Kevin Satchell: Street-fighting man
As an undersized youth fighting off unwanted attention from the trouble makers who lurked around every shadowy corner of the housing estate he grew up on, Kevin ‘Iceman’ Satchell could only dream of becoming a multi belt title-holder in the sweet science.
But he did it when he bagged the European flyweight title to go with his British (since vacated) and Commonwealth straps when he claimed a majority points victory (117-112, 116-112, and 114-114) over veteran champion Valery Yanchy on the banks of the River Mersey in October. The hard-fought encounter inside the Echo Arena, the home of big-time boxing in Liverpool, gave Satchell his 13th victory as a professional since his debut in 2010 and the diminutive flyweight became the first fighter from Merseyside to conquer Europe since Paul Hodkinson captured the vacant featherweight title in 1989 with a second round stoppage of Raymond Armand at the Ulster Hall, Belfast.
He also joined Liverpool’s great former WBC light-heavyweight champion John Conteh and Ellesmere Port bantamweight Paul ‘Livewire’ Lloyd as fighters from Merseyside to hold all three titles (British, Commonwealth and European) simultaneously. “Yeah I found that out!” Satchell enthused when speaking to Boxing Monthly over the phone. “I’m the first fighter from Liverpool in 40 years to win all three belts and hold them at the same time. I’m proud of that fact the most. People will mention my name alongside the likes of Conteh which is fantastic.”
Yanchy, a 37-year-old Belarussian southpaw, proved tough and durable over the course of the scheduled 12 rounds but one sensed that Satchell was in control and a deserved winner despite Judge Giuseppe Quartarone carding a draw. “We thought [Yanchy] was gonna start off fast then he seemed to die down in the middle rounds. He came on strong later in the fight because he knew his title was slipping away from him but I felt in control of the fight,” Satchell told Boxing Monthly.
In March, Satchell was due to defend his European title for the first time against Irishman and former victim Luke Wilton, but a broken thumb suffered in training camp ruled out the Belfast native and in stepped Argentine Walter Rojas who sported a ‘fearsome on paper’ record of 23 KOs in 24 victories against just six losses.
A closer examination of his resumé, revealed that Rojas, from Monte Grande, Buenos Aires, had been blown away in quick fashion by all of the top guys he had faced including Jamie Conlan in 2013. Satchell needed less than three minutes to add his name to that list with a liver shot in round one finishing the fight.
“I timed the body shot perfectly when he threw the jab,” said Satchell, 14-0 (3 KOs), on the punch that had Rojas in pain. “I expected him to be hurt by that shot because I’ve worked on it so much in the gym. But you know I can only beat what’s put in front of me. I kept my head and trained like I always do when the Wilton rematch was called off because I didn’t know if this fight was gonna be tough or not. I’ve had a series of tough 12-rounders and I’ve not had a fight that easy in a while.”
Whilst Satchell, now a family man and father to six-year-old son Alfie, has begun to reap the rewards for his fighting prowess inside the ring, fighting on the streets was a constant throughout most of his youth.
He grew up in the Everton Area of Liverpool (famous for its Premier League football team) with his three brothers and two sisters on a housing estate he calls a ‘horrible place’. The estate’s location was in close vicinity to both the renowned Salisbury (Solly) and Everton Red Triangle gyms. But whilst the professional fighters hit the pads and heavy bags Satchell was scrapping in parks and alleyways. “Every week I was fighting someone over something!” he remembered.
One story that Satchell tells brings in to stark reality the dangers of the streets. “I’ve had knives pulled on me,” he told BM. “I wouldn’t mention no names but I was having trouble with this kid once who had stolen bikes from my brothers. I came around the corner on me bike and I saw him and went to have it with him - this is when I had just started boxing.
“He bottled it at first then it was almost as if he suddenly remembered he had a knife and he pulled it out so I legged it. I’m not that stupid to fight with a knife. He had a mate waiting around the corner and he grabbed me. The other lad pulled out this knife again to sort of threaten me with it but it nicked me just below the eyeball and cut the skin. An inch closer and it would have taken out me eye.
