HARLOW’S Richard Horton receives the second crack at the Southern Area belt that he’s craved for years, but the assignment he’s relishing could prove something of a poisoned chalice as advancing from the opposite corner at the York Hall this Saturday, March 27 will be uber-confident Miles Shinkwin of Bushey in Hertfordshire.

Shinkwin won the light-heavyweight title with a courageous effort against Joel McIntyre in July last year when he prevailed by decision having fought eight rounds in sweltering heat with a broken rib, and while few could fault his performance that night 26-year-old Shinkwin believes the match with Horton will provide him with an opportunity to show what he can do when not inhibited by injury. Both boxers – of very distinguishable temperaments but with an identical sense of purpose in regard to each other – kindly took time out from their final preparations to talk to Boxing News about their upcoming clash.

2014 was an eventful year for both men. Shinkwin (9-0-0) won the title, got married and concluded a promotional deal with Frank Warren, while 33-year-old Horton fought and won three fights after taking a five-year break from the sport in 2009 following a TKO loss to Tony Salam for the super-middleweight Southern Area belt. That loss, so soon after he’d scored an upset win against vastly more experienced South African Ruben Groenewald, sent the articulate Horton (9-2-0) into a period of depression as he explains: “I was gutted, absolutely devastated. I’d trained so, so hard for that. The cut was tiny and only needed three stitches. They had a new doctor that night and he didn’t even get off his seat and come to the ring, he just shook his head at the ref and he called it off before the cut was even wiped! Mick Williamson was in my corner and after he’d wiped it not a drop of blood came out of it. It was unbelievable. I felt sick. I didn’t know what to say, and of course Mick went absolutely mad. I was so down after that I just didn’t want to box anymore, and that was it. It wasn’t long before I wanted to come back but at the time it wasn’t fair on the wife and kids. I had to put them first. I went through quite a bad stage at one point as I wanted to box so much. If you knew me back then… I was very depressed and couldn’t get myself out of it.”

Shinkwin also is relishing a return to action having had his longest break between fights since he began his career in 2012: “I can’t wait to be honest. Until I got the call to say we were meeting with Frank Warren, it did seem like nothing was happening but then everything came together quickly and we got a deal done and dusted. But 2014 was such a great year, getting married and winning the title – I can’t say it was frustrating. If I could go back I wouldn’t change a thing.

“I was offered Enzo Maccarinelli for the Commonwealth belt and we jumped at it straightaway, but then Enzo’s team turned it down. I can understand it though – why does he want to take the risk of fighting me? My manager Richard Clark and my trainer Jason Rowland have always said if we could choose any promoter it would be Frank Warren because he’s the best at building careers and getting the right fights at the right time.”

Referring to his title winning tilt against McIntyre, he says: “I didn’t get to show what I can do in the McIntyre fight because of injuries I had, but I’m not taking anything away from Joel. Now I’m going to be main event on a live TV station (Boxnation) and I’m going to show people what I can do. I know every fighter says they’ve had the best training camp, but I can tell you the camp for the McIntyre fight was not good. I got ill two or three times and should have pulled out the week before the fight. I nearly passed out on my run the Wednesday before the fight and had to be picked up by car after a mile. I couldn’t eat all week either, so at least the weight was already there! I was in no condition to fight the ten rounds really. It’s much better this time though and I’m going to look good, I know I am. I’ve been sparring better than ever and maybe the break between fights has done me good.”

Naturally, the undefeated and younger champion (by eight years) will go in to the match as the overwhelming favourite, but there is something in not just the sincerity of Horton’s hunger but also in the glimmers of new facets to Horton’s come-forward, give one to take one style seen in his three matches against Ryan Clark, Mitch Mitchell and Joe Walsh that suggests the fight will be more competitive than it looks on paper. Father of four Horton showed he can box effectively off the back foot, counter well and be patient as he waited for openings which he then exploited: “I used to box in a certain way. I was always a come-forward fighter and it didn’t bother me taking a punch whatsoever. I’m 6’1 with a very good, fast jab and I’ve never really used it the way I do now. When I fought Ryan Clark much of my work was off my back foot and I actually enjoyed it more, throwing my jab and moving. A lot of people were surprised that we took that fight for my first one back after five years out. He was saying to me in the ring, you shouldn’t be in here, you’re an old man and as soon as you drop your hand I’m going to knock you out. After that, every time I hit him I was saying: how does it feel to be getting beat by an old man? Clark is a nice fella though. I loved that fight, the more punches I threw the more I realized how much I’d missed it, and the feeling was excellent. The Mitch Mitchell fight was more frustrating as he was butting me all night, but I got the win. These days I box and move a lot more than I used to and pick my shots. I can box, and I’m quite happy to go toe to toe with anyone if I have to, but if I can make it easier for myself then I will. I’ve got a lot of heart and you need that drive in boxing, but to be fair I can sometimes get drawn into a fight when I shouldn’t. But the Richard Horton of today would box the head of the Richard Horton of five years ago if I’m being honest. My outlooks a lot different now, but I’ve always wanted that Southern Area title. I’m fitter, and I feel better and stronger now than I did back then.”

Nonetheless, Horton is aware that he faces an uphill task and acknowledges the talent of his opponent. Managed by Mark Prior and trained by Frank Greaves, he says of Shinkwin: “He’s tough, definitely. Boxers like that, you’ve got to hand it to them. Any boxer that can go further rounds with a broken rib, broken jaw, or broken hand, it’s impressive. He’s definitely at the top of all the opponents I’ve fought. He has a solid platform and really picks his punches well. I’ve been training for fifteen rounds so I’m going to pace it well and come back from every round knowing I’ve done enough to win it, but with enough in the tank. It would mean everything to me to win that Southern Area belt. I’ve got a second chance that not a lot of people get, and I’m going to grab it with both hands. I think because our styles gel it’s going to make for a cracking fight. I’ve got my game-plan, things we’ve worked on in the gym, and I think we’ll surprise him a little bit. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. I want it so, so bad.”

Horton will be unsurprised to learn that Shinkwin is radiating confidence in advance of the contest: “I train hard all the time, leave nothing behind in the gym and my spars are always competitive because that’s my mentality. There’ll be no stone left unturned for this.

“To be honest, I’m not there to worry about who I fight, that’s my managers and trainers responsibility to get the opponents who are going to further my career. I’m there to get in and do the business. Horton’s not a bad fighter, and we’ll be looking to put on a good show and take him out at some point. I don’t think deep down he thinks he can beat me, he must know that I’m levels and levels above him. But good luck to him, no doubt he’ll come and give it everything he’s got which is exactly what I hope for. I haven’t seen him box myself, but from what we hear he’ll come for a fight and he won’t find anyone more willing than me. We think he’s going to come at me and try and walk me down so that’s all we’ve got to go by. But I can adapt easily, and he’ll know in the first forty seconds what a hard fight it’s going to be. To be honest though I can’t see him being anywhere near the same kind of level as Joel, who’d give any light-heavyweight a good fight and a good test. But I’ll go in there with the mentality that he’s red-hot and will fight to the death. Too many people get knocked out because they’ve become complacent but that’s never been my mentality. But can he go with my work-rate for ten rounds? I very much doubt it. Is he going to be anywhere near as fast with his punches as me? I very much doubt it. But we’ll see, if he can keep up with me, good luck to him, but I tell you now I’m going to hit him with a lot of punches. He’s going to think he’s surrounded. Like I said, I’m going to show what I can really do with a fully-functioning body. The Southern-Area title is just the first step for me.”

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