Bateson preparing for pro odyssey
Leeds' Jack Bateson enjoyed a highly successful amateur career but has now decided the time is right to turn pro, as he explained to James Oddy...
The path to becoming a professional boxer is not a straightforward one. For some it’s a late career choice after walking away from another sport. For others, it is a choice made after little amateur experience, or perhaps not a great deal of amateur success.
The path for Leeds’ Jack Bateson has seen him travel far and wide as a highly successful amateur for Great Britain. Speaking to Boxing Monthly via telephone, it was interesting to find out what had been a highlight of a glittering amateur career.
“For me, the ones I’ll always remember is winning the ABA titles. I won one at light flyweight and one at flyweight. I think that was 2013 and 2014. I went for my third one and I got beat by Charlie Edwards in a close fight. So they meant quite a lot to me.
"The European bronze medal in Belarus meant a lot to me, as did competing in the world championships. There was loads of tournaments. It was good fighting all over the world, picking up experience, nobody supporting you.”
Bateson had been hotly tipped for the 2016 Olympic games, yet ultimately did not find himself as part of the squad, which proved a difficult experience.
“I’ve been on the GB squad for the past 5 plus years. I’d got on before London 2012 but it was a little bit too early for me. I’d always had hopes and dreams of Rio 2016. I got an injury in 2015, to my nose. I was sort of in first lines before I got this injury, and I had to have an operation.
"A lad, Muhammad Ali, got put in for a European championship because I was out. With him doing quite well they started to take notice of him and he got picked for the next qualifier. I never really got much of a chance to qualify. Him and me were supposed to fight before that qualifier to cement that number one position. He pulled out a week before which was a little bit frustrating.
"So I decided that this year, a few weeks ago, that I was going to leave the programme and start a new chapter, and turn professional. Since the Olympics it’s been on my mind, and I think it’s the right decision.”
For someone who was part of the elite levels of the amateur sport, the choice was not an easy one, yet it is one Bateson feels has come at the right time.
“I’d be down in Sheffield [where the GB team is based] and I’d be thinking, maybe I should stay longer. But my initial thought when I didn’t make the Olympics was I was going to leave.
"That was last year, but my contract didn’t run out until March 2017. If you sign on again your signing for four years, you can’t just leave after a year or two. [But] I could stay for another four years and I’m not promised to go to Tokyo 2020. I’m 22 now. I’ve had 120 plus fights, with over 60/70 international fights as a senior. I feel now is the right time. I’m maturing, I can learn the new pro game and hopefully crack on from there.”
The overwhelming success of both British and Irish boxers in the amateur code has helped produce something of a golden era in the professional game as they have ‘turned over’. I wondered if being a top amateur creates added pressure.
"My past teammates who have turned pro, they seem to be fighting for titles in quick time," Bateson replies. "And sometimes rushing a bit too much. I’m not in a rush. I’m 22 and I have a lot of learning to do. I am happy to do the traditional route. I think there can be a bit more pressure, because there are a lot of people who want to see you fight because they’ve heard about you. But I think I am sure to that pressure.
"I had a scholarship with Sky for four years, and I was constantly on Sky [Bateson was part of the Sky academy]. I did feel a lot of pressure when I first got it, I’d be so upset if I didn’t get a win at a major tournament. But I’m used to it now. I can hopefully use it for positive energy.”
Bateson is something of a ‘free agent’ promotionally at the moment, and is open about what is happening behind the scenes.
“I’d like to stay loyal to Sky and maybe one day fight on sky. So if the opportunity came to fight with the likes of Matchroom, then I’d love to do so. But at the minute I’ve not really spoke to anyone. My mentor, Johnny Nelson, we’ve had a few discussions. But I am definitely looking. My options are open. I am trying to get that sorted so when I turn pro I can just focus on the fight, I think that’s all any boxer wants to do.”
As a born fighter, Bateson already has clear ideas of what he wants to do in the pro game, and how he will do it.
“I’m hoping to fight as a pro at batmen or super bantam. With a day before weight-in, I know I can make it. At the moment I’m just training and walking around, not on a constant diet. I am looking forward to fighting in Leeds with home support. I’m sure they are looking forward to watching me for once.”
After rarely faltering in the unpaid ranks, Jack Bateson is certainly someone to keep an eye on as he begins his professional odyssey.