Mustard Mike and Roy Jones Jr
It’s not every day that you become friends with a boxing legend.
Or find yourself sitting in that legend’s house in Pensacola, Florida, receiving fight tips and hearing tales from his glory years.
Michael Peart thought that Roy Jones Jr was winding him up when, at a boxing dinner for the iconic four-weight world champion, Jones told the Londoner to come and see him the next time he was in America.
"Okay Roy Jones Jr, if you say so,” was how Peart worded his unspoken reaction.
Peart and Jones had clicked when they met that night and, despite the 27-year-old’s reservations that he would ever see Jones again, it wasn’t long before Peart was chilling, training and fishing with the legndary 62-8, 45 KO fight veteran.
“I went over to see my friend because he lives out there and right enough [Jones] was like ‘come to Pensacola’ and that's what I did,” Peart told Boxing Monthly.
“Crazy. Crazy, crazy, crazy,” uttered Peart when taking a moment to reflect on the experience.
The friendship is such that Peart can call up his American pal whenever he wants and, with the right funds available, make the 10-hour flight across the Atlantic to chew the fat with Mr. Jones at home or in his Las Vegas gym.
“I've been there every year for the last three or four years. It's amazing, man. In my eyes, he's the greatest ever. He can show me something so small and it can make such a big difference. It's just an amazing opportunity,” Peart told BM.
The story of Michael Peart, however, doesn’t start or end with a member of boxing royalty. Having just one fight and one win on his record, the game of catch-up begins on 19 September at York Hall as Peart takes his place on a typically stacked Steve Goodwin bill.
It was July 12, 2014, when ‘Mustard Mike’ made his professional debut despite a background with no amateur experience. The desire to be a prizefighter began, quite simply, when he woke up one day wanting to go boxing.
A four-round points’ victory over Zoran Cvek would be the last that anyone would see of Peart until the first bell rings next month. Reactive arthritis came out of nowhere to not only thwart his boxing progress, but potentially end it as he explained to BM.
“I just had a basic virus,” said Peart. “We're still not too sure if it started from food poisoning. But my immune system didn't work too well and it started to attack the joints in my body. It messed me up and, after a while, I was diagnosed with reactive arthritis.
“Doctors tell you don't overdo things, don't work out too much. Boxing is obviously the most brutal sport in the world. You can't go to the gym and take it easy because you can't afford to. On fight night you [will] get hurt.
“I thought I was never going to fight again and it was depressing,” he continued. “You try to do something you always wanted to do and people are telling you that you can’t but you use that as motivation to come back. It wasn’t easy and I wanted to give up at times.”
“I'd like to say it's sorted out. I'm still a bit restricted but I'm good enough to do my thing and I'm getting better so I just can't wait to get back in there and put on a show and please everybody. I have amazing support.”
After initially debuting at welterweight, Peart has decided to chop off 12lbs and jump down to lightweight. Eyebrows can’t be seen over the telephone, but it’s safe to say that BM had them raised when hearing of such a significant weight drop.
“When I was away I lost a lot of weight,” Peart revealed. “I’m keeping strong and sharp. I have to drop a little bit to get there, nothing ridiculous. I make sure I do everything right and not drain myself. I’m practically on weight at the moment so after training I can go and eat the good stuff. I don’t mean I go home and stuff myself with pizzas!”
Despite his solitary one-fight record, and now placing himself in a division where the depth doesn’t know where to end, Peart plans to stay as active as he can over the next 12 months. Having already suffered from arthritis the last thing he wants or needs is inactivity providing a similar roadblock in his development.
Regardless of where the next 12 months take him, the confident Peart can’t wait to get going again and has no fears about swimming in the 135lb seas where challenges appear no matter which direction you take.
“It’s definitely a hard division but then what division is easy?” said Peart of the current crop at 9st 9lbs. “It ain’t football. Ain’t no easy league, ain’t no Sunday league. Premier league all the time.”
And, if you do plan on going to York Hall on 19 September to watch Peart in action and are wondering what kind of fighter to expect, perhaps this motoring analogy from the man himself will help you decide.
“If you have a Ferrari you don’t need to drive it all the way up into sixth gear or however many gears it has. You can drive it in first gear and probably take out every single car you’ll see the whole day.
“I’m a very smart fighter. Brains first. You just be what you need to be.”
Michael would like to use this story as an opportunity to thank his trainer Mickey Cunningham as well as Roy Jones Jr. for all their help in his career so far.