Opportunity Knocks

Daniel Armstrong
13/07/2016 3:27pm

Introducing Manchester middleweight and former North West ABA champion John Telford who tells Boxing Monthly about making his debut on home turf, and falling back in love with boxing.

Name: John Telford
Nickname: 'Put ‘em in the boot'
Age: 22 (12 July, 1994)
Hometown: Flixton, Manchester
Height: 5ft 10ins
Division: Middleweight
Stance: Orthodox
Trainer: Gary Booth Snr.
Gym: Irlam ABC, Salford
Management: Knockout Management
Amateur highlights: North West ABA light-middleweight champion
Twitter: @Johntel94
Tickets: 07538807606

John Telford“It’s gonna be a buzz to get in there, I can’t wait to put on a show!” Mancunian scrapper John Telford is rightly enthusiastic about his professional debut this Saturday on the joint promoted Red Star Boxing/VIP Boxing ‘Redemption’ bill at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse. The venue is a short drive from his house; his friends and family will be in attendance; the bill is topped by Ryan Doyle’s English featherweight title scrap against Ian Bailey and features former Olympian Joe Murray. But more importantly, his fledgling outing in the paid ranks represents vindication of his choice to seriously pursue boxing.

December 2014 saw a drained and disillusioned Telford, aged 20, walk away from the sport he had poured his teenage years into. His boyhood love for boxing watching heroes Carl Froch and Kelly Pavlik had seemingly ebbed away, the fire in his belly had burned out.

“That was my last year as an amateur. I got a couple of wins, got to the ABA semi-finals, got beat on points and then the season ended,” Telford told Boxing Monthly.

“It picks up again in September but there are no championships around that time, so you’re just appearing on club shows. So I’d be training for a fight and then you get to fight night and the person will pull out. You start thinking ‘I missed going out with mates for this’.

“Then you train for another month for a different date and it’s the same story. I last fought in December 2014 - I boxed terribly. My head had fallen off in training, I wasn’t in love with it. I wasn’t mentally there, just going through the motions. I started thinking ‘It’s not really for me this boxing lark.

A listless Telford took an extended break from boxing. He ballooned in weight to 15st. But when visiting his old gym, the popular Irlam ABC, run by veteran trainer Gary Booth Snr., the spark that seemed lost inside the forlorn fighter was reignited.

“When [light-welterweight] Luke Evans (now 3-0) from our gym turned pro last year I thought ‘that could be me in there’, said the Flixton-raised brawler.

“I thought I’d fell out of love with boxing, but I’d just fell out of love with the amateur game.”

Now 22, the former North West ABA light-middleweight champion can’t hide his eagerness to fight under the ring lights and razzmatazz of the professional game.

“I’m going be called John ‘Put ‘em in the boot’ Telford,” the former personal trainer bashfully blurts out.

Bemused, I enquire as to where such a sinister moniker originated from. “Gaz [Booth Snr.] started calling me ‘Tie ‘em up’ Telford years ago and it just evolved from there. Hopefully it will catch on and get me noticed,” laughed the blonde-haired bruiser.

The flashy frills of pro shows are not the only difference between punching for pay and the amateur code that Telford notices. Training also poses stark contrasts, but believes they point to giving him an advantage come fight night.

“Training has been a bit different, but it’s a lot more suited to my style. The counter punching and sitting in the pocket rather that the in-out, tap-tap style of the amateurs. People who watched my amateur fights always used to say ‘you’d do well as a pro’, and I want to just go and put on a show.

“I’ll be fighting at around 12st 2lbs on the day. I took a little break from boxing a couple of years back, and I ballooned up, so I’ve trimmed right down for next week. I’ve not been out with the lads since I don’t know when!”

Practical preparation for Saturday’s fight has come in the form of has been sparring a talented crop of boxers based around in Lancashire. Including Preston’s 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Scott Fitzgerald (3-0, 3 KOs), and Manchester’s Dale Coyne (6-1, 1 KO). Telford believes that the buzz in his home gym carries on a rich vein of North West boxing tradition.

“There are three of us down the gym who have turned professional. There’s me, Luke and Lee Gillespie (6-1). There is a decent buzz in the gym because there is always one of us that will have a fight coming up.

“I always knew from a young age that I wanted to turn pro. I was about 15 when [Manchester’s former British welterweight and light-welterweight champion] David Barnes was training down at our gym and I looked up to him. He taught me a few little tricks. It was the first time I was training alongside a pro and I thought ‘wow, I want that to be me’. Sparring local pro lads like [British light-heavyweight champion] Hosea Burton also helped as well.

“I’m excited to fight at the Warehouse. I’ve been to watch a couple of shows back there and it’s a good venue. In pro boxing you get to put on more of a show with the ring walk and the shorts and the tassels, it’s all about putting on a show! My shorts will be black and gold with a Mexican trim, you know, the tassels.”

The middleweight division Telford enters includes compelling Lonsdale belt holder Chris Eubank Jnr. at the summit of the domestic rankings. Billy Joe Saunders holds the WBO portion of the world championship, and the seesaw and eventually stalled negotiations that saw Eubank Jnr’s proposed matchup with dreaded Kazakh warrior Gennady Golovkin dashed inadvertently added Kell Brook’s name to that category. On the heels of the established professionals, Telford, who thinks Brook will prove 'too small' to upset Golovkin, believes that the North West is home to a fresh crop of fighters hungry to challenge for 12st honours.

“The middleweight division is top notch at the minute, Chris Eubank Jr. has the British title, but you can see him moving on from domestic level. But there are a few others that represent a new generation of middleweights. There’s people like myself, Ben Sheedy (2-0, 1 KO) who’s also on the bill, Jack Flatley (4-0, 1 KO) from Bolton who trains under Alex Matvienko, and a few other middleweights from the North West.

As for Telford’s route to the upper echelons of the middleweight division, his plans, unlike his nickname and ringwear, remain straightforward in theory.

“I want to do the traditional route of Central Area, English, British, Commonwealth and European titles, then you start to get your world title eliminators. We’ve got another date planned for 17 September and, all being well, two years from now I’ll have around eight fights under my belt and then I’ll start getting in those 50/50 fights. Hopefully, I’ll be one of them fighters down the line who gets that call asking ‘Can you fight for the British title in 10 days’ time?’ And I’ll be right up for it. I’m dreaming to get that call.

“It’s the start of a long journey. I want to just take each fight as it comes.”

The first step on that journey comes this Saturday.

Tickets for Saturday’s show can be bought by contacting John directly on 07538807606.