When a 6ft 8ins heavyweight prospect not only loses but is stopped in a fight he is widely expected to win, questions are naturally asked. Matty Harris suffered exactly that type of defeat last summer to Kostiantyn Dovbyshchenko in Edinburgh.

However, with new trainer Peter Fury now in his corner, Harris has his comeback fight tonight (March 1) on the Sam Eggington-Abass Baraou card in Telford. Ahead of this fight Boxing News chatted to Harris about the loss, working with Peter Fury, and much more.

Interview by Shaun Brown

BN: Good to speak to you.

MH: Strange being part of the circus again.

BN: It’s been seven or eight months since your last fight, so is it a strange feeling being back?

MH: A little bit. It is a bit strange. I’ve enjoyed the… I couldn’t even say it’s time off because it hasn’t been; I’ve been away working. I have enjoyed being away from the madness. I’ve enjoyed my quiet time.

(Writer’s note: Matty then goes to try and find a chair to get comfortable.)

BN: So, you were saying you’ve enjoyed being away from the madness.

MH: I’ve been working hard; working in silence. I ain’t really been that active on social media. I’ve never been a big person for social media anyway. I haven’t been to any shows or anything like that. I kept myself to myself and cracking on with normal life; just training. I’ve been up north with Peter Fury working away. He’s been putting me through my paces to make sure I’m ready for this return.

BN: What was the thinking behind choosing Peter Fury as your next trainer?

MH: He understands heavyweight boxing. He’s one of the few trainers in the world that understands heavyweight boxing is different to boxing in any other weight class. He’s trained world champions before, so I thought it was definitely worth a conversation. We already had a good pre-existing relationship with him from about four years ago when I first went into training camp with Hughie to help get him ready for a fight. We got along well; he liked the way I boxed and who would’ve guessed – full circle – things have come back around. It’s funny how things work.

BN: What’s Peter had to say to you about what happened last July?

MH: We spoke about the fight. He and everybody else around me know what went wrong. It’s just a matter of putting it right. Anyone with a set of eyes could see what went wrong in that fight. It’s a pretty easy fix but it’s not just a matter of fixing that – it’s then improving. It’s not an easy fix, obviously. You’ve got to put a lot of work in and take it to another level.

BN: Can you explain what happened?

MH: I was boxing well. I sat him down… still the only other person to sit him down… just saying. I remember standing off my stool at the end of the second round… and I hadn’t even thrown that many punches, that was the bit that confused me. I remember standing off my stool at the end of the second round and thinking, “What’s happened here?” It was a new feeling. I’d not experienced it before. My body just felt zapped. I remember thinking, “What do we do here?” The thing is, I didn’t even feel like I was breathing that heavy. It just felt like my muscles lost all their energy. Got through the third and fourth and in the fifth I got stopped. That’s it plain and simple.

 BN: Did you expect something like this to happen? Were there any signs in your preparation?

MH: I don’t really know how to put it. Did I expect what happened to happen? Yes and no, I suppose. I knew what had gone wrong in training camp. But when I’m heading into a fight, I don’t think about anything other than the fight. Any doubts I have, I get rid of them; I don’t think about it. Going into the ring I didn’t have any doubts or anything like that, but in my heart I knew what was wrong. That’s why I had to move things around.

BN: Are you able to explain? Can you answer that?

MH: It’s pointless because at the end of the day I lost. At the end of the day all that matters in this game is results and not excuses. I lost to a guy that I shouldn’t have lost to but I lost and I accepted that. I worked hard, made changes and now I’m back.

BN: And are you looking forward to being back?

MH: I can’t wait. It’s been a long time. I’ve been working exceptionally hard and grafting away day-to-day and these are the things that people will never see or hear about. So, it’d be nice to get back under the lights.

BN: Is there anything you have been specifically working hard at or to improve?

MH: Everything! I’ve been working hard at improving everything. My feet, my hands, my fitness… literally everything. And that’s what I mean: it’s a complete and utter remodelling, I suppose. I genuinely don’t know how to put it. We’ve worked hard on everything and no matter what you do he [Peter] is constantly pushing you to achieve better. Anybody that knows Peter or has spoken to him knows he’s not one to mince his words. I appreciate the honesty and the environment I’m in.

