Spelman surpasses his own expectations
Light heavyweight prospect Dec Spelman from Scunthorpe tells James Oddy he can't believe how far his career has already come - while remaining confident he can mix it at higher levels still...
Domestically, the light heavyweight scene is arguably one of the most intriguing divisions. It has a raft of high quality boxers in the mix for the English, British and Commonwealth titles, while Welshman Nathan Cleverly is also a ‘world’ champion (he holds the WBA ‘regular’ belt whilst Andre Ward is ‘super’ champion).
Enjoying a rapid ascent up the ranks is Scunthorpe’s Dec ‘Kid Nytro’ Spelman (11-0, 7 KOs), who is now mandatory for English champion Joel McIntyre (15-1).
The 25-year-old Spelman's career has not followed the most conventional path. “I had my first amateur when I was 14, went with a couple of lads from school.” he told Boxing Monthly via telephone. “It was just to get in shape really; I’d always been into sport.
"Believe it or not, I was a really good Irish dancer originally. So I’ve always been into something…I took to boxing. I had two fights, and I thought to myself: it isn’t for me. I had a few years out and played rugby, got to quite a high standard. Then I decided I wanted to get back and get literally fit, I was muscle bound.
"I saw one of my old amateur coaches in a car park, and he said get back up. When I was 14 I’d boxed at 62kg, when I went back I was at 78kg, so I’d put on lots of mass. I thought: yeah I’ll give it a go.”
Spelman was involved with Centurions and Brigg ABC before joining highly regarded Highfields ABC in Doncaster.
“I think I was 17 when I came back and I had five straight stoppages, and I thought, bloody hell, I’m onto something here! They [Highfields] had a lad called Jamie Fields at my weight who was an ABA finalist; he brought me on leaps and bounds.”
Like many boxers, the paid ranks appealed to Spelman as much out of necessity as anything else.
“I originally turned over because I was having a baby boy,” he recalled.
Coming from a town, rather than a city, Spelman initially thought that to make any money from the sport he would need to take the tough, 'road warrior' route.
“[I thought] I’d go on the road. I’m from a little town, [with] very few pro boxers. Nobody has ever really made anything, Jim Betts [also from Scunthorpe] did something. When you’re from a small town, it’s so hard to sell tickets. I was going to go on the road and it was only [promoter] Carl Greaves who really gave me the time. It’s all about ticket sales and people aren’t interested it you can't sell tickets. My debut was meant to be against Kirk Garvey [now an 8-1 London-based prospect], but it never materialised.
“I said: 'look, how many tickets do I need to do to box on a home show?' He’s very fair Carl, he’s always been fair with me form the start, it’s hard to find that; he’s fair with money. He’ll always listen to me, and my side. He said, 'do 60-70 tickets and I’ll be happy'. Everyone else was saying if you don’t do 100 you’ve got no chance. I knew I’d never get 100, but I got 90 and surprised myself.”
In his pro debut in September 2014, Spelman out-pointed tough Elvis Dube over six before meeting Chris Nixon, who was 2-1 at the time. The fight, a tough one on paper, proved to be something of a catalyst for Spelman due to its sudden and violent conclusion.
“On the second one I struggled on tickets, and I thought, here I go. I was boxing Chris Nixon and the knockout went quite viral. From there I got another stoppage again [against] Dan Foster, It’s gone from there. I’ve just picked it up. It’s gone on leaps and bounds. We put ourselves in Lincoln, Doncaster, Scunthorpe, Hull, and I’ve picked up people from all over [as fans].”
Spelman has cut a swathe through a variety of domestic and European opponents, including the dangerous Carl Wild and Olegs Fedotovs. Meanwhile, his recent fight against Nathan King was on the Sky Sports/ Matchroom bill in Hull earlier this year.
“It was really under par from me," is Spelman's honest assessment of the King contest, which he won by stoppage in the third round. "I got too involved, which has been my problem. Lads will tell you in the gym, I spar some good kids, I know sparring is different, but I am a good boxer. I say it’s under par, but I look, and when he boxed Callum Johnson, Johnson lost rounds to him. [Hosea] Burton struggled with him. Maybe I am being too harsh on myself. I’d have liked it a bit cleaner, but if I’d have done it, it might have been a points win.”
The result set up an English light heavyweight title showdown with current holder Joel McIntyre. although since BM spoke to Spelman he has suffered an injury which has thrown a potential spanner in the works.
If the fight does not come off then it will be a blow, particularly given how excited Spelman was when speaking to BM about the contest.
“We’ve just won purse bids for that," he declared. "It’s massive for the town. The only thing is, with the place I’m in, Carl struggles to get an undercard together. Fair play to Carl, he’s won the purse bid for me. Carl has really done me proud and put his neck out for me. That’s going to be hard fight, but it’s a fight that’s winnable, it’s a fight I fancy.”
I was curious if Spelman felt the fight had come too early for him, but he was quick to dispel that suggestion.
“You're looking at Anthony Yarde, and people want him to fight for the British title. It doesn’t happen like that. But at the same time you can't be mugging people off who come to see you, paying 30, 40, 60 quid for a ticket and you're blowing people out in a round, I can't expect that, people don’t want to see that.
"So it’s finding that happy medium. Yeah, fighters are getting rushed, but you’ve got the World Series of Boxing, they are already used to the format. The game's changing. I am young, but where I am at now, I’ve got to believe I can beat anyone, and it's up to Carl to put me in the right places at the right times. “
Despite being confident, Spelman is clearly still aware of where he has come from, and how far he has travelled from his early hopes and plans.
“I was originally going to be on the road, what I’ve done already I’ve already surprised myself," he admitted. "Coming from a town, lots of people doubt you. It was only my family and close friends who believed I’d get to where I am. I didn’t believe I’d be mandatory for the English title, until you start knocking these people out who haven’t been stopped before, [then] you start believing in yourself…
"I’m happy already with what I’ve achieved. But I am looking at British level and thinking: they’re beatable! I never thought I’d be a position to say that. But I am seriously thinking that. Every fight is a confidence builder now.”