Frank Warren’s end of year extravaganza features a staggering SIX title fights: World Boxing Organization (WBO) World Lightweight Champion Ricky Burns defends his title against Jose Ocampo, George Groves defends his Commonwealth Super-Middleweight title against Glen Johnson in the chief support; plus Commonwealth Middleweight Champion Billy Joe Saunders defends his title against Nick Blackwell with the vacant British title also on the line; unbeaten Bradley Skeete challenges Southern Area Welterweight Champion Chas Symonds for his title and WBO International Cruiserweight Champion Tony Conquest defends against Neil Dawson.
Watch the whole ‘Three Kings’ bill live and exclusive in the UK on BoxNation, Channel of Champions, Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546. Join at www.boxnation.com
Remaining tickets, priced from £40, are available at www.eventim.co.uk or by calling 0844 2491000.
Name: Nick Blackwell
Family background: I’m one of four. I’ve an older brother who’s the brainy one, a computer geek, a younger brother Dan, who’s also a professional boxer and a younger sister. I live in the town of Trowbridge in the Wiltshire countryside, surrounded by farms. Sometimes I go to the big cities to spar but can’t wait to get back home. I’m a country boy.
Trade: I work in a pawnbrokers
Nickname: ‘Bang Bang’
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? I’d always been fascinated and wanted to get into it as a little nipper, about eight or nine but my mum would never allow it. For some reason, I always seemed to get myself involved in fights on the street or school yard and I grew to love the adrenalin rush. Me and our Dan were always scrapping.
When my parents split up I went to live with my dad. A new unlicensed boxing club called Ringside started up in the area, so I went along, just for a bit of fitness and self-defence. I used to drink and smoke but once I got into the boxing, I stopped all that. I was just 17 but was soon ‘cock’ among those training so they arranged some fights for me.
What do you recall of your ‘unlicensed’ career? I had 18 fights and won ‘em all, 16 by stoppage. Most were in Trowbridge or Swindon, West Country jobs. The money was shocking, perhaps £250 a fight and I never fought anyone lighter than me. Sometimes I’d concede stones. I hear it’s a bit better regulated now.
I had two fights in my first night. First was against a kid half a stone heavier than me, second was against a soldier 2 ½ stone heavier than me. I stopped ‘em both in the second round.
There were quite a few travellers involved. Unlike most of ‘em on that scene, my fitness was always at a very high level. I’d just keep throwing until I overwhelmed ‘em. Initially, most I fought were just scrappers but, as I became better known, the standard improved and I faced a few ex amateurs who couldn’t get licensed as pros.
The highlight was probably against another massive squaddie who looked like he was on steroids and had loads of tattoos. Everyone, everyone, assumed I’d get battered but I weathered his storm, broke his jaw and bust his eye socket. He ended up in hospital for a couple of days!
It was a right good crack. Every Saturday and Sunday they’d cram about 350 into this little snooker hall in Trowbridge and we’d ‘have it off’. I started to get a fantastic following and they’re the bulk who follow me as a pro today.
I’d probably have done amateur boxing if I knew what it was but there weren’t really any gyms close by. I’d not change the (unlicensed) experience though. It happened for a reason.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? I was asked up to Errol Johnson’s gym in Wednesbury to spar some of his pros who’d been good amateurs. We had wars but I think Errol liked my heart. Though their skill level was far higher than mine, I had a good workrate and wasn’t afraid to swing my shots.
I had no head movement back then but always felt fitter and tried to wear ‘em down. I’d train every spare minute I had at the unlicensed club, taking classes and running the big hills back in Wiltshire. I was training like a pro even when I was just a kid so, when I was 18, thought I might as well give the pros a go.
Tell us about your back up team: I’m managed by PJ Rowson but don’t have a promotional deal at the minute. I’m trained by Mark Kent, an ex amateur heavyweight who’s quick as you like, at The Contender gym in Trowbridge. Mark’s been there for me from day one, like a second dad. He’s on my case 100%.
I also use a strength and conditioning coach called Tom Croddington from Body Development in Bath, three times a week. Carl Frampton also uses him. He’s spot on.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I get up at 5.30 a.m and train with a few mates. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I go for sprints, Tuesdays and Thursdays I have a steady three to four mile jog with a mate pedalling alongside me.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings I use the boxing gym. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning, I use Tom’s.
At the boxing gym, I’ll do 15-18 rounds of pads and bags, all at a high workrate. Lately, I’ve been having 15 round spars with seven different sparring partners. Sparring’s what I like best, it’s closest to a fight, but I enjoy everything. The bags and footwork drills get boring at times but you need to do ‘em.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? If people just judge me on my loss to Martin Murray, they’re in for a shock. I like to come forward and can dig a bit but I can box as well as fight. My workrate is always high and I’m fast. I doubt Billy Joe will ever have faced anyone as quick as me.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? I just need experience, need to get some rounds in.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and unlicensed codes? Both have 10 ounce gloves and no head guards but the quality is a lot, lot higher in the professionals. The fighters are far better schooled. Also, you get to fight people who weigh the same as you and the shows are put together more professionally.
