BN: Everton Red Triangle has built quite the stable in the lighter weights. Who’s giving you the hard rounds in sparring?
PM: It’s all hard, good sparring in our gym. Nick [Ball] is on the verge of a world title; Brad [Strand] is phenomenal, too. If you make a mistake, you’ll get countered. You’ve gotta stay switched on.
Until recently, I’d never sparred our Joe [McGrail] properly. That was the newest thing. Joe has sparred the other lads for years. He’s even gone out and sparred with Kid Galahad and Sunny Edwards; it’s not that he’s just filling out. It’s because I’ve needed rounds, what was needed at the time.
Paul [Stevenson, Everton Red Triangle head coach] doesn’t like making brothers spar, but it was funny to come home to me dad and say, ‘I’ve been sparring our Joe!’
BN: You always speak so fondly of Paul Stevenson. Have you always had that natural connection, or has it developed over time?
PM: Since 13, I’ve travelled all over England with Paul. Mum and Dad came too, but I’d be staying with Paul, and so would the other boxers – Andrew Cain and Anthony Humphreys. Anthony is my coach now. On my first day of boxing, we joined the gym together. It’s not anything new; it’s just standard.
Whenever I was in Sheffield [with Team GB] or away at tournaments, I’d always phone Paul and talk through the fight as soon as I got out of the ring. It’s been a long time, 17 years. It’s great.
BN: Do you rate Mendoza?
PM: I’ve watched a few rounds. He’s no mug; knows his way around a ring. Quite busy, a tidy boxer.
But it’s nothing I haven’t seen over my career. I’m levels above. My speed and ring IQ will be the difference come fight night. I’m looking forward to putting a show on.
It’s only me eighth fight, and I’m fighting for a title against a guy who’s 17 and 0. I’m just taking it fight by fight and enjoying the journey. Whoever I fight and whatever route I go down, Paul and Anthony will always have the final say.
BN: You finally went 10 rounds in your last bout against Nicolas Nahuel Botelli. How did that feel?
PM: Everyone’s happier with a stoppage, aren’t they? But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a good experience to get the ten rounds in. Now I know I’ve been there and have the engine for it.
Whether it’s a first-round knockout or a 10-round point decision, you can still entertain the fans. We’re just looking to get the job done. It’s all about balance.
My style is exciting. If I can see the finish before the final bell, I’ll step it up. I know I can get people out of there.
BN: The Mendoza fight marks your sixth pro fight on Merseyside. Would you be willing to travel for the right opportunities?
PM: I’ve only had seven pro fights and already fought in Dubai and Japan. You can’t get much further unless you go to Australia! For the right opportunity, we’re willing to travel anywhere. It’s all brilliant experience.
Going to Dubai and Japan so early in my career – even though I was used to it from my time in Team GB – them away days are always belters. Going to the maddest gaffs all over the world!
I’ve boxed so many times in the Echo [Arena] that I could see my world title shot happening there. It’s like my second home [laughs]. In eight pro fights, this is my fifth in the Echo. More than 50 per cent! It’s so easy to picture in my mind. I can imagine the walkouts.
Eventually, we’ll look towards Vegas and the rest.
BN: Since your last fight, pound-for-pound #2 Naoya Inoue has joined the 122lb super bantamweight domain and seized two world titles. Do you anticipate he’ll still be around when you reach the sharp end of the division?
PM: It’s mad that I ended up on a show with him [McGrail was on the undercard of Inoue’s clash with Paul Butler in December 2022]. I’m sat watching him thinking, ‘Is this all meant to be?’
We could end up fighting in that arena! That’s a few fights away, but you never know! He might have moved to featherweight by then and relinquished all the belts. It’s exciting to think about, but you can’t get too beyond yourself.
BN: At this stage in your career, what’s your chief motivation?
PM: Just continuing to make the family proud. It’s a bit different now [in the pros]; it’s my career. It’s more serious, more money involved.
My family wouldn’t be coming to Poland for little Felix Stamm tournaments; they’d only be at the World Championships and Europeans. Me girlfriend came out with me to the Commonwealth Games.
As a professional, they’re at every fight. When I’m walking out to me tune, ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’, it must be boss watching your kids have that moment.
With all the work I’ve put in over the years – travelling the world and being away from the family – I’m finally seeing the rewards. I’m just enjoying the ride, taking it step by step.
BN: Have you always had that competitive edge in everything you do?
PM: I’ve loved sports even before boxing. In school, I played most sports you can think of.
I was a belter at footie, cross-country and athletics on the track.
I hate getting beat! Doesn’t matter if it’s table tennis or anything, even a game of chess or something. I see myself as a winner, so it’s the worst feeling ever when I get beat. It’s been carried over to boxing; that’s why I work so hard to get the wins on fight night.
BN: How do you want to be remembered as a fighter?
PM: I believe I’m already the best amateur boxer to come out of Liverpool. There’s been some tremendous fighters to come out of this city, both past and present. I believe I’ve got the ability and the team around me to be right up there, if not the best fighter to come out of Merseyside. That’s what I’m aiming towards.