“You got to know the divvies that carried weapons but I never thought this lad would, or at least I didn’t think he would have one on him at the time,” he continued. “I took a risk that day, it could have been the end of my life, never mind my boxing career."
Keen to harness his fighting potential and add the physical tools necessary to protect his brothers and sister from any unwanted attention, Satchell strolled into the Everton Red Triangle gym as a street fighting youth keen to learn the basics of the sweet science. “Just over 13 years ago I walked into the gym. I was 12, about to turn 13, and that is when I met Paul and Mick Stevenson,” he said.
Paul Stevenson, 41, took over the helm of the Everton Red Triangle gym, formally known as Everton Lads and where Shea Neary trained for his WBU title defence against Andy Holligan in 1998, from the late Liverpool boxing legend Joe Curran around 15 years ago after a spell as a college art teacher with his brother Mick, who went to sea as a 16-year-old, joining him later.
Curran, a flyweight, boxed from 1932 through to 1948, and in 1946 he challenged Jackie Paterson for the world title in front of a reported 50,000 fans at Hampden Park, Glasgow, losing on points over 15 rounds.
The building that housed the Everton Red Triangle gym had been a fixture on the outskirts of Liverpool for over 100 years (the gym has since relocated to the site it occupies today on Domingo Road), but the gym lacked leadership and its coaches were without the time to make it successful despite their best efforts.
But with good old-fashioned hard work, the brothers and their coaches and backroom teams have produced 50 or so national title-winning amateurs in what they call their ‘Brotherhood’. “Paul and Mick are like family,” said Satchell. “Their uncle Alan helps out in the gym and their mum Joan does loads behind the scenes like sorting out club shows and stuff like that. I am really close to all of them. They’ve basically helped me grow up. Helped me out with money when I was younger, all sorts.”
“I had 37 fights and won 27 as an amateur,” he continued. “I won the Junior ABAs and the NACYPs but I missed out on the Senior ABA title that everybody wanted to win. Paul Edwards beat me in 2008 and Jazza Dickens (gym mate to Satchell at the ERT) beat me as well but my style was always more suited to the pro game.
“I can work for longer because there are more rounds and that plays into my hands because my fitness is superb. I never cut corners in training and must run hundreds of miles in every camp and I’m mega competitive. I want to come first in every run and come out on top in every spar. In a fight, I can sense when the other kid is beginning to tire and that spurs me on because I know that is the point at which I have broken ‘em mentally.”
After just six paid contests Satchell, then under the promotional banner of Frank Maloney, was given a huge breakout opportunity live on Sky Sports against former British bantamweight champion Martin Power in January 2012, a contest his trainer Paul Stevenson refers to as a ‘door opener’.
Power had blazed his way to 19-0 whilst picking up the British 118lbs title but came up short in a challenge for the Commonwealth strap when future Scott Quigg opponent Tshifhiwa Munyai, then unbeaten in 10 contests, stopped him in nine rounds back in 2006.
The Londoner was then ground down by Munyai in a return seven months later before he hit a rough patch of form that saw him lose four of his next seven contests including a 2010 defeat to future IBF bantamweight world champion Stuart Hall in a challenge for the British title, prompting a move down in weight.
The match between Satchell and Power was made a few pounds north of the flyweight limit but despite the St. Pancras man struggling to secure a meaningful win during a torrid run of form Satchell would need to be at his best to prevail. And he was - as he sent Power to the canvas in round two and eventually ran out a 59-55 winner over six rounds.
“I was training for that show, but I hadn’t been given an opponent,” remembered Satchell. “I was expecting to be matched with another journeyman then Paul Edwards pulled out and I was offered the fight on three days’ notice. "Training had gone really well so when we got offered the fight we jumped at it because I knew that it would be me big chance to shine against a good opponent and I went into the fight full of confidence. I didn’t know loads about him to be honest, and my trainers knew that, too, but I knew that I would get in there and do a job on him. After facing journeymen, I knew I would shine against a fighter who came to have a go and, in the gym, I was confident of winning and that’s why we didn’t hesitate in taking the fight.”
Satchell continued his great vein of form when he forced city rival Paul Edwards to retire in round 10 of a vacant Commonwealth title fight. Then four months later he battered British champion Chris Edwards into submission with body shots for a sixth round stoppage and the second time in a row his opponent had failed to hear the final bell.
