ANTHONY FOWLER’S M&S Bank Arena dressing room on March 30 was intended to be a jovial environment filled with handshakes, smiles and back-pats. Instead, his fight night headquarters resembled something of a counselling session as a shell-shocked Fowler, bruised all over but most evident on his ego, kept his head in hands as those who’ve gone before him, those who’ve endured heartbreaking defeats, offered tokens of advice to the 28-year-old. The words of Dereck Chisora and Tony Bellew, present and past gym-mates, were intended to stick, but at that time, just raising Fowler from his state of disbelief was the priority of the war-scarred duo.

In the weeks leading up to this moment of harrowing realisation, a scenario he was incapable of envisaging, Fowler had been embroiled in a volatile quarrel with former amateur teammate, Scott Fitzgerald. Threatening to overspill at press conferences, tempers were somehow kept in check, but when the time arrived for both to back up their countless pre-fight boasts, Fitzgerald responded to the task in a more impressive manner. After 10 hard rounds, including one that saw Fowler go down, the man from Chorley got the nod by the tightest of margins.

With his wrist in the hands of referee, Steve Gray, Fowler was forced to endure a lengthy wait for the news he never believed he’d hear. An agonising expression on his face, Fowler believed he might’ve done just enough to get the verdict, but forever a figure of confidence and belief, there loitered a small doubt in the back of his mind as he tried to work out just how many rounds could conceivably be scored to him. A last-round knockdown scored by Fitzgerald was an unwelcome leveller in Fowler’s overworked mind, and it was that moment which made the difference as he suffered the first loss of his pro career by a solitary point.

“I was more hopeful than anything,” reflected Fowler, the minor details of his recent setback still very much a painful memory. “I’d started the fight well and it was going exactly how I planned, but the second half of the fight was tough on me and you could see Scott coming on in every round. There wasn’t a single part of me that expected him to still be in there with me after the halfway mark and that shocked me a little. Believing that the fight was already in the bag was a big mistake on my part and having no fear about losing to Scott is what cost me.”

Anthony Fowler
Fowler had trained hard for the Fitzgerald fight Action Images

Fowler’s undoing, something he blames himself for, has since provided the Liverpool super-welterweight with an alternative mindset that was absent before running into Fitzgerald. In line to be competing for domestic and continental honours against the likes of Ted Cheeseman and Sergio Garcia, Fowler’s 2019 was intended to be a year where his apprenticeship was served and cracking rankings was to become the priority. Losing to Fitzgerald has temporarily shelved those plans but Fowler remains confident that his desired destination will still be reached.

“I’ve learnt now. I now have that fear back that I’ve only had a few times in my career and that’s the biggest thing missing from the Fitzgerald fight. I’m used to fighting in big [amateur] tournaments like the Worlds and Olympics, so when you know what you’re up against there, you know you’re in for a hard fight.

“I didn’t believe that Scott could give me a hard fight and I didn’t believe at one point that I’d have to dig right in to beat him. My camp was spent sharing a ring with fighters who’ve been in and won world titles and fought for world titles, and myself and [trainer] Dave [Coldwell] were more than satisfied with how training went. I still can’t believe I lost, but now I have to put it right and hopefully we’ll meet again in the near future.”

The first part of rebuilding Fowler’s hopes commences on Friday (August 2) when he takes on former world title challenger, Brian Rose, at the M&S Exhibition Centre that is located next door to the arena where Fowler suffered heartbreak this past spring. Rose was originally set to face Fitzgerald in July but injury thwarted the latter and Fowler had no hesitation in stepping in and aiming to return to winning ways. The best version of Rose surely belongs to yesterday, but Fowler admits that the Blackpool man will have his full respect.

Anthony Fowler
Fowler cannot afford another defeat Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

“Can you imagine where my career will be if I lose this and it’s two losses on the run? I’m not prepared to accept that so I’m training for the best-ever version of Brian Rose and I want to send out a message that I’m still very much in the mix at 154lbs in this country. Losing to Fitzgerald is not going to be the fight that I’m remembered for and I have the chance to get it out of my system and that starts with Rose. I still believe in myself in a big way and I’ve got a great team behind me, so now it’s back to getting my career where I want it to be and hopefully getting my name up in the ratings and competing for the belts that I originally wanted before heading into the Fitzgerald fight.”