Thomas Stalker Interview
Liverpool light-welter Thomas Stalker is one of the most decorated amateur boxing that England has ever produced and is now aiming to replicate his success in the pros under new promoter Frank Warren.
The Scouse southpaw who skippered the 2012 British Olympic squad was already 28 by the time he sacrificed his singlet and head guard last February. However, in 2013 he romped to five pro wins (including two first round stoppages) before signing with Warren earlier this month.
And the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist – who also scaled the podium at the 2011 World Seniors and two European Championships – can expect to be kept beaverishly busy in 2014.
The 29-year-old is already scheduled to feature in a six rounder on the mammoth Copper Box bill on February 15th, before rising to eight round level at Aintree Racecourse in his home city a fortnight after.
Tickets for Stalker’s Queensberry Promotions debut on Saturday 15th February are available Eventim on 0844 249 1000 or online at www.eventim.co.uk
Watch live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.com
Yesterday afternoon boxing writer Glynn Evans tracked him down to chat about his background and boxing career.
Name: Thomas Stalker
Family background: My mum brought up seven kids. I’m second eldest. I’ve four sisters and two younger brothers who both boxed. Our Jamie was a junior ABA champion and Four Nations gold medallist and our Owen won the regionals but never did anything in the nationals. They were both good lads but packed up the boxing a while back.
Today, I live in Huyton with my girlfriend and I’ve got two daughters, aged ten and two.
Trade: I once did a year on the scaffolding but, shortly after, just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I was put on the GB squad in Sheffield and had pretty decent funding. Today, I’m a full time pro.
Nickname: It’s been ‘The Captain’ since the Olympics but I might need to think up a new one now.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? As a teenager, with me brothers, I’d watch guys like Joe Calzaghe. I always enjoyed the boxing and fighting always fascinated me. I was a big fan of Jean Claude Van Dame films, growing up.
Me two younger brothers actually started at the St Aloysius boxing gym before me. As a teenager, I got myself into a lot of trouble robbing cars and stuff. I was never a fighter though. I always got on with everyone. They suggested I go down to try and straighten myself out when I was 18 and I got hooked immediately.
What do you recall of your amateur career? I first boxed out of the St Aloysius gym for about seven years. The coach there was Kenny Willis (ex ABA lightweight champion). Me and both brothers had our first amateur fights on the same night and all three won. I was 19 at the time.
At St Aloysius, I won the National Novices for under ten bouts in my first season and the National Novices for Under 20 bouts in my second year. Third year, in what was about my 15th bout, I lost to Frankie Gavin in the 2007 English ABA final. He was far more experienced but I actually gave him a very good fight.
After the St Aloysius club closed down when I was about 25, I moved to the ‘Solly’ (Salisbury ABC) but I was already established on the GB squad by then. The coaches at the ‘Solly’ were David Burke, Alan Lynch and Jimmy Carroll.
I’d estimate that I had about 75 bouts and probably lost about 15. I never won the ABAs. After Frankie beat me, I only entered one other time and I was beaten in the 2009 final by an Army lad called Martin Stead from Darlington way.
That was a very nervous time for me. Rob McCracken had just started as national coach and the defeat happened a few weeks before I was due to go to the European Championships in Russia. I was worried that, if I couldn’t win the ABAs, no way they’d send me the Europeans but Rob showed faith in me and I rewarded him with a silver medal, beating the world champion (Domenico) Valentino from Italy, then losing to (Russia’s Albert) Selimov (a former European and World amateur champion) in the final.
I doubt that I had 20 domestic bouts. The overwhelming majority were internationals. I made my England debut in a tournament in Calais in late 2006 and drew the Cuban world champion called Yordenis Ugas Hernandez!
He really hurt me to the body but, though he beat me, I boxed really well, showed pure heart and stuck in there. The England coach Mick Gannon clearly saw something in me and recommended me for a GB trial. I impressed, skipped the Development Squad, and got straight onto the main team.
The first gold medal that I won was at the 2007 Commonwealth Feds in Liverpool. In 2008 I won gold at the European Union championships in Poland. Frankie Gavin and Billy Joe Saunders also won golds there. In 2010 I won the Commonwealth Games gold medal in Delhi, India beating Scotland’s Josh Taylor (his future 2012 Olympic squadmate) in the final.
In 2011, I won another silver at the European Seniors in Turkey and a bronze at the World Championships in Azerbaijan. That qualified me for the Olympics and was probably the high spot of my boxing career so far.
I was very proud to captain the Great Britain team at the London Olympics. I entered as the world number one so was very disappointed not to get a medal. I lost by one point to the world number two (Mongolia’s Munkh Erdene Uranchimeg) in the quarter-final.
That was a huge disappointment. At the time I thought it was an absolute robbery and Team GB registered a formal complaint. But, since time has passed and I’ve seen it back a few times on tape, I concede it was a very close bout and the judges saw what they saw on the day. I definitely thought I landed more clean punches.
Had I won, I’d have been the first Englishman to have won medals at the Europeans, Worlds, Commonwealths and Olympics but it wasn’t to be. So close!
