Thus far, problematic hands have proved easily the stiffest opponent to Nathan Brough’s ambitions of becoming a champion prizefighter.
In an amateur career that spanned almost 12 years, the 6ft Scouse stylist won a brace of national junior titles, represented England at the 2001 European Junior meet in Yugoslavia, then bagged a fabulous bronze medal at the World Juniors in Cuba a year later.
The former scaffolder vaulted to the professional sphere shortly after copping a red card in the 2007 ABA light-welter final but, in five and a half years, he has been restricted to just ten gigs (all wins) because of his maligned mitts.
Hopefully, the problems have now been rectified but, already 29, the classy light-welter knows there is no time to procrastinate.
Brough takes on Tottenham’s Mark McKray over eight rounds on the undercard of Martin Gethin’s British Lightweight title defence against Derry Mathews this Saturday (10th May) at the Liverpool Olympia.
A few remaining tickets are available Box Office 0151 263 6633 and 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 from 7pm Saturday night on BoxNation, the Channel of Champions (Sky Ch.437 (HD490) and Virgin Ch.546). Join at www.boxnation.com
Name: Nathan Brough
Born: Mill Road Hospital, Everton
Family background: I’m third of four kids; an older brother and sister and a younger brother. My older brother Emerson had 24 amateur bouts and won over 20 and my younger brother Josh who’s still only 23 had one pro fight – which he won – but suffered hand injuries so packed up. Grandad boxed a bit in the army and me dad did some in the merchant navy so it got passed through the family.
I still live in the family home in the Everton area and I’ve a two year old daughter called Nancy.
Trade: I worked as a scaffolder for years but never had a (union) ticket. Now I box full-time. It’s the only thing I’ve ever really done.
Nickname: Never had one.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? The boxing first took hold from watching Naseem Hamed when he was a big TV attraction in the early 90s. He was a name on everyone’s lips, filling the papers with his antics. In school I was a very boisterous kid – not nasty or a bully, just a handful for the teachers – and had my share of ‘tumbles’, like all kids. But I spent a lot of time in the boxing gym from a young age and that burnt up a lot of surplus energy.
What do you recall of your amateur career? I followed my older brother to the Salisbury ABC from the age of about eight or nine. I just messed around for a few years before having my first bout at 11 or 12. I grew up alongside the likes of Derry Mathews, David Price, David Mulholland, Tony Dodson, Tommy Peacock and the Burke brothers, David and Steven. All class lads. Initially I was coached by Tony Challinor but later Franny Smith, who trained ‘Big Pricey’ in the pros, trained me for the World Juniors.
When I was about 18, I left the ‘Solly’ and joined St Aloysius in Huyton where I was looked after by (1983 ABA lightweight champion) Kenny Willis, a proper hard man with some very unorthodox training methods. I really enjoyed my time with him.
At a guess, I had between 130-140 bouts and lost about 20. I beat loads of good kids such as Jamie Cox, Don Broadhurst, Matthew Edmonds from Wales, John Simpson…..
I got to the national schoolboy final twice, winning once, and I also won the National NABCs. I only entered the senior ABAs once, in 2007, but got disqualified in the final against Bradley Saunders. I think I was being rough and boisterous again!
I boxed for England at schoolboy, junior and senior level. I boxed at the 2001 European Juniors in Sarejevo and, in my first fight, broke this Belarussian kid’s jaw. But I lost on a double count back and, though he was unable to continue in the tournament, I wasn’t allowed to take his place.
Then, in 2002, I got a bronze in the World Juniors in Santiago, Cuba. That was probably my amateur highlight. For once, I was free from injury and I put together a good run. I beat lads from Azerbaijan, the US and the Dominican Republic before losing to an Uzbek in the semis.
I boxed at two Olympic qualifiers in 2004. In Poland I lost to Michele Di Rocco who is now the European light-welter champion as a pro. But he should never have beat me, absolute ‘fit up’. Then in Sweden, I lost to a Bulgarian called Boris Georgiev who now goes by the name of Bobby George as a pro. He was exceptional; an Olympic medallist and European amateur champion. He stopped everybody else but only pipped me by about two points. Still, not making the Olympics was heart breaking.
I also lost to a Yank called Karl Dargan in a dual international in Liverpool. He was a good kid, a Pan Am Games gold medallist, and lightening fast. He surprised me with his speed and skill.
I loved the amateurs; travelling up and down the country for fights, going down Crystal Palace with the England squads, and going to exotic places like Cuba and India. I fought in most major European countries.
After missing out on the Olympics, I set my heart on gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. I was on a good run then snapped my tendon up in Scotland. That put my boxing on hold for 18 months. Jamie Cox who I’d beaten, took my place and got the gold medal. That was a regret.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? By the time I’d recovered I was already 23 and Tommy Gilmour approached me. No disrespect to Tommy but I was very naive and didn’t really understand the pro game when I signed for him.
In my seventh fight, I done my hand boxing Michael Frontin at the Liverpool Olympia. I’d injured it in training but had sold a lot of tickets so daren’t pull out. That put me out the game for almost three years.
