Daniel Morley: Reality of a gritty trade
Photos by the author: Daniel Morley after defeat to Lewis Richardson (left) and (below) Daniel Morley with Small Holdings coach Keith Hawkins
In the first instalment of a new monthly column for Boxing Monthly online, Epsom's Daniel Morley dissects the 'turning over' process as he begins his journey as a professional boxer...
When people think of boxing, certain images ultimately spring to mind - Mike Tyson separating men from consciousness; the famous soundtrack blaring as Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa pounds the pavements of Philadelphia; the poetic motion of Muhammad Ali’s dancing feet, fluttering round the canvas, disguising the brutality of the beatings his fists dish out...
However, it has fast become apparent over the last decade or so that these poetic, old school memories have gradually become overshadowed in the public consciousness by the enormous purses and flashy lifestyles the sport's most elite boxers enjoy - as exhibited via social media platforms.
It is no secret that world level pugilists have enjoyed hefty financial rewards throughout boxing's long history, paving the path to a life of glitz and glamour, if that’s their thing.
It seems, however, that since the meteoric rise of social media savvy fighters such as Floyd Mayweather, Adrien Broner and UFC superstar Conor McGregor, casual fight fans have become more interested in the extravagant lifestyles of the sport's elite than the fights themselves or the sport's rich and fascinating history.
With the greatest of respect - and no intention to 'knock' these fighters for their lifestyles, that have been earned through years of sacrifice, doubt and struggle - the images posted via social media pages have convinced a large percentage of the public that boxing is a sure route to a glamorous, financially extravagant lifestyle.
The truth, in fact, is far different. The average day for myself begins between the hours of 5:30 and 6:30am with a five-kilometre morning run. The frequency of my roadwork intensifies and varies depending on whether I have a fight approaching. If I am in what most fighters refer to as ‘training camp’, then the distance covered doubles and three long distance morning runs will be completed every week, with a faster pace sprint run also thrown into the mix. In-between ‘training camps’, and in order to maintain a steady level of fitness, I will 'just' complete two five kilometre runs per week.
Prior to the ‘roadwork’, similar to most boxers - even pros - I have full-time jobs to support myself financially and pay those all-important bills. Finding work that suits the rigorous and structured regime in boxing is challenging, luckily I have been fortunate enough to work with former boxers, Sean and Paul Caswell, who understand the harsh realities of training.
As the body aches and the mind begins to wilt, a full day’s graft is inevitably followed by gruelling training sessions three evenings a week (which then increase to four-five times in training camp, in addition to strength and conditioning training).
The need for a strict diet and fitting the pressured demand to sell tickets for future bouts around the time needed to support your family intensifies the dedication required to live the life of a boxer.
It’s a gruelling lifestyle, filled with physical agony and psychological tension, to top it off the financial benefits are, for most professional boxers, minor. Nevertheless, the dream of the big time lingers at the back of the mind, desperately clawing through the harsh, gritty grind.
However, before a fighter can even dream of lacing up the gloves as a professional, they must first complete the process of ‘turning over’.
'Turning over' is the accepted term for the process by which non-professional boxers transition into the professional boxing ranks. The process is thorough and at times tedious, it is one that I have personally encountered as I await confirmation of my professional debut.
After 26 amateur bouts for clubs such as Epsom & Ewell ABC, Small Holdings ABC, as well as fighting abroad and representing London, I decided to make the move to the pro game. I had a successful amateur career, winning numerous Southern Area, Surrey, London, Regional and National Accolades whilst competing against the country’s top prospects, such as exciting up and coming amateurs Liam Forrest, Alfie Winters and Billy Underwood, along with national champions such as Lewis Richardson and Inder Bassi.
But I never reached the very pinnacle of the amateur game, so turning professional always seemed inevitable for me, providing an excellent platform to wear opponents down with my aggressive, front-footed style.
So, having overcome many obstacles along the way, I finally turned over in early 2018.
Turning over begins with the application process. Firstly, a fighter must find themselves a trainer they click with and a trustworthy manager, who isn’t intending to simply rinse them of their earnings - a common disgrace which occurs far too frequently in the ruthless business of boxing. A good manager will ultimately look after his fighter, scout for potential opportunities to benefit their careers and get them on to fight cards. In return they receive a cut of the fighter’s earnings, as agreed in their contract.
A trainer, meanwhile, is the most instrumental figure in a boxer’s career. They will prepare the fighter both physically and psychologically for bouts, offering advice and guiding their fighters not only through draining training sessions and exhausting fights, but through the rollercoaster of life itself.
I train under the watchful eye of Adam Martin, a man I met at a Wellington Barracks show back in 2015. Adam’s dedication to the sport has since seen him adopt a group of exciting professional fighters, and his achievements haven’t gone unnoticed, for example, Adam received a four-page spread written by Boxing Monthly’s very own Paul Zanon last year.
Once these key team members are in place, a boxer has to agree terms with their proposed manager, sign a ‘Boxer/Manager’ contract and agree certain financial terms as well as contract lengths etc.
Once these steps have been completed the boxer applies for an interview to have their professional licence granted, paying a fee in the process. A meeting is arranged by the British Boxing Board of Control and all prospective pros are examined methodically regarding their previous in-ring experiences, their goals and the realistic opportunities and limits ahead in their potential career.
If boxers fit the strict criteria required to compete professionally then their licences will be granted, meaning medicals and brain scans must be booked, thus completing the process's final stage.
Those boxers who fail to meet the medical standard deemed suitable to box professionally will be examined further, to prevent injuries in potential competitive fights.
A number of boxers have passed away in the ring during boxing’s long, fierce history with many others suffering avoidable and life-changing injuries. The severity of the potential risks mean that medicals and brain scans must now be completed annually to maintain a thorough, frequent inspection of a fighter’s health.
If both are successfully passed then boxers will finally receive a professional licence, marking the start of their career.
Medical examinations are key in preventing potential risks involved with boxing’s brutal nature, but are also, understandably, expensive, as is the entire process of turning over.
Without support from financial sponsors, all licensing fees and medical expenses are paid out of a fighter’s own pocket, including the costs of healthy foods, fight kits and travel expenses for ticket selling - then subtract the percentage fees for managers, trainers and an opponent’s cut and it all adds up very quickly, adding financial strain to an already busy and exhausting training schedule. Luckily, I have been able to team up with Ben Hart and his company N.E.A.T, who help me massively.
In short, the road to the top level of boxing is plagued with years of doubt, pain and dedication. The hopes of realising a dream coincide with a gritty determination to conquer many miles, meaning that support from others, no matter how small, is both appreciated deeply and beneficial in terms of leading to long term success in this gritty trade.
As this column progresses, I look forward to giving further updates, which will include further insights into my training, fight dates, weight making and a range of other factors and issues involved in the world of professional boxing.
You can find out more about Daniel Morley by visiting his website www.danielmorley.com and he is on Instagram @danmorleyboxer