I have to say my time in the amateurs were the best days of my life, travelling the world, representing my country with a fantastic set of lads. The quality of the coaching I received was brilliant and I can’t thank Rob McCracken enough, for all he did for me.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? I was offered a job to remain within the GB set-up but I know that I’d always have regretted it if I’d not tried the pros. Though I was 28 when I turned, I knew I had a good seven years left in me.
Tell us about your back up team: I’m managed by Neil Marsh, promoted by Frank Warren and coached by Paul and Mick Stevenson who run the Everton Red Triangle (ABC) in Liverpool. With my girlfriend and two daughters I wanted to stay local. Anyway, why move away when you’ve got two of the best boxing coaches in the country on your doorstep?
Kerry Kayes of CNP helps me out with all my nutrition and a guy called Martin Cullen from Total Fitness in Wigan does my conditioning on Mondays and Fridays; loads of explosive leg and upper body work.
Another fella called Paul O’Donnell from Phoenix Fitness in Liverpool gives me a really intensive cardio vascular work out once a week which involves rope work and rowing, stuff like that.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I vary my running. On Wednesday, I usually do a session at the track and on either Saturday or Sunday I’ll do a mountain run in Moel Famau, north Wales. It takes 45 minutes to get to the top and 29 to get back down. I’ll do two other three mile runs during the week.
I go to the boxing gym from 10am to 12.30, Monday to Friday. A normal routine would start with a ten minute warm up, about six rounds on the pads, three on the heavy bag, three on the floor-to-ceiling ball, then three rounds skipping. After that, it depends on what strength and conditioning work I’ve got planned elsewhere but I’ll probably finish with an ab session and a circuit before stretching out.
Some days, I’ll fit in six rounds of sparring. I’ve two very good light-welters at our gym in Steven Lewis and Nathan Brough but I’ve also been out sparring with the likes of Kell Brook, Matt Hatton and Frankie Gavin.
Sparring is what I most enjoy. I least like cardio-vascular sessions with Paul. They can be horrible.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? Opponents tell me I’m awkward, horrible to box and I know how to win. Though I’m tall, I’m a lot stronger than I look. I’ve a good jab and like to bring opponents onto my right hook.
Since joining the pros, the fans expect something really special every time you box, and they’ve a right to. But facing the negative journeymen types, it’s been very difficult. I know I’ll look far better when I’m put up against better quality opposition who come to win. I’ve stopped both my last two in the first round.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? Experience of fighting eight to 12 rounds. I just need to acquire that level of conditioning.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? As an amateur, I could throw non-stop for three rounds but, for the pros, you have to slow it down. I’m a naturally hyper person. I do everything at 100mph.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? Frankie Gavin was the best thinker, had the best boxing brain. He’s never ‘there’ (to be hit). Strength wise, Kell Brook had the best back hand and was very sharp. It’d be some fight if those two met.
All time favourite fighter: Probably Joe Calzaghe who’s a southpaw like me. He ticks every box as a fighter; high work rate, great chin and, above all, he’s a winner. He was a brilliant all rounder.
All time favourite fight: Domestically, it’d be another southpaw Jamie Moore against Matt Macklin. They fought like it was a matter of life and death and put everything they had on the line.
Which current match would you most like to see made? A unification between light-welter champions Danny Garcia and Ruslan Provodnikov. That would be savage. Garcia wins cos he’s the better fighter. He keeps proving everyone wrong.
What is your routine on fight day? I need to be left on my own so I can get tunnel vision. I turn into a nasty bastard! I’ll usually go for a walk on my own. It’s during the day you’ll have doubts. I’m not especially nice to be around!
Provided my weight is sound, I’ll eat a lot of carbs; pasta, rice, bananas. I might watch a tape of my opponent with my trainers. I’ll focus on staying relaxed and focussed, try to be 100% ready. I’ll make sure that I have a sleep.
In the changing room, I’m pretty calm and always very confident.
Entrance music: For my first few fights, it used to be: ‘The Road is Long’ by The Hollies. But that was a bit slow so I’ve since had dancey music from Ibiza and Avicii.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? I’m in it to be the best that I can be. I’d love to fight for a world title and don’t see why I can’t, provided I live the life. Stuey Hall showed us all what can be achieved through hard work and dedication when he won the world (IBF) bantamweight title recently.
I probably need to get ranked highly, quite quickly but I’ve got good people behind me so I’m sure the opportunities will come.
How do you relax? I used to like football but now it’s just chilling with my girlfriend and daughters. We like to go out for nice food or occasionally take a short break somewhere like Marbella to switch off from life in Liverpool.
Football team: I’m Liverpool but my eldest daughter is Everton. Our Owen turned her. I’ve been invited to matches a few times.
Read: I like the Boxing News. I’ve got half way through Ricky Hatton’s autobiography and half way through Joe Calzaghe’s but I never finish anything!
Music: Elvis Presley is my favourite. I always bung him on if I’m feeling sad!
Films/TV: I like fun, comedy films, though my favourite is probably ‘Gladiator’. On TV, I loved the ‘Breaking Bad’ series plus I watch a lot of boxing on TV, especially BoxNation.
Aspiration in life: Just to get through life being well respected and to have lots of friends. I’d like my kids to be able to have a good life.
Motto: Live for the day! I probably need to change it now and start being a bit more mature and sensible!