Time out for Mansouri
On the verge of the biggest fight of his life, Nav Mansouri’s Achilles tendon went and he found himself writhing in agony on the gym floor. He explains to Danny Winterbottom how he’s coping without being able to box...
Rotherham's English champion Navid Mansouri was just 10 days away from challenging Liam Williams for the British and Commonwealth super welterweight titles in Harrow when he was struck down with a serious Achilles tendon injury during training.
A video posted on his Facebook page showed Mansouri (15-1-2, 5 KOs) collapsing to the floor in pain during final preparations for the fight, leaving promoter Frank Warren with no option but to cancel the whole show. That was March 2016 and Mansouri, 27, is now undergoing an intensive recuperation programme following keyhole surgery on his Achilles in Sheffield as he battles to return to the ring later this year.
“For the injury to happen 10 days out from the biggest fight of my life absolutely devastated me,” Mansouri told Boxing Monthly. “It was the worst possible thing that could have happened. I couldn’t speak to anyone for days.
“I was distraught. I asked the doctor to inject me with something that could allow me to fight. That’s how much I wanted to fight for the British title. But the doctor looked at me and said there was no such thing.
“I have tried to remain positive and the people around me have been fantastic. My family have been very supportive throughout and I hooked up with the MGM team in Marbella in 2015 and they really looked after me in the first few months after my injury by finding me somewhere to live in Marbella and putting me in touch with a doctor who has set out a treatment plan. My sponsors have come through for me too, meaning that I haven't struggled too much financially whilst I have been out of the ring and not earning money from fighting.”
Mansouri now lives full time in Marbella.
“I have started to do some personal training as well,” he said. “I do kids’ classes that I don’t charge for and some adult classes that have allowed me to earn some money and build up a nice client base. But my life is boxing and it has been killing me to watch some fighters that I believe I can beat win titles whilst I’m injured. That’s life, I suppose, and my health is the most important thing at the moment.”
Mansouri began his professional career in 2009 and he was guided through his preliminary bouts by then-trainer Dave Coldwell, whose Coldwell Promotions outfit was going from strength to strength at the time, with strong attendance figures and an internet television platform.
Coldwell’s connections in the game brought Mansouri valuable experience, such as sparring with Paulie Malignaggi and Kell Brook. Mansouri’s stoppage victory over Nathan Graham at the Magna Centre in his home town of Rotherham, in a toe-to-toe war, landed him a place in the 2012 154lbs Prizefighter light-middleweight tournament broadcast live on Sky Sports.
Mansouri defeated hard-punching Central Area champion Curtis Valentine on points over the three-round distance in his opening bout but he was upset by Terry Carruthers via a split decision in the semi-finals, although Mansouri and his team thought he had done enough to win.
In July 2014, after successfully defending his English title with a fifth-round TKO of Matthew Mallin some five months earlier, Mansouri was scheduled to challenge then British champion Liam Smith in Manchester on the undercard of Tyson Fury vs Dereck Chisora II before a back injury sidelined him for 13 months.
Whilst injury prevention is not an exact science, the Rotherham stylist is certain that not listening to his body’s needs during training resulted in both the back injury and his latest Achilles tendon injury, both of which have resulted in him having extended periods of time away from the ring during his prime years.
“I used to train at 100 miles per hour,” Mansouri said. “I would train through injuries and never wanted to stop, when I should have been looking after my body and having a rest. All the way through both camps for the Williams fights [the fight was postponed originally in January 2016 when Williams suffered an illness] I had injuries but I carried on in the gym.
“My Achilles had been giving me trouble for a year or so, until — 10 days to go — bang! If all this has taught me anything, it’s to listen to my body and have plenty of rest.”
An initial scan of Mansouri’s left foot by Sheffield NHS revealed a 3mm swelling of the tendon muscle at the back of his heel that would require surgery if he intended fighting again. He said his surgeon did an outstanding job in repairing the damage, allowing the subsequent physiotherapy, laser and cryogenic treatment teams to do all they could in assisting with his recovery.
“The surgeon told me that I’m looking at nine to 12 months out of the ring, but it could be sooner if I look after myself during recovery,” Mansouri said. “When I put weight on the foot at the minute, I can still feel some pain. It’s a slow healing process and you need to give this type of injury the right time to heal properly otherwise you risk it flaring up again.
“They [the hospital] are keeping an eye on it at the minute and the doctor has given me some supplements to help my joints and my legs because I lost quite a bit of size in my leg when it was in a cast. Now it’s all about building up my strength and getting back in the ring, where I hope to go straight into a big fight.”
The last time we saw Mansouri in the ring, he defeated recent British middleweight title challenger Sam “Speedy” Sheedy on a split decision in July 2015 at the Magna Centre in defence of his English title. It was his first fight under the MGM banner. While the verdict was debatable, the result looks good on Mansouri’s record, especially considering that Sheedy gave unbeaten Tommy Langford a real run for his money when they clashed for the vacant British middleweight title.
“Yeah, I thought Sam was unlucky not to win that fight,” Mansouri said. “He boxed very well and really frustrated Langford.
“Watching the fight, it gave me great confidence that when I do come back I can still mix it with the best guys domestically, and those are the types of fights that I want straight away, although my team would rather me have a tune-up, preferably on a televised card so that the fans say: ‘Oh, I remember that guy!’”
Mansouri’s success has somewhat surprised him because his original intention upon entering a gym as a teenager was to get fit for what he hoped would be a career as a footballer.
“Believe it or not, I was a fat kid,” he said. “At 16 I weighed 95kg but I was still active and played lots of sport. But I wanted to get fitter because I really thought I could have been a good footballer.
“I had been in a boxing gym when I was about seven or eight years old because my uncle used to box, but I was a mischievous kid and didn’t listen to anything the coaches were telling me. Instead I would just mess around and trip people up. I didn’t go back until my friends said it would be good for my fitness. From the moment I walked in, I fell in love with the place. I got on with everybody, although the first time I sparred I got battered — which is funny now but it wasn't so much fun at the time.
“When I walked in the next day, the coaches asked: ‘What are you doing here?’ I told them I’d come back for more. And eventually I started to get better and I when I won my first fight I was buzzing.”
Mansouri has a small apartment in Marbella and says he is looking forward to testing himself against the terrain and fellow boxers.
“I’m missing the roadwork out here,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place to run. So whilst I’m getting fitter I’ve got myself a bike but hopefully it won’t be too long before I’m back running up those mountains and fighting again in the gym. When there are plenty of fighters over here sparring the atmosphere is great and we all push each other to new heights.
“I’ve had 18 fights so far as a pro but I feel there is loads more to come from me. But I need a good unbroken run of two or three years so I can attack those titles. The time out injured has been very frustrating and when you aren’t fighting in the ring people can forget you quickly. But that’s boxing. It’s my job to make them remember me when I do come back.”