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Derry Mathews Interview

Liverpool lightweight Derry Mathews refuses to allow his upset loss to Stephen Ormond last December to extinguish his dream of challenging for a world title.

After a five month sabbatical to permit his ailing hands to mend, the 30 year old former British and two-time Commonwealth champion gets back on his horse this weekend. At the Olympia, in his home city, he challenges Walsall’s Martin Gethin for his old domestic title.

It’s a proper crossroads affair and Gethin’s perpetual motion, coupled with Mathew’s concussive fists, suggests we’ve a potential thriller in store.

A few remaining tickets are available on 0151 263 6633 or www.liverpoololympia.com

Watch the whole ‘All Or Nothing’ card – which also features top prospects Chris Eubank Jnr, Tom Stalker, Matty Fagan and Nathan Brough – live and exclusive in the UK on BoxNation, the Channel of Champions (Sky Ch.437/HD490 and Virgin Ch.546). Join at www.boxnation.com

Boxing writer Glynn Evans caught up with ‘Dirty Derry’ to discuss recent affairs and Saturday’s ‘make or break’ encounter.

Last time out you conceded a clear unanimous decision to Dublin’s Stephen Ormond at the Echo Arena. You’d been in pretty decent form going in. Why didn’t things go your way? How good was Ormond?

I’m not one to make excuses but I had a few problems on the scales which were my own doing. I’ve addressed them since and now I’m working with a different nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach. Also I broke my right hand in round two. I’ve since had it operated on and now it’s fine.

Things just never clicked for me on the night. It’s difficult for me to assess how good Stephen was because I made him look good. It was his cup final and he delivered so fair play to the man but nine out of ten times I’d be confident of beating him. I’ve even offered to go to Ireland to secure a return but they’ve knocked us back.

I’d like to see Ormond in against one of the other top domestic contenders before assessing whether he’s world class but no one seems to want to fight him. He beat me fair on the night. Good luck to him.

You subsequently conceded your Commonwealth title and the Ormond defeat means that, at 30, it’ll be very difficult for you to get back up to world class. Did you contemplate retirement?

Not really, no. Though it was a terrible performance last time, I knew that the problems with the weight and then the hand injury meant that I was pretty much beaten before I started. That said, if I get beat Saturday in a similar manner, I’ll probably retire.

How have you been preparing for life after your boxing career is finished?

In 2012 I set up the DM Fitness Centre in Liverpool and it’s all going good. Right now, I’m in the middle of moving to new premises which are three times the size of the initial one. It’ll all be completed in the next couple of months.

My amateur club, Derry ABC, is almost up and running. I’ve got 50 lads training here and they’re all off the streets keeping themselves fit and healthy. I’m also working closely with Zoe Robinson who won medals for Britain at boccia – a throwing event similar to bowls – in the 2008 and 2012 Paralympics. Zoe is a huge boxing fan, travels all over to see fights, and I first got to know here because she slagged me off on Twitter! Our families have become very friendly. Together we’re hoping to pioneer a program so that people in wheelchairs can access boxing.

Having opted to continue, what are your remaining goals?

I’d still love a shot at a genuine world title, just so I could say that I’d competed at world level. I’d travel anywhere in the world to get one and I don’t think it’s totally unrealistic. I keep hearing that Anthony Crolla is set to fight (WBA champ) Richard Abril and Kevin Mitchell is apparently being lined up to fight (IBF king) Miguel Vasquez. Neither of those are even the best in Britain. In two fights, Crolla is still to beat me.

You return to the Olympia in your home city on Saturday night. Liverpool has always had a vibrant amateur scene but the professional game has really picked up on Merseyside over the last five years or so. Why is that?

I think these things move in cycles. When I was a kid, Sheffield was huge with Naz (Hamed), Ryan Rhodes and Johnny Nelson. Then, on the back of Ricky Hatton, Manchester had a big scene and many of the top Scouse lads were basing themselves over there.

Liverpool has always produced good fighters. As a kid, I’d hear about the likes of John Conteh and Paul Hodkinson. When I was coming through the amateurs, my big hero was (ex 1996 Olympian and former Commonwealth and WBU lightweight king) David Burke, another former ‘Solly’ (Salisbury ABC) lad who still used the club gym when he was preparing for his big title fights as a pro.