BN: Where was your head after the defeat? In your everyday life, did you find it something easy to bounce back from?

MH: No. I’m a competitor. I’m a very competitive person at heart so of course it wasn’t easy to continue with. I’m not one to sit here and cry and whatever else. I’m not one to sit here and sing you a sob story. It was difficult, of course, but I’m here now. Experiences like that are only really a negative if you let them become a negative. So, I’ve taken that experience [and] changed things around, made adjustments and made the most of it. And in a way I’m grateful for the experience because it makes you re-evaluate, and it put me in a better position moving forward.

BN: Is there a plan for you in 2024? Or, after what happened, is it just about getting past this next fight?

MH: If you’d asked me that question six months ago or however long ago it was it would’ve been [about] the next fight. But because I lost so early on, the bounce back is much easier. At the end of the day, I learned a valuable lesson and of course we still make plans for the future, but I leave that up to my team. Peter’s a very well-established coach. He knows what he’s talking about and I put a lot of trust in him. He knows the direction I wanna go, about how far I am and how far I can go. He wouldn’t mince his words if he thought I was trash. He wouldn’t have taken me on. Like I said, he’s guided fighters to world titles before. As long as I get to the destination in the end, I don’t care what route I have to go down or how long it takes. I’m here to put in the work and keep chipping away day by day, one fight at a time.

BN: Did you feel unstoppable after your first five fights?

MH: I remember before I turned pro, I was speaking with a guy called Mervyn Turner and the one piece of advice he gave me back then was: “Never believe in your own hype.” This was before I turned pro. I was never one for social media, so I never saw it to buy into that kind of stuff. I knock people out, I’d been knocking people out, so it wasn’t anything new. It’s not like I got carried away with the media. I knew what I could do; I know what I am. It’s a difficult question to answer because I don’t think I could give you a good answer for that. All I can tell you now is that the environment I’m in now is very humbling and that’s the front, middle and end of it.

BN: In past interviews fighters have mentioned they find out who their real friends are after they get beaten for the first time. Have you experienced that in the last eight months?

MH: That will come from fighters who buy into the hype train. I arrived with the same people I’ve been with for years. My family. Of course they were there for me. My brother – after I lost – slept on my sofa for three weeks.

BN: Why did he do that?

MH: To be near me; just to make sure I was alright. One of my friends – he’s like my family as well – was staying over on a couple of occasions when my brother had to go home. He was just with me. Both of them after the loss never left my side for about a week. But that’s because I carry on with the same people I’ve always been with. I don’t really have any new friends.

BN: What’s your take on the British heavyweight title fight between Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke?

MH: I think it’s a great fight. I’m going to go with Frazer Clarke and I’m going to give you my explanation why. Frazer was one of the people that messaged me after I lost and let out an extended hand. He didn’t have to do that. He’s another domestic British heavyweight. He’s got no need to do that, so for that I’ll always have some sort of respect for Frazer. Whoever Frazer fights, I’ll be backing him.

BN: How about Solomon Dacres against David Adeleye?

MH: I’ll give you a hypothetical answer. I’ll go with Solomon. I think he’s a much more well-rounded fighter than David, who is a good fighter himself. How do I put this? As difficult as he [Solomon] might be to watch, it’s very different when you’re in there with him. Like I said, he’s very well rounded and I think he give a lot of problems to British heavyweights.

BN: I thought this would be an interesting interview so thank you for answering all my questions…

MH: No worries. Can I just also say make sure you put in there that after I lost – when I first got back – the first person that called me after I stepped off the plane… I didn’t sleep that night… how was I supposed to? The first person that called me when I got off the plane was Derek Chisora. As soon as I stepped off the plane, at about 7.20am, I get a call from Derek, and he told me to go and train with him. In between me joining up with Peter Fury, I joined him in the October; in the July and Christmas Derek took me under his wing and took care of me. I’ve gotta give a big shout-out to Derek and a lot of love to him. Same with Dillian Whyte, might I add. The day after or two days after he Facetimed me just to check in with me, just to make sure I was okay. I’ve got to give a lot of respect to them. And to Anthony Joshua. He tried to reach out and he made some nice comments in an interview that someone showed me. These guys know how good I am, that’s why. It was such a shock when I lost. I’m glad it happened.