Rotherham star Neil Dawson takes on Chris Keane this Friday night at the Walsall Town Hall with the WBO International Cruiserweight title on the line.
Glyn Evans speaks to Dawson ahead of the big fight that features as chief support to Martin Gethin’s IBF World Lightweight Title Eliminator against Ammeth Diaz, live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.com
Name: Neil Dawson
Family background: I’ve a brother who’s two years older. I live with my missus Katie in Thorpe Hesley, a beautiful little spot in the Yorkshire countryside. We’ve two kids; a little boy Zach who’s five and a daughter Freya who’s three.
My dad Gary was a good amateur. He had fifty to sixty amateur bouts at middleweight-cum-light-heavy and people around these parts still talk about his fights. I think he boxed for the England squads a few times.
Trade: I’m a joiner by trade but it’s absolutely dire at the minute. The money’s nowhere near what it were.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? From about the age of four I’ve been going to the boxing gym with my dad. I’d train alongside him for a few years.
What do you recall of your amateur career? Around the age of 14, I started up again off my own back, just to keep off the streets. I’d been getting up to mischief and it was the best thing for me.
I joined the Parsons Cross ABC in Sheffield. Bob, who ran the club, was a family friend and my dad started to train me.
I had my first fight at 15 and, all told, I had 20 bouts and won 17. I knocked quite a few out. When I were in my late teens I twice got to the semis of the National Novices but lost both times.
Because of work commitments my amateur career was always on and off. It was hard to spend 100% at it. I never entered the senior ABAs but I boxed against Canada and Holland for representative sides over in Jersey.
The downside to the amateurs was that being the biggest lad, I was always on last and that meant having to hang around for about six hours after weighing –in.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? I couldn’t get hardly any sparring. Then, when I was 22, a fella called Andy Manning arranged for me to go over and spar (British and Commonwealth cruiserweight king) Mark Hobson. Even back then, I sensed I wasn’t that far off ‘Hobbo’s level.
Whilst over there, ‘Hobbo’s’ manager Chris Aston offered me to go pro. He made it sound like a good idea. It turned out good. I made my debut at Elland Road and they paid me a great big wad of cash!
Tell us about your back up team: I’m now managed by (ex pro) Carl Greaves and I’ve a good promotional deal with Chris and Tommy Gilmour from Glasgow.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I basically train myself. I’ve been training for years so I know what it takes to get myself fit. Why pay some trainer 10% of your money? I’ve been let down by so many. Now I have to prove ‘em all wrong.
I arrange my own sparring and someone to hold the pads. I’ve used every boxing gym in Sheffield but now use a new place called ‘Fit for It’ which is just a couple of miles from my house.
It’s run by Ross Blackwell, an ex pro. It’s got a ring, massive bags and weights facilities and they’ve kindly provided me with a little bit of sponsorship. They also help with my strength training and provide nutritional advice which is helpful because I’m usually a bit light for a cruiserweight.
I’ve always got a decent level of basic fitness and conditioning and I seldom put on any weight. For a big fight, ideally, I like to give myself eight weeks.
I only do one run, on the weekend, because I had a bad back. Recently, I’ve replaced the long runs with sprints. They get my heart rate higher and the bad back has gone. I’ll do ten reps of about 150-200 metres and I always time myself.
I do my strength and conditioning at ‘Fit for It’ in the mornings. I do a weight circuit and some dead lifts. The personal trainers help out and it’s going really well.
Then, after work, I spend another hour and a half at the gym. I warm up by skipping for four or five rounds, then do about eight on the bags. I’ll shadow box with weights for a while and always include a circuit and some ab work. I usually spar twice a week. Though I don’t have a coach, I really train quite hard and I’m always in condition. I know in my mind what I can do.
I enjoy all aspects of training. Whenever I don’t train, I feel bad about myself. The worst bits are following a nutrition program when I’m working and having to travel to get decent sparring. I’m usually in the car for at least an hour each way.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? Basically, I’m just a brawler! Ever since I was an amateur I’ve enjoyed a good ‘tear up’. I’m definitely not a jab and mover. I like to see who hits harder, who’s the better man.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? It’s more a case of sorting myself out financially so that I could boxing full time. I have to do a day’s work and I’ve two children to look after. Quite a few of the top lads don’t work. That must certainly help with nutrition and rest.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? Definitely the length of the fights. I used to go in with the intention of knocking ‘em out but against Matty Askin I got stopped at the end of the sixth. It’s now in my mind that I’ve got to go 10 or 12 rounds so I need to pace myself.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? I’ve sparred quite a lot of decent guys but I’d probably opt for (ex IBF world light-heavy king) Clinton Woods. He was a very good all rounder; competent in every aspect, without being brilliant in any. He was also a right nice fella.
All time favourite fighter: It’s got to be Ali. I used to watch all his videos as a kid. He’s been a big inspiration to me.
All time favourite fight: Ali v Foreman. It was a mega event and a big story in history.
What is your routine on fight day? I carry on as normal; chill out a bit. I might watch a bit of footage of my opponent. The day that I stopped Tony Conquest I went up in a big cable car by the Millennium Dome.
Carl Greaves is good to be around. I like him and we’re generally pretty calm. I know that if I’ve done the proper training, I’m a handful for any cruiserweight in Britain.
Entrance music: Whatever they put in. My mind’s always focussed on the boxing
What are your ambitions as a boxer? Since I turned pro, I’ve wanted to box for, and win, the British title. From sparring Mark Hobson, I knew that in time I could certainly get to his level.
How do you relax? With my kids; swimming, bowling. I’ve also got a big garden that needs tending and I enjoy a game of golf every now and then but I’m not very good.
Football team: Rotherham United. They’ve been to their massive new stadium as a guest. I got a free meal and was introduced on to the pitch with my (WBO International) belt.
Read: Not much. I used to get the Boxing News most weeks but stopped because they never gave me a fair shake!
Music: I used to be bad into rap!
Films/TV: Occasionally I watch the crime or comedy channels and I tune into BoxNation but generally don’t have time for much tele.
Aspiration in life: To have a nice family and house, a beautiful missus and to meet nice people. By the time I’m done I would like to have won a British title.
Motto: Train hard, box easy