Interview With British Super Middleweight Champion Tony Dodson

07.01.04 - By Elliot Worsell: All good things come to those who wait, and for the newly crowned British super middleweight champion Tony Dodson 16-3-1 (10 KOís); a truer word could not be spoken. 23-year-old Liverpudlian Dodson, who defeated Kilmarnockís Alan Foster in 11 punishing rounds last November for his recently acquired title, has had to go through his fair share of ups and downs en route to claiming the most coveted prize in British boxing.

Dodsonís colourful ring career reads like a John Travolta movie roll call.

Upset loss to modest Eastern European Varuzhan Davtyan (avenged last September), career-changing performance against respected US warhorse Brian Barbosa, disappointing back-to-back defeats to Albert Rybacki and Pierre Moreno under unfortunate circumstances, and last time out the peak of the trough, the aforementioned title triumph Ö Dodson has experienced more ups and downs than Peter Stringfellow on a night out, and is all the better for it. Rather than questioning himself following disappointing defeats, Dodson has proved his mettle and steely attitude by coming back stronger each time from the predicaments.

Now though, for the first time in the talented scouserís career, he is a man in demand. For years the invisible man of the 168 lb domestic division, now, with a prestigious Lonsdale belt wrapped round his waist, heís on everyoneís radar, most notably, Nottingham prospect and English champion Carl ĎThe Cobraí Froch.

I caught up with the proud champion to discuss all matters ranging from Froch, Sky TV, British titles and amateur set-ups to his mum doing his washing and a bloodied and battered Sylvester Stallone being the inspiration for him to take on the noble art as a bleary eyed 6 year old.

EW. Tony, whatís the latest on the Carl Froch title defence?

TD. To tell you the truth I havenít heard a thing off my people. Iíve received a letter off the BBBC saying heís the mandatory challenger and Iíve got to defend against him by March, but thatís as far as itís gone. Now of course, Iíll defend against anybody who I get told to defend against when I get told by my people. Until I find out off them I donít know who Iím fighting. As soon as they let me know I can let you know, I donít think itís as close as everybody thinks though. If it was going to happen as soon as Frochís making out, I would have known by now. After all, Iím the champion and I should know before him.

And at the end of the day Iím not going to hang around waiting for the two silly camps to work things out. Iím only 23; Iíve got the time on my side, so thereís no rush.

EW. Is the Sky/BBC TV factor a stumbling block? Would you be prepared to fight on the BBC?

TD. I donít really believe it will be. The problem will be Barry Hearn and obviously the BBC coming to an agreement between them, and that might take a while. But I really, really believe, I donít know how much Barry Hearnís gonna put up or whatever, but I believe the BBC have a hell of a lot of money and they are putting it behind Carl. Which in the long run is probably better for me as Iíll make more money. And if the BBC do win the right to promote the fight Iíll have no problem whatsoever fighting on the BBC. Iíll fight him in Nottingham if he wants. Iíll fight him in his lions den and it will make it all the more better for me. I see it just like what Michael Gomez did to Alex Arthur. Iíve been all around the world the same as Carl and heíll tell you himself that it doesnít matter where it is, or whoever your fighting, you just blank it all out.

Itís weird though cosí I went out at Goodison Park the other week with my British title, and there was 40,000 people there. Now, usually when I go and fight in front of the crowd I fight in front of, like 2 or 3 thousand, I totally blank them out and donít feel a thing. But when I went on the pitch at Goodison I suddenly got nervous. I was more nervous walking onto a football pitch than when I get in the ring and fight.

EW. How do you rate Froch?

TD. Heís an excellent prospect. Iím not gonna take nothing away from him, just because heís been slagging me off or saying Iím an easy fight or whatever, let him do that, it makes it all the better for me when I beat him. I do accept however that he is the best boxer in the division, prospect wise, and heís experienced and talented, he deserves credit for what heís done.

EW. What do you believe you have to do to beat a guy like Froch?

TD. Iím not gonna say Iíll do this or do that, Iíll do whatever it takes to win when I get in the ring. With a fighter like Carl Froch thereís no strategy, thereís no obvious way to beat him, you just do what needs to be done. Thatís why sometimes when I box and havenít shined, Iíve still been able to pull it out and do whatís needed to get the win.

Every fighter has weaknesses, and you see Froch in one fight and heíll look untouchable, but then the next fight he gets caught a few times. Heís probably like me in that respect; every time he gets in the ring heís different. I havenít seen any specific weaknesses yet, but Iím sure when I am in the ring with him, Iíll start to find out about them.