“It’s hard to score knockouts in this division because everything happens so quickly,” said Satchell, whose work-rate is arguably his most valuable weapon. “In the higher weight classes, they have time to sit down on their shots but we prepare ourselves differently because most fights do go the distance.”
On his way to claiming the European title, Satchell was given two tough tests in defence of his British and Commonwealth championships by Wilton and Scottish banger Iain Butcher in February and July 2013 respectively (Satchell also successfully defended his Commonwealth title on points against Ghanaian Isaac Quaye in March 2014).
Wilton was outscored (119-112, 119-110 and 118-111) over the championship distance in a non-stop punching affair whilst Butcher almost knocked out the champion with a right hand in an extremely hard-fought and close contest. Butcher lost by two points twice (115-113) and by just one point (115-114) on the three judges’ scorecards.
“The Butcher fight was tough but I actually thought that the Wilton fight was even tougher,” Satchell revealed. “The work-rate in the Butcher fight was nowhere near the effort I put in against Wilton. It was just the right hand that Butcher caught me with landed high on my head and I didn’t see it coming.”
Satchell was forced to overcome a mini-crisis in round two of their British and Commonwealth title fight when a right hand stiffened his legs and a follow-up barrage sent him to the canvas before he recovered and won the contest on points. “The Butcher shot was just one of those punches,” he said. “I proved when I won the European title that I’m not chinny. Yanchy surprised me with his power, but he didn’t hurt me.”
With Satchell now on the first rung of a long ladder that reaches to lineal 112lbs champion and WBC title holder Roman Gonzalez, via a knot of dangerous contenders and young hotshots, the European champion and his promoter Frank Warren must plot his path through the flyweight forest with great care.
“I think I’m beyond domestic level now. I don’t want to get bogged down at that level and that is why I wanted to chase the European title because I need more international experience before I move into world class,” said Satchell.
Unfortunately, in boxing, the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition and for Satchell it was a result 10,000 miles away on the neon-soaked strip of gambling mecca Macao, China, that curtailed a dream fight and a certain career best payday.
With millions watching on terrestrial TV in China, and thousands more packed inside the Cotai Arena, double Olympic Gold Medallist and Chinese boxing icon Zou Shiming lost his challenge to IBF champion and amateur rival Amnat Ruenroeng on points despite having a generous looking knockdown called in his favour in round two.
Boxing Monthly had been informed by Satchell’s manager Neil Marsh that he was close to agreeing terms with Top Rank for Satchell to face Zou in the summer had he been successful in his title challenge. “I’m gutted we have been on this for months,” said Marsh as he reacted to Zou’s defeat. “We have to regroup now and Kevin will defend his European title against his mandatory challenger Thomas Masson (12-3, 3 KOs and from Bruay-La-Buissiere, France). We aren’t in a rush (to fight for a world title) but we knew that Zou was beatable, the best payday and the easiest option.
“Fingers crossed, I might still get the call to head over to Macao to fight Shiming in an eliminator, who knows?” said Satchell, who must now concentrate on making a first successful defence of his European title.
Ellesmere Port hotshot Paul Butler (17-1, 8 KOs) had already claimed the IBF bantamweight title when he outpointed Stuart Hall in June 2014 before suffering a shock eighth round stoppage defeat at the hands of superb South African Zolani Tete when he challenged for the IBF 115lbs championship in March. The rumour mill had previously begun to turn with word that Satchell and Butler could meet sometime in the near future.
“I was shocked, very shocked that [Butler] got knocked out, but that’s boxing. I thought he was gonna win on points,” said Satchell. “If the money was right and everything with the contract was right, I’d happily go up to super-flyweight even bantamweight because I am massive at flyweight and I think I could be even better at the higher weight.
“It’s definitely a fight that will happen in the future. I am 26 and I don’t need to rush but, on the other hand, I know that at the lower weights you tend to get ‘old’ quicker compared to the heavyweights so I want to start earning good money before it’s too late. It would be something special to win a world title with the team I have around me and extra special because of where I came from 13 years ago.”