By Elliot Worsell
WHETHER it’s Mike Tyson telling the world he broke his back during training camp, or it’s James Toney expressing his undying love for and need to locate the nearest Burger King, there has always been something wonderfully unpredictable and revealing about the post-fight interview.
Conducted in a suddenly busy ring, with beads of sweat still apparent on the boxer’s forehead, these interviews manage to catch the boxer, either in victory or defeat, at a time when they are at their most candid and, in many ways, relaxed. Indeed, regardless of whether they have won or lost, much of a boxer’s honesty during this moment owes to the very fact it is all done; over; finished; history. After weeks either anticipating this day, or dreading it, it is now behind them and there is no longer the need to think about it, worry about it, or talk about it using the same language as before, back when the aim was to either sell or intimidate.
Now, in those deflating and often anticlimactic minutes following a fight, they can speak freely, easily. They can say what is on their mind and not be worried about how it may sound, how it may represent them, or what their opponent, all of a sudden irrelevant, may think.
Sometimes, such is their nature, these interviews can go wrong; that is, they can happen too soon after a fight, when a boxer is still concussed, or overly emotional, or not yet sure of the order in which to arrange both their thoughts and their words. But that of course comes with the territory. For every good one you get, there will invariably be an interview conducted with a boxer, winner or loser, who needs to first have a sit down, sip some water, and catch their breath.
Most of the time, though, these post-fight interviews capture a boxer at their most honest and endearing, with there being something almost childlike about the relief on their face and the palpable excitement of now going home. Consider it, by way of example, akin to a child exiting a dentist’s surgery having feared their appointment all day. Happy to be leaving, happy to still be alive, they smile wider than ever, baring all their teeth, and carry in their hand a dentist’s lolly, which, given the ordeal, will have never tasted sweeter.
In truth, even some of the dark and disturbing interviews we hear in a boxing ring post-fight have a way of still inspiring and feeling redemptive. Take Jordan Gill’s on Saturday night, for instance. That, at any other stage, and on any other night, would have been a sad tale told by a man who both clearly needed to share it but also, and more importantly, needed a change in fortune in order for him to first find the language and motivation to do so.
This, for Gill, happened to arrive on Saturday in Belfast in the form of a seventh-round stoppage of Michael Conlan. A fight in which he was the underdog, Gill’s brilliant performance was not only a surprise to many but, as shown in his post-fight interview, provided the 29-year-old with both the platform and the language to at last articulate the struggles of the past six months. Without it, who knows, he may have remained clogged up, suffocated, mute.
“I’ve had a hard year,” Gill said in the ring after stopping Conlan. “Not many people know what I’ve been through this year. After the Kiko (Martinez) loss (in October 2022), I sort of lost touch with myself. I broke up with my wife and on the 30th of June I was in a field, I drank a litre of vodka, and I was going to kill myself.” He followed this startling admission by then saying, “Somebody came and saved me that day,” and proceeded to praise his corner team, friends and family for pulling him out of what was clearly a very deep and dark hole. He also mentioned the imminent opening of a boxing gym and said, “I’ve turned my life around this year – in the last four months. If you’re thinking, What am I doing with my life? You can do it. You can make a change. Just get up, have that belief in yourself, and go and do it. Nobody believed I could do this, but I did, and that’s all that mattered.”
Hearing all that, it was hard not to feel a sliver of guilt for somehow letting Gill become yet another of those boxers who, following a defeat, spirals to the point of almost no return. For boxing, let’s be honest, is a sport littered with such stories, most of which are never told or considered newsworthy or clickworthy until it is too late and morbid fascination has reframed and placed a value on them.
In the case of Gill, his prolonged period of silence, which is something most boxers will encounter following a defeat, was filled entirely by the noise of boxers more famous and marketable than him. That is to say, rather than continue to tell his story, or see how he was doing after what was a punishing loss, the boxing media circus, which is all it is these days, swiftly moved on to other towns, other names, and other stories, bigger and sexier ones at that.
We focused instead on holding cameras and dictaphones in front of Conor Benn at every available opportunity, and did the same with Jake Paul, and KSI, and Eddie Hearn, and Frank Smith, and Frank Warren, and Tyson Fury, allowing each of them to speak openly and without opposition and say, in the end, nothing remotely interesting or insightful. We went for the big names and the big mouths, in other words. The ones who do numbers. The ones who say CONTROVERSIAL things and FUME and VENT for no reason whatsoever. Essentially, we neglected being journalists – telling the stories of those who can’t find the words to tell their own – in order to create fast-food content and feed the algorithm, all because it’s easier and quicker and requires absolutely no skill, feeling, or thought. We left people like Jordan Gill, meanwhile, a talented boxer whose story this year is more compelling and important than any other, sitting alone in a field with a bottle of vodka wondering whether in 2023 suicide is the only way to have pain noticed.