Steel works for Spelman
Before a fighter’s life becomes consumed by boxing there is normally a prior chapter when they have dipped their hands into other sporting activities.
For many, the competitive edge begins early in life by playing football, rugby or various other sports where they find out what it’s like to win and lose. Once sport and school have come and gone there is a moment when the individual goes to a gym and becomes hooked by the surroundings, the atmosphere and seeing varying forms of apparatus being battered as others chase the dream of becoming a champion.
Twenty-three year old Dec Spelman (4-0, 2 KOs), a light-heavyweight novice hailing from the industrial environs of Scunthorpe, found the gym in his early teens as an ideal place to get fit and nothing else. But before that ‘Kid Nytro’ dabbled in something that wasn’t quite football or rugby.
“I started Irish dancing from a young age, five to ten,” Spelman told Boxing Monthly. “I had a big Irish background in my family and it was like that.
“All my cousins were girls and they did it and I just thought I’ll follow them then the next thing I know I’m wearing a kilt!” he said with a laugh that provoked the next statement.
“Looking back I think ‘what was I doing?’”
But with pride he added: “I was good at it as well, really good at it. I went from there to brown belt in karate and left that as you do then tried my hand in football but my family’s always been big on rugby - that was the path I was going to choose. Then I found the gym!”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
After initially deciding to go on the road as a pro boxer, Spelman decided to put his future in the hands of one the hardest working and more sensible voices in boxing: Carl Greaves. Greaves, who retired as a fighter in 2005 with a 32-7 (5KOs) record having won the Midlands Area super-featherweight title and twice challenged for the British version, seems to have a 24-7 relationship with boxing as a trainer, manager and promoter working with dozens of fighters up and down the country.
“Because he was a Midlands based promoter,” said Spelman when asked why he joined forces with Greaves. “I had a look round. I couldn’t sell tickets so I was going to go on the road and, to be honest, he was the only one who was quite helpful with it. Whatever he thinks is the best for me, I’ll do it because I trust him.”
Since September last year, Spelman has had four fights with four wins to his name and two coming inside the distance. This included one of the knockouts of 2014 when he stopped Stoke’s Chris Nixon in the first round with an explosive left hook which left his opponent needing medical assistance in the ring (Nixon thankfully got back to his feet with his faculties intact).
Speaking of his first four fights, Spelman said: “It’s been good. I’ve learned a lot, in and out of the gym really, in my fights but in the gym especially.
“I learn a lot more in the gym than I am in my fights due to the calibre of people I’ve been boxing really. I’ve found it hard, very hard switching over from amateur to pros. It’s a lot more harder work and a lot more dedication. But yeah it’s gone well.”
The old cliché of ‘one fight at a time’ is popularly applied to a fighter’s response when asked what aspirations they have for the future or where they see themselves this time next year. And, after less than a half dozen fights, Spelman crucially cannot fail to look beyond his next fight (vs Jason Jones on 29 August in Doncaster) but he shares one burning ambition with almost all British fighters.
“I want a Lonsdale belt, I want the British title. It’s what every British boxer wants but that’s something I really, really want and it’s something I believe I can get as well,” he told BM. “Enough dedication and hard work, I do believe I can get it.”
For that to happen, Spelman will have to continue to put in the hours of graft inside the gym but outside it, too. A day in the life of the steelworker-by-day shows a man who works 10-hour shifts to pay the mortgage and put food on his family’s table and then packing his kit for a drive to Newark to work a shift of a different kind.
“My contracted hours at work are 6am till 2pm but I go in early at 4am so I finish at half one and get away early,” said Spelman. “I finish at half one, go home try and get an hour’s kip for the drive and then I’ll drive an hour and ten minutes to Newark. I’ll train for two hours then drive back, get in have my tea and sleep.
“Right now I eat, sleep, work and train. Other than my family and a bite to eat I don’t know what else I have time for! It’d be nice to turn full-time, but I’ve got a mortgage and the rest of it. I’ve got a kid and that so I need to be financially secure before I can do that. I’ve kind of grew up early.”