Walsall’s Martin Gethin might have tumbled at the final hurdle in his quest to challenge for a world title but the fire still burns in his belly to prove he is the best 135lb fighter on these shores.
After a year’s hiatus, the reigning British champion makes the opening defence of his reign this weekend when he travels up to The Liverpool Olympia to meet local hero Derry Mathews in what promises to be a barnstormer.
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
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‘The Quiet Man’ was in a relaxed and confident mood when boxing writer Glynn Evans called him to discuss the fight.
At what stage of your IBF final eliminator with Ammeth Diaz did you realise that things weren’t going your way? How good was the Panamanian?
I bust a knuckle on the pads warming up. Then it went completely in one of the early rounds. I was going good at the start and felt I was getting on top in the fourth but, after I’d forced him back to the ropes, he swung a right hook that landed to the back of my ear.
It was the weirdest feeling of my life – a numbing pain – and after that I lost my game plan. I decided to have a little dance about to see if the sensation would fade away but it didn’t. My balance was gone and I started to think: ‘What’s the point of taking a beating? You ain’t going to win.’
Ammeth punched really hard but wasn’t hurting me. I just couldn’t focus because of the ear. But he was a good fighter who stopped Ray Beltran, the Mexican who beat Ricky Burns and never got the decision. He’s fought at top class and only the very best have stopped him.
You’d helped revive Big Time boxing in The Black Country. How long did it take you to get over the disappointment of falling short of a world title shot at the final hurdle?
Not long. I won’t hold my head down. A few years ago not many thought I’d even get to British level so to fight in a final eliminator for the world title was a good achievement. And I thought I did pretty well. Lots said after that it was a pretty even fight up until the last round.
If you had your chance again, would you do anything differently?
Not really, no. Everything went okay for me in the build-up. I made weight good and felt really strong. It was just a step up in class. I did my best but maybe it was a step too far.
You’ve been out for a year since. What have you been up to?
The missus gave birth to a little girl Kadi so I’ve been enjoying a bit of time with her and the family. The start of last year was a bit of a rush with the title fights against Carl Johanneson, Ben Murphy and Diaz coming so soon after each other. It was all a bit of a rush so the time out has been good for me. I feel fresh again.
Though I couldn’t spar for a while because of the ear, I’ve always been one to keep myself fit. I’ve been training clients as a personal trainer and I’ve been going to the gym and doing all me runs.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of sparring with Anthony Crolla up at the Khan gym in Bolton. That was great prep for both of us. If we met for real it’d be a good fight. It could happen.
The defeat to Diaz must have forced you to re-assess your goals.
Yeah, of course. Starting out as a pro it was always my goal to be involved in a British title fight and when I fought for it and won it, things just happened so quickly for me. All of a sudden, I’m in a world final eliminator.
Things didn’t work out there and now I’m after winning the Lonsdale Belt outright. That’d be a fantastic thing to show off to my kids as they got older and able to appreciate it more. Lately, I’ve grown up a lot as a fighter. I’m hitting my peak physically and I’m starting to understand things far better. I finally feel I’m a ripe apple.
Trouble is, there’s so many good fighters at lightweight domestically and if you beat one of them, suddenly you can get offered another big fight at European or world level. And you just can’t turn ‘em down. If I beat Derry, a European title shot could pop up. If I won that, who knows?
Challenger Derry Mathews is a proven championship grade fighter and he’ll enter as a marginal favourite with the bookmakers. What qualities do you specifically need to be wary of?
They say that Derry’s a very strong kid and he brings that looping right hook. He also must be a decent technical boxer going by the number of national amateur titles that he won. If I let him use his range, I’ll be asking for trouble.
In his third pro fight, Derry stopped your older brother Stephen in three rounds. Were you at that fight? Have you asked Steve for any pointers?
I can’t really remember if I was at that fight. It certainly doesn’t stick out but then our Steve had so many. I’ve not asked Steve about it. I doubt he could even remember it, it happened so long ago. But this is the return. Gethin revenge (laughs)!
After building up a decent following in the Black Country, you’re having to defend your title up in Liverpool, Mathews territory. Does that make it an even stiffer test?
It’s not going to affect me. From my sixth pro fight until my 19th, I constantly boxed away. I especially remember fighting Nadeem Siddique in Nottingham and he had a very big fan group. I hear Derry’s supporters are very noisy but I’ll not be fazed. I’m always the underdog and I thrive off that.
How do you expect the fight to unfold and what gives you confidence that it’ll be your hand that’s raised when the fighting has finished?
I’m fully expecting a battle and I’m ready for one. All the battles I’ve been in before, against the likes of Siddique, Johanneson and Murphy, I’ve come off better. I’d far rather a battle, than to have to go chasing him.
I didn’t see Derry’s last fight against Stephen Ormond but Ormond has the same style as me. I hear he went after Mathews, gave him no time to think and beat him quite comfortable with those tactics.
It’ll be a good, hard fight, no doubt, but I’ll break Derry down. I’ve got the greater hunger, grit, heart and will to win. Besides, if I lose, they’ll start charging me again to get in at The Saddlers (Walsall FC)!
It’s my belt and I’m going to keep it.