Artist Thompson feels at home
John Thompson will have his own group of British supporters on Saturday night in Manchester.
The New Jersey man takes on Liverpool’s Liam Smith (20-0-1, 10 KOs) for the vacant WBO 154lbs title after the sanctioning body stripped champion Demetrius Andrade for failing to defend the belt.
Thompson, 26, is the underdog and an unknown quantity yet there will be some voices who will be cheering the American on inside the Manchester Arena come fight night.
“I have family in Scotland in Edinburgh and they’re coming to the fight,” Thompson (17-1, 6 KOs) revealed to Boxing Monthly.
“I’ve been to the UK 10-11 times, I have sisters and aunts in Bathgate. I haven’t been there in two years but I’m going back next year.”
Thompson duly rattled off some of the Scottish capital’s famous tourist attractions he has visited and loved, such as Edinburgh Castle and Greyfriar’s Bobby. Speaking from America before he travelled to Manchester last week, there was an air of calm about Thompson, mostly thanks to his attitude and love for the United Kingdom. He may be the away fighter but will feel distinctly at home.
“I love the UK. It’s a very peaceful place. And, for those who don’t know me and are from the UK, you can tell them welcome to America when they watch me fight,” he laughed.
Frenchman Michel Soro was originally slated to face Smith for the vacant WBO crown but eventually the opportunity fell to the fighter nicknamed ‘Apollo Kidd’ - a crafty boxer who rarely engages in how his opponent wants to fight. The sense is that Smith will want to go to war, but the impression from Thompson is that he plans to box his way to victory.
“I plan on it going for 12 rounds. You’ve always got to plan for the worst,” Thompson told BM. “I’m in shape to go 15 rounds! Whether it goes the distance, or not, I’m going to be satisfied because I’m going to emerge victorious.
“He’s a boxer and I don’t believe anyone would take up a sport like this for nothing,” he continued. “I believe he’s coming to fight, I plan on him coming to fight, but I don’t plan on laying down. Hey, it’s my job to win and that’s what I’m going to do.
“It's a great opportunity. Another platform to show off my talents and to take another step up the ladder.”
Thompson is doing it for himself, but also his family, his friends and those who have supported him over the years. His nickname is part in reference to ‘Apollo 11’, the spaceship that carried Neil Armstrong to the moon in 1969. A popular soundbite of Thompson’s in the build-up to the fight has been, 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind'.
“I’m saying that because it’s one person opening doors for everybody,” said the American co-challenger. “[Armstrong] wasn’t just doing it for him, he was doing it for everyone and that’s like myself.”
Another surprise from Thompson’s background is his love for art. What started off as a hobby at school, with a pencil and paper in his hand, became a passion. It eventually led to him painting his own works and creating his own company after going to Cicely Tyson Performing Arts School in New Jersey where he honed and developed his craft for colours and image.
So what picture does he see of himself against Liam Smith?
“With me holding my hands up with the belt around my waist,” he answered. “This is just one small step for this man.”