James Metcalf, 25-2 (15), considered retirement after two consecutive defeats at the hands of Ted Cheeseman and Kieron Conway in 2021. He decided that a change was needed and chose to stop working with his father and trainer Shay Neary and moved over to Joe McNally’s stable. Speaking to Boxing News Metcalf explains why he gave his career another shot. 

Interview by Shaun Brown

BN: Your trainer Joe McNally recently told Boxing News that the IBO might strip you of your title, is that right?

JM: There was talks about it. They were acting a bit funny with me over it. They were saying we never kept in touch with them during the purse bids [for the Josh Kelly fight]. I shouldn’t have to be in touch with them through purse bids. I was just waiting for the promoter to put a bid in and that I was fighting. For some reason they [IBO] thought I had to keep in touch. I don’t know what they were thinking. I think they were trying to put someone else in line for it.

BN: Was there any explanation given to you as to why Josh Kelly withdrew?

JM: They’ve had something else in the pipeline or they didn’t want the fight. I don’t know.

BN: Where does that leave you now?

JM: My manager’s just trying to sort another fight now. I’m ready to go. I want to try and have a big year this year.

BN: You have a top 10 ranking with the WBA and IBF. Names such as Erickson Lubin, Vergil Ortiz Jr, Magomed Kurbanov and Israel Madrimov are above you. Is it not time for you to start getting in that mix?

JM: Definitely. If it’s not gonna be one of them for a big belt or an eliminator I’d like a half decent name from Britain to generate a bit of publicity and gain a few quid.

BN: Is there anyone you’re looking to fight?

JM: It doesn’t really matter. There’s a few names out there I wouldn’t mind fighting. Conor Benn’s moved to 154. He was talking about going to middleweight to fight [Chris] Eubank and that hasn’t come off. He’s saying he wants to get straight back out for April. I’d definitely be ready for April. I’d love to jump into that fight. I’d give him a much better fight than [Peter] Dobson did and I believe I win the fight.

BN: Apart from the frustration of not getting the Josh Kelly fight how have things been since beating Dennis Hogan last May?

JM: I was so over the moon to win a world title. I’ve always thought I’d win a world title and then I come off those two losses back-to-back. I believe there was reasons behind them and that’s the reason I carried on boxing. After going through a phase where I thought I was packing it in I finally got my hands on one. I’m over the moon but now I really want to kick on. I’ve changed trainer, I’m with Joe McNally and feel like things have clicked together. I’m going to be hard to beat.

BN: Where was your head at after the losses to Ted Cheeseman and Kieron Conway?

JM: I was definitely thinking of packing it in. The training with my dad was really hard. I had a few issues with my back. I was a bit fed up with the sport and not enjoying it anymore. I got an offer to fight Kerman Lejarraga. It wasn’t for the European title, but I thought I’m gonna give it another go, give it one last shot. Changed trainer and since then [I] started enjoying boxing again. If it keeps going like this, I don’t know when I will retire. If I stay active and keep myself in the gym, I think I’ve got a good few years left.

BN: So, what do you think has been the reason for your recent success? Is there an explanation.

JM: I think I’ve had a new lease of life changing trainer. The training’s a bit more structured around me. I felt really tired when I trained with my dad. The fight I had with Lejarraga I was worried if I was going to be fit enough. I didn’t feel tired during the fight. Working with Joe and the team they’re coming up with good gameplans, I stick to their gameplan and execute it and I don’t see myself really getting beat unless it’s someone really good on the night.

BN: What was your father’s reaction to you changing trainer?

JM: He was alright with it. He does wrestling and a lot of Jiu-Jitsu and he snapped his Achilles tendon and because of that he couldn’t train me. So, he sent me to train with George Vaughan. George had a little bit of trouble at the time, and I ended up going back with my dad. I was having a bit of hard time with my losses, and I just said to him about having a little change. He’s been supportive and he’s still phoning me. It must have been hard to watch your kid in the ring. Sometimes when I was going to the ring, I could feel the nerves off him. He’s been supportive, and still gives me advice now. He’s still a really good coach.

BN: You’ve been a pro for 12 years. Does it feel like it’s been that long?

JM: It doesn’t. It’s gone so fast. Because I haven’t had the fights I wanted I think it’s kept me young. The amount of times that people pull out or a fight falls through… I’ve wanted to show people what I’m about or what I can do, and the fights haven’t happened, so it’s kept me hungry. I think if I’d had a great career from the start or had hard fights all the way through, I wouldn’t feel so fresh at 35.

BN: What do you think would have happened had you walked away? Did you have another career in mind for yourself?

JM: No, to be honest, I never. I don’t know what I was gonna do. I would’ve worked to earn money, but I would’ve always been kicking myself for not giving it another go. It would’ve eaten away at me, I think.

BN: What do you think of the super-welterweight division at the moment?

JM: It’s a really good weight class. It’s probably one of the busiest out there. There’s a lot of people around in that weight and there’s a few fighters looking to come up 154. You have Terence Crawford talking about it. Danny Garcia’s just moved up; Vergil Ortiz has just moved up there. I’m not sure if Charlo will still be about. You’ve got Madrimov, Kurbanov, and Tszyu as well. I think it’s a really busy weight. if a good promoter gets in the mix there could be some really big fights.