“My older brother used to make us fight in the house for his mates to watch. We would go toe to toe fighting. We used to fight all the time, playfights but with gloves on. Then, we went up the boxing gym and that was it. I like fighting, I like the hit, getting hit, not getting hit. I like the fight. If there’s a fight in the street I will be straight over to watch it.
“My first fight, I came out of the ring and I remember all the blokes asking for my autograph. I remember that feeling, like I was something special.
“I’ve not achieved my dream yet – that’s to be world champion. I’m self-critical, always thinking, ‘I could have done more, I’ve got to get better, it’s not good enough.’ It’s a little draining, sometimes, when you think like that, when you always try to be better. You never get to where you want to be because you are always pushing for more. I think if I became world champion I’d then be looking to unionise the belts and become undisputed champion, so it just keeps on going. Maybe you only feel satisfied when you’ve finished your career and look back on what you’ve achieved.
“I want to get paid a million pounds for a fight. That’s the big one. Once I get that I’ll think, ‘I’ve made it now.’ Obviously money is a motivator. You sacrifice your life for it, don’t you? When you’re a kid and you’re doing it for free,
it’s pure love. When you get a bit older, you start thinking, ‘I’d better start making some money out of this.’ I always think that because I want so much I feel like I’ve got nothing. I think that to have a good life you’ve got to make a lot of money. I’m happy with what I’ve got but I wouldn’t be happy if I just had this all my life. I want a lot more.
“Interests apart from sport? Girls, cars and motorbikes, anything like that. Boys’ toys. And I don’t do any sport apart from boxing and running… aside from shagging.
“I don’t like when people lie – like fucking promise you the world and don’t give you nothing. If you’re a good sportsman generally, then you are a good person, ain’t you? So it should give you a voice. If you’re a good sportsperson, you’re a good person, because sports gives you morals, and if you’re committed to something then you have discipline. You know what you want in life when you are doing sports, so it gives you a good drive in the right direction.
“Boxing made me into a better person because it’s made us go down a better route than I probably would have went down. It’s given me better morals, better discipline, and just made me all round a better person to what I would have been if I’d never boxed.”
“Of all the sports that I tried, boxing was the one I was best at. It’s an individual sport too. It wasn’t like in a team – it’s all down to you, all the training is down to you, you’re not relying on anyone else. It’s all on one man.
“Success for me would be becoming world champion – setting myself up for life, so I don’t have to ever work again. I’d like to fight in the MGM Grand, Las Vegas. That’s probably my dream place to fight.
“If I do something, then I want to be the best, but I’ve got to be interested in the thing I’m doing. Football and that, I wasn’t really that bothered about, but boxing, I love boxing, so that’s why I want to be the best, because I love it. I don’t have that kind of passion for anything else, just boxing.
“A winner is someone who is dedicated, someone who is willing to put the work in, willing to sacrifice and someone who is willing to dig deep, someone who’s got
a heart and that’s willing to go into the trenches.
“The best thing I can do is stay in the gym, stay away from everything, stay training, try not to get side-tracked, because in the north-east there’s not really much to do – just everyone going out and partying. I’ve had to move away to get away from all that. Down here there’s no distractions. I’m in Harlow, in Essex. I don’t know anyone, nothing to do, the only thing to do is go to the gym. You’re around boxing people too, so it’s just boxing, boxing, boxing.
“Sport is worldwide. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, you can communicate through sport. You can go all around the world fighting for Great Britain and you can’t speak the same language [as the people you meet] but you get respect off people because of how good you are.
“I couldn’t tell you what I’d be doing if I wasn’t boxing. I tried scaffolding for a bit, I lasted 11 days.”
“When I was seven years old, I wanted to get fit for football. It turned out I was better at boxing than I was at kicking, and my mum was shocked.
“I remember my first session so well because I went with my best mate and he used to give it the big’un saying he was really good. First of all I was a southpaw and they swapped me over to orthodox because I’m right-handed and I threw a one-two, and the coach couldn’t believe that I picked it up as quickly as I did, at the age that I was.
“I love hitting people. It’s fun. I’m not going in there to have a fight with someone. I go in there to move with someone in what could be seen in quite a violent way, but it’s the art of moving this way, to not get hit by that shot, and then let that shot go. It’s about outsmarting someone. That’s definitely my drive. It’s fun, I enjoy it so much.
“I work a lot on my mental health. I go to therapy, meditate, have a look at myself in the mirror and come down to earth. It’s sometimes so easy to get on a high horse and be like, ‘Yeah, I’m so good’ – or the opposite, it’s so easy to beat yourself up. You’ve got to be humble sometimes.
“My dream is to be an Olympian and win a gold medal. I always used to say I was going to go to the Olympics even if it was for ballet.
“Success would be for me to change the way women are perceived in boxing and in sport in general. It’s male-dominated and it’s always seen as a lesser even though we’re not. Sport is such a powerful thing. Some people use sport to get away from things that are bothering them, some people use sport to get rich and famous. I couldn’t care less about money and fame and all of that rubbish.
“I have a fear of losing. I’m not scared of anything else. I’ll fight anyone.
“I’ve got a photographic memory. Really, that’s true. It’s like a curse and a blessing at the same time. I can remember things straight away.
“I’d tell young sportspeople to just stick to it but have fun. Don’t make it like the be-all and end-all. If one day you wake up and you want to go swimming but you have to go training, go swimming. Don’t make it a choice because then when you get older you’ll be good at something you hate.
