IT is with a mixture of relief and anticipation that Nantwich heavyweight Nathan Gorman returns to the ring this Friday (June 17) following 15 months out of action and just two fights in the last three years.

Still only 25 (he turns 26 later this month), Gorman has, since losing against Daniel Dubois in July 2019, struggled to enjoy much in the way of momentum, his rehabilitation cruelly coinciding with a global pandemic and the temporary shutting down of the sport. Now, though, with a fight this Friday against Tomas Salek set to headline an event on Channel 5, Gorman has every incentive to put the past behind him and view this latest career chapter as something of a rebirth.

“It’s been a long time I’ve been out, a long time being inactive, but it’s time I’ve spent in the gym,” he told Boxing News. “It’s not like I’ve been doing whatever I want. I’ve been picking up new things and trying to perfect my craft during that time away. In these past 15 months I’ve been abroad sparring and I’ve had lots of good sparring here, too. It’s been time well spent. I could have fought somebody and blasted them out in a round in that time, but what would I learn from that?”

Last time out, in March 2021, Gorman had an easier than expected time in the company of Pavel Sour, a heavyweight from the Czech Republic whom Gorman finished in two rounds. That was, on paper, exactly the kind of result Gorman was after, yet the lack of rounds, given the time out to follow, was something he may have later come to curse.  

“Pavel Sour is one of those fighters who can cause problems if he turns up,” Gorman, 18-1 (12), said. “He fought Jermaine Franklin (in 2019) and gave him a really hard night’s work. I knew if I let him get in his groove he would do everything he could to go the distance with me. So the tactic from the opening bell was to just put it on him and not let him settle, which is what I did.

“I’m always my own biggest critic. I could land my first punch and knock my opponent out in four seconds and I’d still find fault in the performance. That’s just how I am. But, overall, I was happy to get the win and the win is the main objective.”

His next opponent, Salek, 17-3 (13), is younger than Gorman at 23 and another heavyweight from the Czech Republic. He also happened to defeat Pavel Sour in his most recent fight, although, unlike Gorman, had to go the 10-round distance to secure what was a revenge win (Sour outpointed Salek in 2019) earlier this year.

“I’m a big believer in different styles making different fights,” said Gorman. “In years gone by we’ve seen Joe Frazier get destroyed by George Foreman, Joe Frazier beat Muhammad Ali, and Muhamad Ali beat George Foreman, so you can’t look too deeply into results and common opponents. For some people comparing results might provide a confidence boost, but all I try to concentrate on is me, and I know that on Friday it will take the best of me to beat Tomas Salek.

“I’m expecting the best of him, too. He’s been active, he’s had two 10-rounders since I last fought, and he’s young and ambitious. If I were in his shoes, I’d be looking at this as a great opportunity. He’s topping the bill on Channel 5 and it’s his time to shine. He’s coming off two good wins and has just won his national title. I’ve been inactive for 15 months.”

Interestingly, whereas so many boxers today seem determined to dismiss the idea of watching footage of their opponent before facing them, Gorman, a student of the game, embraces both the idea and the capacity to do so.

“I watch him nearly every night,” he said of Salek. “In fact, I study opponents all the time. I watch virtually everybody in the heavyweight division, from the ones making their debut to established champions. After all, you never know what’s around the corner.”

He added: “I could be wrong, but I think that’s an old cliché (refusing to watch your opponent). It’s not like you’re going in there to play tiddlywinks. You’re going to have a fight and it makes sense to know your opponent inside and out.

“By watching them every night, you’re not saying you’re afraid of them. I think some people try to act all hard and pretend they don’t want their opponent. But that’s never been me. Most boxers do watch their opponents, I believe, it’s just that they don’t want to admit it.”

In terms of what he has seen in his next opponent, Gorman has seen little to be concerned about but just enough to keep him concentrated, focus and sharp. It is a fight he knows he should be winning and a fight, at this stage of his career, he needs to be winning.

“He’s got a high knockout percentage, he’s a come-forward fighter, and he throws big punches,” Gorman said. “As we’ve seen in the heavyweight division throughout history, one punch can change everything, so I’ve got to remain switched on and do what I do best. I’ve got to get the win by any means necessary.

“This is an important night for me. I’m topping my own show in Liverpool, live on Channel 5, and it doesn’t get much bigger really. There will potentially be millions of people tuning in to watch me, which is great, but all I’m focusing on is performing on the night. That’s the main focus for me. I just want to win and move on.”