‘Burkey’ was world class, had everything. As a teenager, I’d sneak into the gym during the day to study him. The coach, Alan Lynch, used to go mad at me but usually let me stay. I only missed one of David’s pro fights. That’s how big a fan I was. Today, David’s back coaching at the ‘Solly’.

There were also lads like Tony Mulholland, Gary Thornhill, Peter Culshaw, Jimmy (Shea) Neary and Andy Holligan, all top championship grade fighters. If ever you knew you were fighting a Liverpool lad, you knew you were in for a very tough fight. For some reason, Liverpool seldom produces journeymen. We’re a city of winners!

The opening of the Echo Arena has been a huge factor in providing a platform for all the current local stars to flourish.

Last weekend, light-welterweight Sam Maxwell became the 17th consecutive boxer from the Salisbury club to win an ABA final. You won yourself at bantamweight back in 2002. Some record that!

It is, yeah. Another title for the best club in the world. Seventeen finalists, seventeen winners. We’re very proud.

The first thing Sam said after his hand was raised was: ‘Solly lads don’t lose finals’. It dates back to Greg Evans in 1976 and includes the likes of meself, David Price, Jazza Dickens, Stephen and David Burke, Courtney Fry….

Over the last few years, Sam’s sparred a few lads I know and I’m told he’s a devastating puncher who’s very, very strong. They say he lives in the gym and is very dedicated. He could go all the way and I wish him all the luck in the world.

You’ve had a good rest, post-Ormond. How difficult was it to get back into your training regime?

Not bad at all because the rest done me good and, as I said, I’ve changed a lot of things.

For the past six and a half weeks I’ve been over at Matt Macklin’s MGM Gym in Marbella with my trainer Danny Vaughan. Obviously being away from my wife and kids is difficult but it reminds you of what you’re doing it all for.

Besides, I’ve been surrounded by top fighters from all around the world and I’ve had quality sparring with Tommy Coyle, Peter McDonagh and a fella called Albie (Ayrapetyan) who once went 11 rounds with Sergio Martinez. James DeGale came over just as I was leaving.

The set up is absolutely ‘spot on’. The lads who own it looked after me really, really well. I was put up in a top, top apartment and lived like a king. Everything you need is there. There’s strength and conditioning coaches and top restaurants where you give the chefs your diet and they sort you out. I really wish something similar had been available when I was starting out my career ten years ago.

And I’ve felt fantastic. I’m more mature physically now. I had to learn the hard way but I’ve got there and I’m finally in the best shape I’ve ever been. Hopefully it’ll all pay off on Saturday night.

Champion Martin Gethin has a frighteningly high work rate. What’s your assessment of him? Have you fought anyone similar before?

I respect every opponent and Martin’s a great champion. I’ve been studying tapes so I know exactly what he’s coming with. I’ve fought plenty similar. I actually stopped his brother Stephen in my third pro fight so I know that Martin comes from a fighting family and will no doubt be after his revenge. Neither of us takes a backward step so it’s sure to be a great fight for the fans.

But Gethin currently has something that rightfully belongs to me. I’ve promised that Lonsdale Belt to my boy and I won’t let him down. If I have to get up off the floor to win it, no problem. I’ve done it before.

Like me, Martin has fallen short when he’s stepped up a level. He more or less gave in, in his world eliminator with the Panamanian (Ammeth Diaz) last time, and I intend to make him quit again on Saturday.

What gives you the edge?

My huge advantage in experience. Also, I expect the crowd to play a massive part. I’ve heard the Olympia is already sold out. I’ve shifted over 300 tickets myself.

I’ve got a clear edge in power but I don’t care whether I win by stoppage, as long as I win. Martin’s been saying I’m just a banger but you don’t win as many national amateur titles as I did if you haven’t got good boxing skills. I can box just as well as I can punch and if he believes different he’s in for a big shock.

If I have to hit and move all night and go to points, that’ll do me as long as I get my hand raised.