I donít even judge people from watching videos to be honest. Because, for example Froch may not make the same mistakes he made against Alan Page in his last fight, so it would be stupid to just rely on a video to set up a game plan. For my last fight with Alan Foster, I got a video of him, put it on for a second and then didnít watch it, same as I did with Jon Penn, same as I done with Barbosa. You canít work out how to beat a fighter just by watching videos.

EW. When would you ideally like to fight next?

TD. To tell you the truth Iíve waited a long, long time to get where I am now. Iíve paid my dues, had 20 fights now, and even though Iím only 23 I want to earn a bit of money out of the belts. Ideally Iíd like to get a voluntary defence in first against whoever I choose to fight, and then fight Carl Froch when itís worth more money to the pair of us. To be honest it would have been nice if Carl had brought something to the table, like a commonwealth belt or a European belt, then there would be more incentive and money for the both of us. Thereís no denying it, the fightís gonna happen, the only question is when and where. Iím not gonna avoid him, I canít wait to get in the ring with him!

EW. Even though you are now British champion, do you hope at some time to overturn the defeats to foreigners Moreno and Rybacki?

TD. They were on the table, and I wanted those fights before I boxed for the British title. Iíve got 3 defeats on my record, Iíve avenged one of them, and would love to avenge the other two. Moreno, he only beat me on a cut. I pounded him for every round, was seven points clear when the fight was stopped. Rybacki, I pounded him, he only beat me on a body shot. He hit me with a body shot that winded me, it never hurt me though. I was 4 points clear going into the last round and he just hit me with one of those shots that I wasnít expecting, and it winded me. I got my breath back, and my pride and inexperience took over, and I tried to slug it out with him. Instead of just bouncing away and using my boxing ability, I got involved. You see in most of my fights I love a scrap, and he just caught me off guards. Even his manager Krzysztof, the fella that works for Barry Hearn, said to me it shouldnít have been stopped and that I should have been given the benefit of the doubt as I was the champion and well ahead on the cards. There was ten seconds on the clock before the end of the round and I wished theyíd have given me the benefit of the doubt, but itís just one of those things, and it goes to show Iíve had some tough early fights in my career. The guy was 12 fights unbeaten, 7 knockouts, he was a decent fighter, and I pounded him for 7, 8 rounds before getting tired due to old stamina problems I had. As I showed against Foster, I donít have those stamina problems anymore and am more confident going into the late rounds of fights.

EW. How does it feel to be British champion?

TD. Really, it doesnít bother me; itís just like another day at the office. I donít feel any different now than when I won my first national title in 1993. Every fight is just a fight to me, nothing more, nothing less. I treat all my fights the same, whether itís a title fight or just a normal no title fight. I just give them all 110%.

I donít feel any added pressure now Iíve won the British title. I feel like I want to go and earn some dough now. After all these years of hard work Iím finally getting some reward. Iíve been boxing since I was 6 years old, first went in the gym in 1986, when ĎRocky 4í came out in the cinema. My Dad took me to the pictures to see it and that was it, I was hooked.

EW. How did you view your British title winning fight with Alan Foster?

TD. I did what I needed to do to win. In the early rounds I could feel he was physically strong and I knew he was just trying to hit me with the bingo shot. I wasnít going to allow him to, and give him room to get the leads off to catch me. He could hit a lot harder than his record suggests, and although he didnít hurt me at all throughout the whole fight, I could feel he had some power. I just didnít want to make any mistakes, because anyone over 12 stone catches you on the chin in the right place, I donít care who you are, youíll go out. Iím not a bigheaded person who says Ďyou canít hurt me, you canít punch, youíve only got 2 knockouts on your recordí; Iím not like that. Iím a realist and know if someone hits me right, Iíll go. Anybody will, and anybody who says otherwise is lying.

So I came back after the 9th round, John Rice lost his rag with me, slapped me and told me to get my act together. I told him I know what Iím doing, and went out for the 10th, put a bit of pressure on him, and just before the 11th John said ĎTony, Heís absolutely goneí. So I went out in the 11th and let one meaningful cluster of punches go, the first real meaningful combination I threw in the fight, the first time I put real authority behind my shots, and he went. It was a good little finish in the end.

EW. Are you frustrated at not being given deserved exposure last time out by Sky TV?

TD. No I wasnít to tell you the truth. The ten rounds before youíve seen the finish in the 11th, werenít that good to watch. As I say, I done what I had to do on my big night, and the main thing was winning and getting the belt. With Sky showing just little highlights people got to see an excellent finish and would be thinking Ďoh this kids goodí, but they didnít have to watch the 10 boring rounds that went before it!

EW. Where do you hope to take your career from now? What are your ambitions as a fighter?