In June 2011, aged just 20 and competing in only your ninth fight, you challenged Martin Murray for the vacant British title but retired on your stool after five rounds. What went wrong that night?
I was just too inexperienced. Training was going perfect and I was doing really well in sparring with Paul Smith then, with two weeks to go, the rascal caught me with a body shot that broke my ribs.
I was in no state to fight but didn’t want to let all the fans down. I knew in the changing rooms that I shouldn’t have been going in there. It was always a lost cause. On top of that, I weighed in too light (156lbs) just above light-middle.
I also have to say, Martin was a very good fighter; big, strong and clever. He got his weight spot on. I don’t know if he was tipped off about the injury but he constantly jabbed my body and I’ve not seen him do that before.
But I learnt loads through the painful experience and now I know what to expect. I’m no longer scared to lose.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? Martin Murray probably. He was good at everything. I’ve also sparred Matthew Macklin who’s very strong and tries to take you out with every shot. They’re different but there’s not much between them.
You’ll enter as a big outsider to upset Billy Joe Saunders when you challenge him for the British title on December 15th. What’s your assessment of him and what makes you think you can spring an upset?
I’ve watched a lot of him and always thought he was the best one out of Britain’s 2008 Olympians. He’s a fit, awkward southpaw with a high work rate himself but he’s already talking past me.
Though he looked very good stopping Tony Hill and Jarrod Fletcher early he tends to slow down and get a bit lazy when he’s taken a few rounds. If I can take his lead hand off him, I’m in with a chance because his back hand is always injured. Every time he throws two at me, I have to make sure I throw four back at him.
All time favourite fighter: As a nipper it was Roy Jones Jnr. Quality. Speed, power, slick showboating. Nice to watch.
All time favourite fight: Hagler- Hearns. Flat out war! That’s how I love my fights. Last man standing!
Which current match would you most like to see made? As it appears Mayweather-Pacquiao won’t happen, I’d like to see a match between any of the top three British middleweights; Darren Barker the boxer, Matt Macklin the puncher and Martin Murray the all rounder.
What is your routine on fight day? I’m always up very early then I’ll have some breakfast, go for a light run then take a power nap. I like to do something with my mates. I went the cinema before the Murray fight so shan’t do that again. Bad luck! But I can’t sit around about thinking about the fight. I have to be active, out and about. I might do a bit of shopping around the town.
When I get to the changing rooms at the venue, I need at least 40 minutes to warm up and might even do a bit of light sparring! I do get nerves but the more I get, the better I fight. For Billy Joe, I’m nervous already!
Entrance music: Last time it was a ‘Bang Bang!’ re-mix by Nancy Sinatra.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? Above all, to get respect off people. It’s my livelihood but titles motivate me as much as the money. That said, I’d like to make enough to get into property. I’d love to win the Lonsdale Belt outright and this is my second chance.
How do you relax? I like to go running, then sit down in a field or the dug out of the local football club! I also like my fishing.
Football team: It was Man United but I don’t really follow it so much now unless England are playing. I’m a bit of a patriot!
Read: Boxing News. That’s about it.
Music: I’m a bit soft when it comes to music. I like ‘chilled out’ stuff. I can train to a bit of Celine Dion!
Films/TV: I like the action films. I saw the new James Bond film recently (Sky fall). That was quality. On TV, believe it or not, I like the documentaries; Pawn Star, Storage Wars, Gold Rush….
Aspiration in life: To be able to look back knowing I did everything I wanted to do and to never have money worries. In time, I’d love to have a family.
Motto: Train Hard. Fight Easy
Lee Haskins v Stephane Jamoye, Fri 14th Dec
ESPN will broadcast live and exclusive coverage as the European Boxing Union (EBU) Bantamweight title goes on the line and Britain’s Lee Haskins defends his belt against Belgian challenger Stephane Jamoye. The fight, which takes place in Herstal, Belgium, will be Bristolian Haskins’ first defence of his title after defeating fellow Brit Stuart Hall to secure the vacant championship in July this year. Haskins boasts a 22-2 record, with 10 of his fights coming via knockout – he gives up an inch in height to Jamoye, who is also six years younger at 23 years old. Despite his youth, Jamoye has a similar fight record to Haskins: 23 wins and just three losses, with 13 knockouts. The bout adds to ESPN’s exclusive coverage of the British Lionhearts’ fights in the World Series of Boxing.