BN: Why the ring hiatus since last October?
The politics of boxing. Sometimes opponents want more (money) than they previously did for certain fights. When they’re in the driver’s seat, not every fighter is willing to put their balls on the line.
BN: Had you hoped the IBO belt would serve as a ‘bargaining chip’ for bigger fights?
[Laughs] I didn’t realise it’s the man who wins the title, not the title. I thought everyone would be knocking at me door but I haven’t been called out once. They’re all waiting for Jazza to go away, but he’s not going anywhere.
‘Unified world champion’ – that’s always been the goal. Fans know that being the champion and being a champion are worlds apart. Two different stories.
It was a lovely moment going home with the title that I promised me kids. They could be proud of their dad but you can’t relive winning the IBO for the rest of your life.
BN: What makes you so avoided?
I’ve been asking myself this for years, I need to know myself. I’ve come to the realisation that if I weren’t as good as I am, these people would be using me as a stepping stone. Instead, they try and step around me. If I had the (promotional) backing other fighters have had, it would be different. I’d be in a much better position.
BN: You’re ranked in the top 15 by all four major sanctioning bodies but not in Boxing News’ world top ten. What’s your best route to getting to the top of the pile, to becoming the champion you speak about?
Once you’re ranked in the top 10, it’s about who’s got the best team, who can navigate fighters into positions. It’s about relationships, like any business.
Coming up from the amateurs, you naively assume it’s just about the best fighters. And you’ll get the chance to prove it, like at the world (amateur) championships. In professional boxing, you’re not just fighting the man in front of you, you’re fighting the man behind the curtains.
It goes around who can generate most revenue. There aren’t many fighters on Matchroom shows selling out 3,000 – 5,000 live on DAZN. Last time, we had about 3,000 fans at the Liverpool Olympia for an untelevised bill. It’s going really well when you consider I’m doing this off-camera.
BN: What current matchups appeal to you most?
Stylistically, (Josh) Warrington. It wasn’t going to be for a title but from past sparring, I know I benefit stylistically. I could almost see how it was going to unfold before they pulled out. They knew. Likewise, last fight I accepted Leigh Wood – didn’t happen. Accepted the fight with Michael Conlan – didn’t happen. These lads know the answer is always ‘Yes’ from me. That’s why I don’t hear the phone ringing.
In years to come, when my age starts to catch up with me, I’ll start to hear the phone ring. Until then, I’m making my own moves. If the British lads aren’t gonna fight me, then it’s off to America, or the Mexican lads. In my career, I focus on myself rather than anyone else because, by the time it’s your shot at the champion, the title tends to have changed hands.
BN: How do you feel Wood and Warrington match-up?
Warrington is shot; very, very lucky that he’s in a contract with Eddie Hearn otherwise it’d be curtains for him. He’s messed it up, hasn’t he? The evidence is there, he’s dropped the ball.
Leigh Wood has got great form. If he wants to vacate his belt for the ‘money fight’ – how much is over there? I just see them as two businessmen now. Josh Warrington turned over from a boxing mentality to a business mentality a long time ago. In that regard, I can’t show them respect as fighters. Maybe one day I’ll come to that position myself, but right now, I don’t understand their mindset. I’m a fighter first and foremost.
BN: It’s three years since you scalped Leigh Wood. How highly do you rate that win in light of what Leigh has subsequently accomplished?
I don’t really [laughs]. Looking at BoxRec recently, a few of my last amateur wins were Leigh Wood, Josh Taylor, and Joe Cordina. I was thinking ‘f**king hell, that aged well, didn’t it?’ At the time, it didn’t mean that much to me they were just the lad in the other corner, I was supposed to beat.
BN: At 32 years old, is it about refinement in the gym or can you still add tricks to your skillset?
Someone said the other day ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and it churns my stomach. When someone says that, I think it’s a weak mentality. How do you know if you don’t try? People make their minds up without trying. If you keep working at something, practising it, learning it, you’re gonna change.
BN: What’s your take on the ‘golden generation’ coming through at your old gym, Everton Red Triangle?
The pick of the bunch, for me, is Andrew Cain. He’s just had his hand operated on, but he’s a special talent, a natural talent. If he can be taught to refine his skills and implement them alongside fitness, I do believe he can be world champion. Peter McGrail is a good lad, too.
There was also a young lad called Brandon Daord who was in the Everton Red Triangle but now trains with Chris Williams. He’s been doing bits on the small hall shows, hasn’t been active, but he’s another one from that little bunch of kids from when I was there.
At the time, we knew these kids were gonna be the next stars. It’s been no surprise to people like me, it was always well-known. I’ve been impressed with Joe McGrail. Peter’s little brother. He was a schoolboy when Peter was a junior (ABA champion) but seems to really be maturing. He and Andrew Cain are the future stars, in my eyes.
BN: You didn’t mention Everton Red Triangle prospect Nick Ball. As a fellow Scouser and top featherweight contender, is that a fight you could envisage in the future?
I was looking the other day and he’s above me in the rankings. Even on BoxRec! What the f**k?! It was a bit of an insult, to be honest. If that fight ever comes along, sure.