some outstanding sportswomen and men have emerged from the town of Burntwood.
The late Dalian Atkinson, talented and talismanic footballer who from 91-95 played 85 matches for Aston Villa, Kim Betts the gymnast and body builder better known as ‘Lightning’ in the ITV show Gladiators , the athlete Sonia Lannaman who became a Commonwealth Champion and Olympic Bronze Medallist and East Midlands born Gary Cahill, the current Chelsea Captain are all prime examples.
And former Kick Boxing Champion now turned Professional Boxer, Burntwood’s Dani Hodges is on a journey that could one day see her own name added to that proud list of sports elites.
That’s not to say that it shouldn’t already be added. By some, it probably already has been. The respect for her achievements as a kick boxer is so much on the kickboxing circuit that The June 2015 WKN World Title eliminator in which Hodges fought the high flying Belfast Kick Boxer, Cathy McAleer, was described by ProKick News as a ‘pulsating 4 round war..’ and remains to this day a ppv only event.
Hodges made the adventurous move from kickboxing to professional boxing during the summer of 2017 but the switch wasn’t met with instant success and she tasted defeat in her first fight.
However, let’s take a brief pause whilst we put this into context.
Hodges began her professional boxing career with a very, very tough fight away from home, in Spain. It was a Super Flyweight contest scheduled for 6 rounds against a prolific boxer, so prolific in fact that Eva Naranjo, the fighter Hodges faced that night on August 26 2017, is currently the WBC International Female Bantamweight Champion and a World Female Bantamweight Title challenger. So, talk about Baptism of Fire…
Fast forward to February 2019 and ‘The Pocket Rocket’ has clearly shaken off any disappointment which had perhaps mildly threatened to derail her pro boxing aspirations. The ‘we either win or learn’ mantra that so many good boxers live and breath by today could easily be applied to her current demeanour and as we’ve seen, the results have been going her way.
Last Saturday night against the awkward Bulgarian boxer, Rozmari Silyanova, Hodges grabbed her third straight win and in the process notched her career stats up to a respectable looking 3-1-0.
The stark contrast between the two boxers was apparent from the get go. After entering the ring in good mood Silyanova stood in her corner pretty much feet planted and motionless as she awaited Hodges’ arrival. As a matter of fact there was more movement in the corner adjacent where the referee Shaun Messer showed off some pretty impressive footwork as he exercised a gentle warm up. Hodges arrival though, clearly elevated by her buoyant, vociferous fan base, was much more dynamic. Bouncing and hopping, stretching, dancing, shaking out the arms and legs, ‘The Pocket Rocket’ was in the zone.
The popular Burntwood fighter was able to stamp an early authority on the proceedings and maintain her pressure cooker boxing style throughout the four round contest. On the outside she was fizzing out spiteful jabs and damaging combinations and her footwork was sharp and crisp which helped her to avoid the looping swinging lefts and rights that the Bulgarian sporadically launched.
No matter that she’d very quickly found out that she was outgunned on the outside, Silyanova also decided during the early stages of the first round that she didn’t want to fight up close either, so wouldn’t allow Hodges to work on the inside. Each time they entered the pocket Silyanova grabbed, smothered and held, sometimes in almost desperate looking fashion.
The win when it eventually and almost inevitably came for Hodges, was a solid and well deserved one with Messer scoring it 40-36.
It’s always a tremendous pleasure to talk to Midlands boxers so it was really cool to be able to catch up with Dani Hodges to talk about the fight, her career to date and her future plans.
MBC – First up, good win Saturday. Tough circs. Did the fight pan out as you expected it to? And how much did you know about Silyanova before Saturday night?
DH – Thank you. The end result was what I planned, a win, but the fight itself was a bit different to how I’d thought about it in my head. But that’s okay. I’m fine with learning on my feet and adapting.
I literally knew nothing about her. I couldn’t find any videos or anything. I knew she’d fought some tough girls and she was a bit heavier. That’s it really.
MBC – She was hugging you a lot. That must have been a bit frustrating?
DH – Yeah really frustrating. She was trying her best to spoil the fight so I did my best to try and rough her up on the inside.
MBC – Yeah. So now three wins straight. But I notice you went straight back to work in the gym and stuff. You’re on a mission…
DH – Yeah, I was straight back in the gym on Monday and I’ve just got back from the gym tonight. I’m certainly happy with three straight wins but a win don’t mean there wasn’t flaws so I like to work on building while it’s fresh.