TD. Win the British title outright. When I first turned pro, obviously my ambition was the same as everyone elseís, to be world champion, but the least I said to everyone was that I would be British champion. That was the least Iíd hope to achieve in the game, and Iíve achieved that now. From here I want to win the title outright and maybe box for a world title.

Donít get me wrong though, if an opportunity for another title shot comes along, no matter what the title is, if it can make me money and make me a living, Iíll go for it. Iíve still got a hell of a lot of learning to do. I only had 38 fights as an amateur, and I won 7 national titles and a junior Olympic gold medal! I donít think anybody could ever equal that given the amount of fights I had. Me, David Barnes, Ricky Hatton, and Mathew Burke all went to Russia to box in 1995 and these guys all had upwards of a hundred amateur fights.

EW. You are 23 years of age, 3 years younger than your next possible opponent (Froch); do you still view yourself as a prospect?

TD. Most definitely, Iím not even going to come to my physical peak until Iím Frochís age. Iím a big strong super middleweight now, imagine what Iím gonna be like when Iím 26,27! I think Iíll be like the Johnny Nelsonís of this world; I wonít come into my peak until I hit my late 20ís. Like me, he had a lot of early setbacks, but heís one of the best cruiserweights in the world now. Itís all a learning curve, and setbacks are all part of the learning.

EW. What have you learnt from the 3 defeats you have suffered? Have they made you a stronger fighter in the long run?

TD. Theyíve made me open my eyes to what to do and what not to do in terms of training and in the ring. Iíve learnt the hard way; I havenít really been a protected fighter have I? I havenít been wrapped in cotton wool like some of these prospects; Iíve taken any fight thatís been offered. I had to fight Elvis Michailenko in my 8th fight, and he didnít even weigh in for it. I weighed 12 stone 2lbs on the weigh in day and he didnít weigh in. Have you seen the size of that guy? Heís massive, a big light heavyweight. I had to give all that away and being 21 years of age I hadnít even began physically maturing at that point. He put me down first round. He butted me too! He hit me with the right hand, and as I was falling he cracked me with his head. So I didnít feel the shot when I got up, I felt the headbutt. I jumped up fuming, saying to the referee Ďhe f****** butted meí, and to be honest, Iím glad he did that, because it wound me up and I thought, he isnít getting away with that, so I went at him in the next few rounds. So basically I was standing there toe to toe with a guy who is a natural 13 stone guy.

EW. You had a very successful amateur career, yet decided to turn pro very early, what was the reason for this decision?

TD. Because I never got sent the entry form for the world championships. I had won the junior Olympics, Iíd won 7 national titles, Iíd boxed for England loads of times, and that was the biggest tournament for me to enter. No one had won a gold medal for years and I think I was the best bet at the time to do so, but they forgot to send my entry form and it really, really p****d me off.

I just believe the England set-up is the biggest downfall of amateur boxing, honest to god, itís a joke. Itís an absolute joke, and Iíd tell Ian Irwin that to his face. They have you down there in Crystal Palace training 8, 9 times a day, and thatís not good to anyone. Thatís pathetic. And the way they have you trying to throw these textbook style hooks and straight punches it doesnít benefit no one. With fighters you have to look at their style and their natural way of boxing and try and improve what they already have. They donít do that though, they stick to the book and try and get everyone doing the same things. Thatís why the Americans have always done so well because the amateurs train with the pros and adjust better. Iíve trained with the pros since I was 11.

EW. In hindsight was it the right choice to turn pro so early?

TD. Yeah, Iíve enjoyed what Iíve been doing as a pro. I reckon I should have maybe waited for the Olympics, but I still made the decision to turn pro and Iím very happy with the way my career is going at the moment. Apart from the defeats, where I was going through a lot of personal problems outside the ring and tried to blank them out by fighting. Even though I was saying I was alright, looking back, I wasnít in the right frame of mind to be involved in the fights I was taking part in.

EW. How much of an important role do your family play in your boxing career?

TD. Oh Unbelievable. Itís all down to my girlfriend Danielle and my Dad, who is just unbelievable; heís the reason why I am where I am today. Without my father I donít want to think where Iíd be or what Iíd be doing. He comes to the gym everyday with me, is always there to support and give me advice. In boxing fathers can either be a blessing or they can work against you, and I can honestly say my Dadís a huge asset. If it wasnít for him I wouldnít be where I am today, and Iíve got him to thank for that. My mum is great too; she does all the washing for me!

Iíd like to thank Tony Dodson for agreeing to the interview and wish him continued success in the future.

Article posted on 07.01.2004

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