'He will always be in my mind': Dec Spelman interview
Boxing Monthly's Garry White speaks to light heavyweight Dec Spelman about bouncing back from tragedy in the most respectful way possible ahead of his appearance in the Ultimate Boxxer II tournament on Friday night...
Scunthorpe’s Dec Spelman will join seven other competitors in facing off for the coveted Golden Robe, as Ultimate Boxxer commences its second chapter on Friday night.
A large crowd, television cameras and a host of big names including Ricky 'The Hitman' Hatton, Paulie Malignaggi and Anthony Crolla will also be there to greet him for a night of light-heavyweight action at London’s Indigo at O2.
Spelman, who goes by the explosive nickname of ‘Kid Nytro’ was in confident mood when he caught up with Boxing Monthly ahead of the quarter-final draw.
“The three-round format will suit me, I have been sparring three sets of three, with 20 minutes out and then straight back in. So, I’d like to think that I’m up there with the favourites,” he said, before adding with a chuckle: “I hope I’m not though, in a way, as I would like to get a few quid on it!”
Since our conversation, unbeaten two-fight novice Sam Horsfall has been confirmed as the 26-year-old's first stage opponent. Victory in that bout would put Spelman on track to face either former English champion Joel McIntyre or Essex-based contender Darrell Church in what will surely be a hotly contested semi-final.
However, Spelman isn’t thinking too far ahead and was quick to point out that the short format could easily lead to a few surprises. “The problem is some people can’t adapt to the set-up," he said. "We saw that in the Prizefighter competition, where a lot of big names didn’t make it through."
The 26-year-old emphasised that he plans to fully live up to his ‘Kid Nytro’ moniker and leave nothing in the dressing room on the night. “I will take each fight as it comes and come out all guns blazing from the start," he explained. "I think that’s the best way to do it. Obviously, I will adapt to what’s in front of me, but over this distance you are going in there to try and get them out early.
“You can’t even really afford to lose a round as you never know what the judges are thinking. But I am as fit as can be for this. Everything in training has been focused on the short and sharp. It’s all been high intensity stuff.”
The Carl Greaves trained boxer has been a pro now for four years and his 12 victories in 13 appearances mark him out as one of the most experienced competitors in the field. Despite previously being on the cusp of competing for an English title, until that fateful night that he lost an eliminator and his unbeaten record to Scott Westgarth, he is still treading the northern small hall circuit and battling to break into the domestic top ten.
Regardless of his focus on driving forward his boxing career, Spelman is also still compelled to fit his training around his factory shift-work.
Beyond the Ultimate Boxxer title and the big venue exposure the primary motivation for Spelman is the substantial winner’s cheque - a prize that the amiable Scunthorpe man describes as “enough to put me in a position to go pro full time".
"That for me is massive and something that I have wanted to do for a long, long time," he added. "To have that cushion of money and support would be great. Things could really catapult from there. But I obviously need to prove I am worthy of it first and I definitely plan on doing that.”
When Spelman walks out for the opening bell on Friday it will mark only his third appearance of 2018. The first came back in February, where he was outpointed by Scott Westgarth, a bout which propelled him from obscurity to the front pages of national newspapers and a lead item on the news following the tragic death of his opponent.
Spelman movingly described the days following the tragedy as something “that no one can prepare you for and no one can teach you how to deal with.” Hearing this it is impossible not to feel a vast wave of sympathy for him, as well as a feeling of total and utter respect for a man thrust unwantedly into a terrible situation, who has navigated it with matchless decency and honour.
He is philosophical as to how he has coped over these past few months. “It is all down to your character I suppose and how you bounce back. I hope I have done that in the most respectful way possible,” he said.
In fact he has managed this to such an extent that he has built a solid connection with Westgarth’s family, culminating with Scott's brother Adam being ringside for Spelman's last contest in June - a comeback victory against Czech veteran Jindrich Velecky.
So, was it difficult getting back into the ring again?
“It was very hard,” he admitted. "We wanted quite a low-profile fight, off the radar and not on any televised shows or anything. The fight itself was easy and I did what was needed. I could have pushed the stoppage maybe, but I was just happy to get back in there and I felt good and comfortable.
“The hardest thing about that fight was the ring walk and the build-up. But once you get through the ropes there is no time for thinking or dwelling on things. I had to try fighting again or I would forever have been wondering. It was something that I had to do.”
Spelman is intelligent enough to realise that wherever his career takes him he will always be linked inextricably to Scott Westgarth. He carries this sad reality, not as a burden, but in its own way as a form of privilege. He is determined to honour the name of his fallen opponent and use it as an additional drive to propel his career forward.
He describes his motivation eloquently: “He will always be there. He will always be in my mind now and that’s where he has got to stay. But it is a massive drive to win something like the English title and to then hand it over to Scott’s dad. Because if I can go out and win it then it obviously means that Scott could have done that too.”
The man from the small boxing backwater of Scunthorpe is confident that he will have a strong travelling Lincolnshire contingent in attendance when he walks out at the O2. He perceives Ultimate Boxxer II as his biggest fight night yet and truly values his home support.
But it doesn’t end just there.
If Dec Spelman collects the coveted Golden Robe and that precious winner’s cheque, then there would be no more popular winner. For a year that started with a crashing, gut-wrenching low to end with such a feel-good high, would be a wonderful outcome.