Moving up and moving home
It goes without saying that boxing is a tough trade. But the job of a fighter without huge home support can make the game that much harder to navigate. Cambridgeshire warrior Tyler Goodjohn (12-4, 4 KOs) knows that struggle only too well.
“You have to play to the business a bit,” the articulate Goodjohn told Boxing Monthly.
“If you can sell tickets every month and your fans are just happy to see you beating guys who are there to be beat, then fair enough. For me, all my fights have been in London and Manchester. For me to sell 120 tickets every three or four months is hard work. It’s meant I’ve had to be the away fighter a few times. But I love that.”
“It’s pretty non-existent (the boxing scene in Cambridgeshire). When I turned pro at 18 I moved to Essex because there wasn’t a pro gym (in Cambridgeshire). So I was in Essex for four or five years. I’ve moved back to Cambridgeshire (now). I have a trainer, Steve Whitwell, who to be fair, is a brilliant trainer. I really rate him from what I’ve learned, but he’s just not got the fighters coming in knocking on his door and asking to turn pro. (We’ve) just not got the fighters to turn into champions like they do in London.
“There is an amateur club on the corner of every street in London. I lived down in London… boxing is massive down there. Everyone wants to do it; they want their sons and daughters to do it. It’s really thriving down there. Cambridge itself, in the centre, I don’t even know if they have an amateur club, and it’s a big city. Even if you wanted to turn pro you’ve got to up sticks and move to (places like) London, Essex or Manchester.”
Goodjohn has clearly never had it easy, but it’s to his credit he’s often thrived when up against the adversity, despite picking up some losses along the way.
“To be honest, I’ve been in against good people. I’m never going to be one of those guys, and I never wanted to be one of those guys, with a record of 15-0 fighting guys with losing records. The last time I fought a guy with a losing record I was like 19. I was doing 10 rounders’ in my sixth fight.
“Even now going forward people have been saying are you going to be having a six rounder to get back? To be honest just going in with a guy and going through the motions, it just doesn’t get me up for it or motivate me in anyway at all. I need these hard fights. I need these names. I want to be against people where I think, ‘if I don’t turn up and don’t train hard, I’m not going to win’. I just don’t see the point.
“I see guys with built-up records and they lose for the first time and never come back again. I just don’t see the point personally.”
Goodjohn has also had to contend with injury and weight issues, which highlights the stark realities of professional boxing.
“When I was an amateur I boxed at light middleweight. I won the junior ABAs and things like that. Then when I turned pro I was a welter. But I got it into my head I’d make light-welter, and I’ve done it a few times.
“When I won the English title, I had to lose half a stone on the morning of the weight in. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, I wish I’d have said I’ve won that and I’m going to move up now. But then I fought John Hibbert and I had to lose 10 pounds the night before. I was just a complete shadow of myself when I got in there, just took a pasting. I was disillusioned with boxing after that because I’d worked so hard. So to get in the ring and not show anything, it was really disappointing for me.
“Since I’ve moved up and moved back home I’m, happy. I’m 25 in two weeks and I’ve still got time on my side. Hopefully I’ve got a few more years left at welterweight.
“At the end of February I broke my hand in sparring, about two weeks out from an English (welterweight) title fight. It was a bit gutting. But that’s the way it goes”
That title is now held by Goodjohn’s original opponent ‘The Pexican’ Johnny Garton, who picked it up with a highlight reel knockout of Ryan Fields two weeks ago at York Hall. The ‘Tornado’ still hopes that fight for the English title can be made.
“I hope so because Johnny Garton (and me), we both have similar styles, it was a massive fight and a lot of people were looking forward to it. He actually won the vacant belt on Saturday. My opinion is its still there and he wants to fight me. I can’t see why he wouldn’t want it now.”
Reinvigorated, refocused and at a more comfortable weight, Goodjohn is clearly seeking to exhibit a new style in the ring.
“I’m a bit of a boxer, brawler, fighter. I probably bring a bit too much brawling into a fight sometimes. I can box. I think you’re going to see a total different boxer as I move up in weight. I probably spent a year too long as a light-welter, just killing myself to make weight. All I could really do was stand and fight, I couldn’t show any boxing skills. That’s the main thing with this (Garton) fight, I’ll be able to show more of my boxing skills.”
Your writer often asks boxers whom they’d like to fight in an ideal world, and Goodjohn answered certainly whetted the appetite for another possible classic.
“To be honest, the fight, which stylistically would work well, would probably be Sam Eggington. We’ve done some sparring, I really rate him. He’s very strong and we had a great spar. I just want to be in fights where the supporters walk away and say that was a great fight, and they remember it.”
But he was quick to highlight the strengths of his former division.
“I was gutted I had to move up from light-welter as that was a great division, there was about five or six lads, we all kind of looked like we were going to box each other. Even if you lost, you’d have gone and boxed so and so. But I’ve had to move up and there are some great fighters. The top ten, it’s like four or five of them are on the world scene. Lightweight, light-welter and welter, they are the three best divisions pretty much. So there are loads of fighters and loads of fights to be made.
“When I first turned pro I said I wanted to win a British title, which is a dream really. You have to be real with yourself. I am never going to be a world champion, but to be a British champion, even to win a Southern area; you have to be a great fighter.
“To be a British champion and have that Lonsdale belt is a dream for most fighters. I don’t think I am ever going to be at world level but if I can go along the way and be in in really great fights, which I already have, and make a name for myself as being in good fights, and the supporters go away saying, ‘I like watching that Tyler Goodjohn’, making a name for myself, I’m proud of that.
“I’ve had people say you don’t want to be involved in wars, and yeah, but I’d rather be involved in great memorable fights than be a champion, a boring champion. That’s just the way I feel about it. So hopefully I can be in a few more good fights.”
After a career of doing things the hard way and often coming out on top, it seems almost certain Goodjohn will continue to live up to his honourable objectives.