Blank canvas: Marcus Morrison interview
Middleweight Marcus Morrison experienced setbacks in the ring in 2017, but is determined to keep boxing in perspective, telling Shaun Brown in a revealing interview: "Losing a fight is not the be all and end all..."
There is more to life than boxing.
You either see it early on as a fighter, a writer or a fan, or it hits you when life is brought into perspective for better or for worse.
Mancunian middleweight Marcus Morrison (15-2, 11 KOs) may have had a year to forget inside the ropes but everyday life got even better in 2017, and his job as a fighter now has additional responsibilities.
"At the minute I've just bought a house and have my first child on the way. It's a big thing for me that now boxing isn't just for me, it's what I do for my family. Boxing is a big thing and even more so now I've got a child on the way," Morrison told Boxing Monthly.
"I can't wait. I'm looking forward to it. I've always been a family man so bringing my first child into the world, it's an amazing and big thing for me."
2018 presents a new set of duties and challenges for Morrison. Fatherhood and a home owner to name but two. There is also a job to do, however. An obligation to ensure that the bills are paid, food is on the table and that life is as comfortable as it can be. Morrison, the fighter, has had to pick himself back up after a physically and mentally demanding 2017 through the ropes.
25 March 2017 - Manchester Arena. An acid test for Morrison, trained by Joe Gallagher, to see how far he had come and how much he had learned in the unbeaten 15-fights beforehand. The opponent, a tried and tested Midlander in the shape of Jason Welborn who was Matthew Macklin's penultimate test before the former world title challenger retired after beating Brian Rose in 2016.
Welborn ignores reputations, unbeaten records and the words around the camp-fire about how good someone could potentially be. He came in with a game-plan against Morrison and it paid off ten-fold as he beat Morrison on points (93-96, 92-97, 93-96).
Tactically Welborn got it right from the second round with two minutes of fast and furious come forward aggression that took the fight away from his opponent. Welborn, however, went down with a minute to go after a cuffing right hand from Morrison. It was an exciting three minutes but it paved the way for what would follow in the remaining eight rounds.
"The better guy on the night was Welborn," said Morrison reflecting on his first of what would be two back-to-back losses.
"He was rough and tough, and he did what he said he was going to do and fair play to him. And in the future I would like to avenge that defeat.
"I knew Welborn and I'd seen him in the Macklin fight, and I'd knew he was tough. Technically not unbelievable, but like I said he did what he said he was going to do. He was rough and tough, and he was there for the duration. When I put him down I didn't believe it was a heavy knock-down. I didn't think I really hurt him enough for him to stay down and think he wasn't going to get back up.
"Just before I put him down he caught me with a straight right hand which subsequently broke my nose. It was a great shot, straight down the middle, caught me literally not even 30 seconds before I put him down. I had problems with my nose and breathing and he stayed on me.
"Like I said, he did what he said he was going to do and he didn't take his foot off the pedal and worked hard for the ten rounds and ground out the win. It was a learning fight for me. I've had to go away back to the drawing board and learn from it and this year I will come again and I will show what I learned from that fight."
Three months later, at Rollerworld in Derby, Morrison would have to go through another defeat. This time over four rounds against the awkward Tyan Booth. Morrison didn't believe he lost on the night (38-39) nor, as he admitted in the loss to Welborn, did he think he was beaten by the better man. It was a bad night at the office that he does not want to repeat again.
"Tyan Booth is tall, rangy, he's an Ingle fighter so over four rounds is a bit of a nightmare for anybody. If I'd got him over six or eight rounds it'd have been a different story. It was over four rounds and I just wanted to get out there and get a win after the Welborn fight, but it didn't go to plan. The Welborn fight was more hurtful because for one it was on a bigger stage."
With the Welborn defeat came the end of the zero in the L column in Morrison's record. We may be in an era where having that 0 is becoming less and less important to fighters, fans and promoters but that doesn't mean it hurts any less when it's gone.
But with bigger things on the horizon, some sound advice and perhaps the pressure off too, Morrison feels rebuilt as a fighter and managed to see out 2017 with a win, a crucial one regardless of the opponent, against 41-year-old Pole Mariusz Biskupski.
"A lot of people told me the losses could either do one of two things. It could either improve me as a fighter, and bring me on, or it could fold me in half. I took the first option.
"Losing a fight is not the be all and end all. Styles make fights and what not. Just because A beat B doesn't mean B won't beat C. I was told this; and it was only until I did lose that it came to practice, that once you lose it sort of takes the pressure off about keeping that 0. A lot of fighters these days are going 10-0, 15-0, 20-0 and it's nice but it's not everything."
One positive for Morrison was the support from his team-mates at Gallagher's Gym. The likes of Paul Butler, Stephen Smith and Anthony Crolla all know what it is like to lose on the big stage. As a group the whole gym is tight-knit and wins together and loses together.
"The whole gym feels a loss, the whole gym feels a win," said Morrison. "When I lost all the boys were there to pull me through it, pull me through the dark days and get me back to the light and back here today, back looking to fight. It was a big thing to have all the lads in and around me.
"Stephen Smith gave me some great advice. He's been through some losses and he it was him that were telling me it's how you bounce back and how you come through it."
And on 25 February at The Victoria Warehouse Hotel in Manchester, Morrison continues his rehabilitation. An opponent is still to be confirmed but for now it is about picking up the wins, regaining confidence and getting back to where he was before the defeat to Welborn.
And reaching that target is the aim for the year. He looks at the British middleweight division top ten from afar for now. Morrison isn't interested in looking too far into the future. Never has the phrase 'One fight at a time' been more applicable to a fighter.
"By the end of the year I can see where I'm at. I can judge where I'm at from there and sort of choose my options from there and then," he said.
"I've grew as a fighter from what happened last year. Although it wasn't a great year it was a massive learning year and I can only come back better and stronger from it. 2018, it's a fresh year. I've not been out yet so it's sort of like a blank canvas for me to go again and get my name back out there."
By the spring Morrison will have a young family to look after and a child to make proud. It is another motivation. An added incentive to perform, achieve and earn as much as he can for his loved ones.
Prestige, legacy and titles are one thing but bringing home the bacon soon takes priority when there is another mouth to feed. "Although boxing is a massive thing for me, and it's my job as well, it does put things into perspective. The real number one things that are important in life are happiness and family."