England but it’s yet to produce a single British boxing champion.
But that might all be about to change now that two-time and two-weight English ABA King Simon ‘Sparkly’ Barclay has crashed the pro scene, penning a promotional deal with Queensberry Promotions.
Amateur ambitions extinguished, the 24 year old cruiserweight told boxing writer Glynn Evans that he is now keen to make his mark in Britain’s highly competitive 200lb class.
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Name: Simon Barclay
Born: Kettering General Hospital
Family background: There’s no boxing in my family background. I’ve a sister who’s three years older and I got married in August. We’ve bought a new house in Corby and will be moving in shortly.
Trade: I’m a mechanical engineer at Tata Steel in Corby.
Nickname: ‘Sparkly’ Barclay. When I was about 17, I bought a pair of sequinned shorts before they were fashionable!
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? As a kid I was always shadow boxing around the house and I was always a bit of a wind up merchant when I was in school, even though I was quite short and chubby. Physically, I was a late developer.
I did a bit of kung fu and, once we got Sky, I always watched the boxing fights but my mum and dad refused to let me take it up, as a competitor.
When a new gym started very close by, I persuaded my parents to allow me to go across, just to improve my fitness for rugby. It gradually rolled on from there and I had my first amateur fight when I was 15.
What do you recall of your amateur career? I boxed for the Corby Amateur Boxing Club all the way through. I was coached by John Mulheron who became a very close mate, as well as my trainer. The club’s been through some very hard times, where we’ve struggled to get premises but we’ve always stuck together. John’s fabulous at man-management and always encourages.
I finished the amateurs with 38 wins and 14 losses. Almost all my bouts were in the seniors. I got to the final of the National Novices for under 10 bouts but was beaten by Rob Evans from Banbury. The following year, Rob beat me again in the National Novice final for under 20 bouts but it was a clear robbery. Even Rob admits he thought I won it.
I entered the senior ABAs five times. In 2009, I was beaten in the national semis by Wayne Adenyi from Vauxhall Motors.I got revenge over Wayne in the semis in 2010, when I went on to win the final against Deion Jumah from Dale Youth ABC. It was Deion’s only loss in the amateurs.
I’d studied Deion’s semi final bout and, though he was strong, he was pretty raw; swinging wild hooks. Back then, they had the average scoring system so I just kept a tight guard and landed the cleaner shots. I was 6-2 up going into the last round but, though he came on very strong, it still finished 6-2.
In 2011, I only had two bouts; beating Eli Frankham, then losing on points to Chris Healey a southpaw from Stockport way, who is now a pro. A terrible decision.
In 2012, I won the title at heavyweight outpointing Greg Bridet in the final but in 2013 I lost on a majority to Declan Fusco of South Durham in the quarters.
I boxed for England three times. After winning the ABAs in 2012, I won the Three Nations tournament straight after. That was possibly my amateur highlight, a special weekend. Then I captained England – a huge honour – against Sweden where I lost a majority to a black guy called Gabriel Richards.
I had three assessments for the GB squad up in Sheffield but had a back problem at the time so struggled to run. Lads I’d beat or had dominated in sparring were chosen ahead of me for places on the squad which was disappointing.
Because I didn’t make the GB squad, my opportunities became limited in the amateurs and I’d become bored with the ABAs. Still, no regrets.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? It had been on my mind for a long time but I promised myself I wouldn’t turn until I got an England vest. We then had one last bout on a Corby show which I was winning but then got stopped on a cut against James Collins from Norwich.
Tell us about your back up team: I’m managed by Jason McClory (Queenberry’s matchmaker) who lives quite close to our area and had followed me as an amateur. He showed trust in my ability. I’m promoted by Queensberry Promotions and I’ll be coached by my old amateur trainer John Mulheron and his son John Jnr. I’m the Mulheron’s first pro.