Tell us about your back up team: Today I’m managed by Neil Marsh and I’ve signed a promotional deal with Queensberry Promotions. I’m now coached by Paul and Mick Stevenson at the Everton Red Triangle gym.
Previously I was coached by Georgie Schofield and Jimmy (Shea) Neary (the ex WBU light-welter champion), then for one fight by Franny Smith.
Paul and Mick’s attention to detail is second to none. They’re both very precise and pick you up on the slightest mistake. Their philosophy is if you can’t do it right, don’t bother doing it!
Once a week I also work with a guy called George Wilson at John Moores University. We do a lot of plyometrics, cardio plus aerobic and anaerobic drills; stuff to improve the fast twitch muscles.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I train at the Everton Red Triangle gym five mornings a week. I run on average six and a half miles on the night, up them Everton hills.
My schedule depends on how far out I am from the fight. Mick or Paul has to wrap my hands because of all the past injuries. I’ll warm up, do a couple of rounds of shadow, then all the old technical drills which seem to have been forgotten about. Then we’ll do the usual pads, bags, circuits and skipping; same as all other boxers up and down the country.
Sometimes on a weekend, all the lads will go swimming to break the monotony. We have races and it gets very competitive.
My favourite part of a session is ending it! My least favourite is skipping. I’ve always been crap at it!
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I can fight in several different styles. If I’ve a ‘bull’ in front of me, I can go back foot, side to side, and take the sting out of them. But I can also use my height and reach to apply educated pressure, cutting off the ring behind my jab. I had plenty of stoppages as an amateur, usually with the right hand and right uppercut. Being so tall and slim, opponents made the mistake of trying to walk through me.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? I need to get the experience of going the eight, ten and 12 round distance. I need to master conserving energy. At the minute, I’ve not done more than six rounds. This year I intend stepping up to championship level. Though I’m 29, I’ve no miles on my clock.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? With the little gloves, even the non punchers hurt! You can really feel the knuckle on your head. Boxing top amateur internationals, you’d fall into a clinch and wait for the ref to call ‘Break’ but the pro journeymen can really rag you about.
Thankfully, early on, I did a lot of sparring with Jimmy Neary and he made me familiar with the pro ways very quickly!
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? I’ve actually sparred Argenis Mendez, the reigning IBF super-featherweight champion and (ex WBU and Commonwealth lightweight king) David Burke, who was a real quality operator.
But I’d probably give it to Geard Ajetovic, a Serb who was based in Liverpool for a while. (As an amateur, Ajetovic, won gold at the European Juniors, silver at the World Juniors, and represented Yugoslavia at the 2000 Sydney Olympics). He never fulfilled his potential because he wasn’t dedicated but, when he was a middleweight, he hit like a heavyweight; had hands like bricks. He had a guard like Winky Wright, great timing and wasted nothing. He was really special.
All time favourite fighter: Johnny Tapia. He defied the odds to become a five time world champion. He clinically died about five times before finally passing away. There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. Diego Corrales is a very close second to Tapia.
All time favourite fight: Gatti-Ward I. The definition of bravery at its highest. No one other than those two could absorb that sort of punishment and still keep fighting back.
Which current match would you most like to see made? Still Floyd Mayweather against Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather wins. He’s already had harder fights than Pacquiao is capable of giving him. He’ll frustrate and school Pacman who rushes in.
What is your routine on fight day? Very laid back. I wake up naturally, no alarms, and then just laze about. I’ve always made weight easily so I’ll probably have some chicken and rice. I might walk into town to stretch me legs and I’ll try not to think about the fight. I won’t start getting my fight head on until my hands are being wrapped. The more relaxed you feel, the more relaxed you fight.
Entrance music: I can never remember what I’ve had. I just tell the DJ to put on whatever they’ve got!
What are your ambitions as a boxer? I definitely want to win a British title by the end of this year, then just keep stepping it up and go as far as I can. Ultimately, I want to earn enough to be able to enjoy a comfortable life after the boxing and earn myself a reputation for having been a good fighter. I’d love it if youngsters looked for me on You Tube in years to come, just as I seek out those I admire today.
How do you relax? I take (daughter) Nancy to the park or woods. Also I like to go shopping or watch tele. I’m crap at all other sports. If it wasn’t for boxing, I’d do nothing.
Football team: I’m a blue (Everton). I always watch on tele and keep track of ‘em.
Read: I like reading True Crime and sports biographies, especially fighters who had a wild side like Johnny Tapia, Herbie Hide, Nigel Benn and Terry Marsh.
Music: Indie and Rock. Stuff like Pink Floyd, ACDC and The Rolling Stones.
Films/TV: I like scary films and films about the 60s like McVicar and Quadrophenia. On TV, I watch sport and the Discovery Channel. I’ve also got a lot of box sets; stuff like Only Fools and Horses, and Auf Wiedersehn Pet.
Aspiration in life: To enjoy life to the full, raise my family the best I can and not leave people celebrating when I die! I want people to say he was an alright fella.
Motto: When confronted by fear, you can either face and run or face and rise!