“When things get tough then easiest thing to do in the world is to quit, you know. Anyone can quit but not everyone can win.”
“My boxing career started when I was a kid. Me and my twin brother were just messing about and fighting each other so Mum and Dad took us over to the gym to fight other people.
“I was hooked. It was just the dedication, really, and you’re doing something – not doing something else. Discipline is the word. You’ve got to listen, otherwise you’re gonna get told off. It was a meaningful place for me. When I was in the gym, I’d just forget about everything else. Now I’m like a gym rat – I’ve been in the gym since I was about eight, I ain’t left it.
“My first dream was to win a national title – the schoolboys. That was the biggest one for me, I ain’t gonna lie, it still is the biggest, but then after that it was trying to get on the England squad. I got on there a year later and kept grabbing my goals. I stay hungry to win by finding a new goal and chasing it.
“Success for me would be winning a world title. Or multiple world titles. When I imagine it, I always think the WBC or the IBF – one of the two. I would love to win at Arsenal’s stadium [the Emirates]. The red belt, the IBF, goes with the [Arsenal] kit, don’t it?
“My Mum gave me my drive to win. ‘Don’t stop, don’t give up’ – and I just ain’t give up since. The only people I look up to are my Mum and Dad. They told me, ‘Don’t set the bar low as you’ll jump straight over it. Keep setting it high so if you miss, carry on going.’
“If I wasn’t boxing, I’d probably in some trouble or something. I used to like fighting when I was a bit younger. I know it’s a bit cliché but I wouldn’t lie about that, it’s the truth. Any young sportsperson, I’d tell them to listen to their parents – and just enjoy it.”
“I like money. I like what money can do. If there are other avenues to make money, like crypto and all of these different subjects, I’m ready to dabble in all of them. Whatever makes money makes sense.
“I feel like everyone has got to make a sacrifice. I have sacrificed my life to the sport and I believe I’m good enough to get the top, and getting into the top also brings lots of money. With that money I would be able to change my mother’s life, change my own life, and give back – that seems like success to me.
“In boxing you meet all sorts of characters. You can be with a rich person or a poor person and when you both put on gloves you couldn’t ever tell the difference.
“Coming from the life I know, I’d probably be in the streets if I wasn’t a boxer, probably be like just one of them losers – a man that sees whatever he has around him and doesn’t see a way out of what he has, just settled in what he has. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always grateful, but a lot of people are very small minded, they look at the small picture, they don’t think about the bigger picture in life. I’m so grateful I found boxing and I found a strong path to keep me so disciplined, educated me to see the bigger picture in life.
“When you are on the big stage and everyone is watching you, I feel like it motivates me to stay grinding because embarrassment is real. I want to always be on top. I think that’s one of the biggest fears in boxing, humiliation: it’s not just getting hurt.
“A winner is a man that don’t quit, a man that stays on the button, stays strong, stays focused. To get to the top, you’ve got to remain focused, because people like to swerve you off track.
“Sport is the entertainment business, a billion-dollar business, and if you’re good enough and have a strong enough character to make a mark on people, then yes, you’ll be remembered. It’s all about being remembered in this game. I feel like once you get to a certain point of your career and you are watched by so many, it’s good to be a role model. If you get to the top, or you are en route to the top, and you’ve got a following, whatever you say, people will listen.
“We are all going to die one day so just give it your all, give your craft 100% and just try to please yourself, don’t try to please people, just be the best version of yourself. Not everyone will like you, but just be the best you.”
“Making weight is always a struggle. My first fight, it was in Carlisle and I won it. You know what I remember about it? It was the first time I’d had to make weight in my life. I was always a little fat kid, and I was a fat kid gone skinny to box, and I walked into the hotel where the boxing was and smelt the dinner and it just made me starving. I was only 11 years old but I couldn’t wait to get on the scales and then get some food.
“I always loved watching boxing. My Dad was into boxing, my Grandad loved boxing, my two uncles were professional, one was a British champion, won it outright, so it was like, ‘I want to be like them, I want to fight on the telly like them.’
“I study a lot of boxing, I watch how good the ones at the top level are. I know how good you’ve got to be if you want to be competing at that level, so if I beat someone who’s nowhere near at their level and start having my head in the clouds, then I’m never going to get to where they are. The difference between the good fighters and the great fighters is just the IQ of boxing: knowing why they are doing it when they are doing it, and doing it for a reason, rather than everyone thinking boxing is getting nailed with punches.
“I want to be able to make me and my family comfortable – not that we aren’t comfortable, but I want to be able to look after my Mam and my Dad and all my brothers and that. It’s a childhood dream that I’m chasing. I don’t want any excuses at the end of my career, I don’t want to finish my career and think, ‘I could have done this better or I could have done that better.’
“I don’t like losing, to be honest with you. I don’t know if it’s a pride thing or just something in myself. Boxing is different from all other sports. In boxing it’s you versus him so it comes down to a bit of pride at the end of the day. When you’ve been beaten, you’ve been beaten by the better man and you’ve got to live with that, and that’s something I don’t want to live with.
“I don’t have any real interests other than boxing. I’m no good at anything else. Trust me, I’ve tried! I went bowling with a bird and she beat me at bowling, and I hung my head in shame. I hate losing at anything.”