I’ve also been working for a few years with a guy called Micky McKay. I visit him on Wednesdays and he’s one of the most qualified strength and conditioning coaches in the area. He also helps sort out my nutrition. The changes he’s brought have been phenomenal.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? At the moment, I’m just keeping myself fit. I run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at five o’clock before work and also on Sunday evenings. I’ll mix it up, but can go seven or eight miles. We’ve some good local woods plus a beast called Rocky Hill!
In addition to Micky’s on Wednesdays, I’ll train at the Corby ABC gym on Tuesday and Thursday evening plus Sunday morning. I also do a bit of pilates now and then to improve my back and core stability.
At the gym, I’ve a mixed routine. We picked up some good pointers observing, whilst being assessed up at the GB set up in Sheffield.
I’ll have a 15 minute warm-up with dynamic stretching and jogging until I’m loose. Then I’ll shadow box, hit the bags for eight rounds at a good pace and do plenty of pad work, fencing with the jab. We usually focus specifically on one thing per session. I spar local amateurs but for high quality, down the line, we’ll probably have to travel somewhere else. Next, I’ll do some ab work; planks and Russian twists, then finish off with a quick skip and a 20 minute stretch out.
I most enjoy sparring different styles, plus the pads. We work hard but have a lot of banter. I least enjoy running. I’m more of a sprinter. That said, the runs are becoming more bearable as I’m gradually getting better at it.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I’m an all rounder with the tools to adapt to every style. Every time you see me, I’ll box differently. I like to feel opponents out for a round, see what’s landing, then take it from there. I’ll eventually find a way to beat you, hopefully.
I only had two stoppages in the amateurs but I was only boxing quality opponents and I hurt plenty of them. My power is definitely coming on. The left hook and right uppercut are probably my best shots. I’m pretty durable. Only Greg Bridet had me down in the amateurs in the 2012 ABA final but I got up to win.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? All aspects. I need to stay grounded and up my training in every department.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? In the pros you can be a lot more exciting. The amateurs are pre-occupied with shot picking and defence; counting shots and not getting hit. In the pros you can risk letting your hands go. I think the pros will suit me.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? I boxed a Ukrainian called Alexander Triffinov in the 2013 Haringey Box Cup. He beat me unanimously. I possibly edged the first round but he was so strong, so fit, and his range finding was brilliant. He was so hard to keep off. He twice boxed the European, World and Olympic champion, Oleksandr Usyk.
All time favourite fighter: A prime Mike Tyson. Phenomenal. People go on about his ferocity but his foot work and head movement were also exceptional.
All time favourite fight: Joe Calzaghe beating Jeff Lacy. Lacy was a big favourite with a formidable reputation and you just kept waiting for him to come on strong……and waiting, and waiting! Joe never let him settle and took him apart.
What is your routine on fight day? I normally stay over the night before because Corby’s quite isolated and travelling does tire you out. I’ll get up once I wake, check my weight, then I’ll plan my food for the day. I may watch a video of my opponent once, then I’ll just watch normal TV. I’m pretty good at switching off till we get to the arena.
I like to arrive early. I was always on last in the amateurs, so I’d watch some of the boxing to get my head into fighting. I like to give myself plenty of time to warm up and get my head into the zone.
Entrance music: ‘Level’ by Avicii.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? I just hope I can move through the levels. I’d love to be the first from Corby to win a British title. I believe I can go all the way to a world title.
How do you relax? I’m notorious for relaxing in coffee shops. I’m a Latte man but I’ve recently discovered the Cortado! Other than that, watching TV with my wife.
Football team: I’m a lifelong Tottenham fan but just watch them on the box.
Read: Articles on myself (laughs)! I’m not much of a reader. I look at the photos in Boxing News.
Music: Dance Music.
Films/TV: I like comedy films. ‘Lock, Stock…’ and ‘Snatch’ are favourites and I know every word to Cool Runnings!
Aspiration in life: To have a family of my own and provide them with a good upbringing. I always intend to be involved in boxing, perhaps as a trainer or manager.
Motto: Never give up under any circumstances!