MBC – How different is this from your kick boxing career? And how challenging has the transition been?
DH – I’ve always preferred using my hands compared to kicking. I enjoyed my kickboxing career but boxing is where my heart lies.
The transition hasn’t been too challenging as I’ve always preferred using my hands. The foot work has been the difficult part, trying to settle down into my stance. But it’s improving all the time.
MBC – You certainly hit the floor running when you took on Naranjo in Spain on your pro debut. It didnt turn into the outcome you’d have been looking for but otherwise, what was is like fighting in Spain? And what did you learn from that night?
DH – My first pro fight in Spain under a Spanish license was a silly mistake but at the time I saw a good opportunity and a wage.
I don’t regret going. I had a great time and have great memories. But when I came back I thought to myself, ‘I really want to make a go of this.’ So I took the right route and applied for my British Boxing License and signed with BCB Promotions which was the best decision I have ever made.
I believe everything happens for a reason so maybe Spain was just one of those things that had to happen to set me on this path I am now on.
MBC – So under BCB Promotions it’s now three straight wins. You must be pleased with your progress.
DH – Definitely pleased.
MBC – What has been key to your success and what types of things have you focused on in training?
DH – I’ve always been dedicated to my training. I’ll train two to three times a day during camp and always at least once a day out of camp.
I train at Platinum Boxing Gym in Burntwood under Lee Goodwin and Steve Cadman. They are tough Trainers and don’t give away praise easily. So when they do you know it’s well deserved, and I’m extremely grateful to them. Everyone at Platinum is like family.
Every Sunday I go over to BCB’s gym in Wednesbury for sparring. The coaches there Paul, Ben, Matt, Errol, they all help so much. They spend time on you, correcting every small detail and it’s always great vibes when I’m there. You’re surrounded by people on the same mission and it pushes you.
MBC – Yes. And as a female boxer I imagine you encounter some difficulties. Such as finding suitable sparring partners?
DH – Yeah it is hard to get suitable sparring. A lot of the time I spar with lads. At Platinum where I train all the lads are really good with me. I just get treated as one of the lads.
MBC – And how do people outside of the sport respond to you when you tell them what you do?
DH – I mostly get really good support when I tell people what I do and most of the time they are shocked, not because I’m female but because I’m so tiny (laughs).
MBC – (laughs) Are there any female boxers that inspire you? And do you have any favourites?
DH – Female boxing is growing. Obviously major names that everyone has heard of like Katie Taylor and Nicola Adams have really established women in the sport and they are owed so much respect for that.
MBC – Absolutely. On top of that it must be exciting watching guys like Troi Coleman and seeing how he’s developing as a pro boxer too. I think you knew him from your kick boxing days?
DH – Yeah I’ve trained with Troi for years at Platinum. He is a really talented boxer and deffo one to watch. He will go far and now he is signed with BCB too.
MBC – That would be really cool to see. So, how did you get into combat sports? Where did it really start for you?
DH – My son started before me. He was doing Taekwondo at Burntwood and Cannock TKD Club and they were offering a week’s free training for parents so I gave it a go and loved it and kept it up and from there. I progressed to Kickboxing at Platinum and then boxing when we turned to boxing as a Club.
MBC – I read a report on-line that said you were a triple British Kickboxing Champion. Is that right?
DH – Triple British kickboxing? That’s wrong. I won a lot of Taekwondo tournaments and won quite a few belts in Kickboxing.
MBC – And are you looking to emulate the same types of success in boxing at flyweight or superflyweight?
DH – I’m looking for the same success in pro boxing at flyweight. I’m not in it to play or try, I’m in it to succeed.
MBC – And we’ll be following you all the way. And so will many others – you get great support on fight night. Your fans and followers really make their presence felt. That must be a real motivation.
DH – Thank you. I am so grateful for the support I get. It would be impossible to do what I do without it…From sponsors to those that buy tickets from ourselves, I can’t even come up with the words to express the respect and love I have for them…Especially the fight night just gone. I watched the video back of my fight and I could hear everyone singing. I loved it. It really does push you.
MBC – And finally, what can we expect from The Pocket Rocket in 2019?
DH – Pocket Rocket is out to grab what ever 2019 has to offer me with both hands.
Thanks for talking to MBC. All the best Champ.