Tyrone Nurse, born to box

Danny Winterbottom
01/03/2016 10:35am


As a schoolboy, British light-welterweight champion Tyrone Nurse was already preparing himself both mentally and physically for life in the unforgiving world of professional prizefighting, whilst perfecting the 'hit and don't get hit' style that has taken the Huddersfield 25-year-old to a record of 32-2-1 (6 KOs) as a seven year pro. 

When most teenage boys are chasing girls and trying to outdo their mates on the latest video games, Nurse was bunking off school to spar with grown men in the intimidating surroundings of a boxing gym. Men such as Stephen Foster Jr, Carl Johanneson and recently crowned WBA lightweight champion Anthony Crolla.

“I were skiving off school and they were paying me a tenner a round!” Nurse told Boxing Monthly over the phone.

Nurse’s father and trainer Chris Aston, once a gutsy, flamed-haired circuit pro in the 1990s, finished his ring career with a defeat to Dave McHale in October 1995 then set about training youngsters in the Huddersfield area.

He had a golden spell of success and was a regular face on Sky Sports in the early 2000s alongside his fighters, flyweight pocket battleship Dale Robinson, welterweight stylist James Hare and cruiserweight Mark Hobson, whilst his son soaked up as much knowledge of the sweet science as he could watching video tapes of Floyd Mayweather Jr, James Toney and Roy Jones Jr passed down to him by his father.

“I were never forced into boxing as a kid,” said Nurse. “But as a seven or eight year old, me dad would put the gloves on me and teach me boxing. I knew what he did for a living because all his fighters would be at the house and I would see him on TV.  I were around 10 years old when I finally set foot in a boxing gym, I loved it and haven't looked back since.”

Nurse was given a harsh but, it could be argued, effective education in the reality of life inside the ropes by his father when he was handed tough sparring assignments with the likes of (British flyweight champion) Shinny Bayaar and Mongolian warrior Choi Tsveenpurev when he was still a wet behind the ears amateur.

“Choi!” sighed Nurse, when recalling the sparring sessions they shared. “I would mess about with Choi, but I would mainly spar Shinny (Bayaar) because he were closer in size to me. We hadn't sparred Choi for a while but I remember going back to the gym when I were around 16, I were bigger than him even though he were a fully grown man and I were still a kid.

“In the first 10 seconds of the spar he hit me with a right hand and everything went black for about five seconds! Then he set about trying to finish me off but I got through it and we had a right good spar for the next six rounds.”

“I've never been nervous or daunted by anything or anyone in the ring, even when I were a kid sparring these grown men,” he added. “I've always looked at sparring as a way of learning and improving and if you want to improve you need to fight people who could beat you. All those hard spars over the years have stood me in good stead and set me up to be a champion.”

Trainer/father Aston added: “He has been brought up like a Mexican fighter because he has been training like a pro since he were a teenager.”

Nurse was a regular sparring partner of Scotland's former world champion Ricky Burns, going all the way back to when a young Tyrone impressed his Scottish hosts as a 16-year-old, and his slippery style and height was utilised by the 'Rickster' during many camps throughout his reign as Commonwealth and WBO champion.

“Ricky is a complete workhorse isn't he!? He surprised me with how strong he were.  I think the first time we sparred it were up at Kevin Maree's gym in Clitheroe (Lancashire). John Simpson and Carl Frampton were there along with a few others and we mixed and matched the spars. At that time I were 16, Ricky were a fair bit bigger and stronger than me so the work was tough!

“Then after I turned pro Ricky's team were asking me to go up to Scotland to spar him when he were facing those rangy African fighters. As I got older and stronger the spars got better and more intense. The last time I went up (to Scotland) were for the Crawford fight.”

Back in late November, the corn row sporting Yorkshireman got his hands on the British 10st title at the second time of asking when he recovered from a heavy knockdown in round five to claim a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Welshman Chris Jenkins at the Manchester Arena on the undercard of Anthony Crolla's fine victory over Darleys Perez.

The pair had battled to a majority draw during an excellent contest in June 2015 with the vacant British title at stake. Jenkins was cut on his left eye in round four and Nurse was bruised under his right eye in the fifth whilst the Welshman also suffered a cut following a clash of heads in the closing stages of a bout that two out of the three scoring judges determined a draw.

But Nurse believed he had done enough to win the first go around and thought that his victory in fight number two (that saw him become the third fighter from Huddersfield after Mark Hobson and 1980s light-welterweight Prince Rodney to win the coveted belt) was justice served.

“I thought the first fight were much clearer than the second, which were a close fight. You could say it were justice that I got the win in the second fight because the first were never a draw. 

“I think I switched off for a split second and threw a shitty jab,” said Nurse on the knockdown that could have turned the fight in favour of Jenkins. “He countered me with a perfect right hand, I didn't realise how good it were until I watched it back!

“When I got up me legs were solid and I looked at (referee) Steve Gray and said 'bastard!' I were more embarrassed than hurt. I were more worried about getting a right hand off me dad in the corner!

“He's a good kid is Jenkins and both fights have been competitive, but you've got to look at it and say that four scorecards (over two fights) have said that I beat him.”

Nurse’s route to the British title arrived via an appearance in the popular Prizefighter series in 2012, where he lost to Adil Anwar in the final, and a Central Area super lightweight title fight against Joe Elfidh at the Doncaster Dome in 2013.  Chris Aston admitted that his son's Prizefighter tilt was more 'speculative' than realistic, despite Nurse sporting a 20-0 record at the time, and that the money Tyrone earned from it afforded his son the luxury to train full-time.

“Yeah, Prizefighter came a little bit too early for me” said Nurse, who stopped puncher Dale Miles in his quarter-final and then scored a points win over former British title challenger Young Mutley for a place in the final. “It were a blessing in disguise that we didn't win [Prizefighter] it because at that time I weren't ready for the top fighters in the division. It bought us an extra 18 months and I got a couple of wins under me belt and spent more time in the gym with me dad.”

A year on from the loss of his unbeaten record to Adil Anwar in Prizefighter, Nurse was in possession of his first professional title when a right shoulder injury suffered by his opponent Joe Elfidh in the second round of a vacant Central Area super-welterweight title fight forced a premature end to the contest.

A victory over dangerous journeyman Mark McKray and circuit fighter Krzysztof Szot lead Nurse to a vacant English title showdown with Cambridge slugger Tyler Goodjohn at the Manchester Arena in April 2014.  Nurse was almost punch perfect on the night as he sat in the pocket and counter-punched a bamboozled Goodjohn into defeat, only Nurse's lack of knockout power prevented a stoppage victory.

A bump in the road occurred in the career progression of the Huddersfield stylist when he lost a vacant Commonwealth title fight to Dave Ryan via majority decision in October 2014. Nurse was sent to the canvas in the first round and again in the second by the unfashionable but effective Ryan and was unable to recover enough points over the distance despite a gallant effort.

“That were the worst Tyrone you will ever see. It were all in training camp but I'm not gonna sit here and make excuses because Dave Ryan beat me fair and square on the night and at the end of the day that's what it comes down to. I won't be that bad again though!”

Nurse went into the Christmas holidays as British 10st champion, but he realises that his status as domestic divisional ruler will see a host of challengers appear on his radar in 2016 starting with Willie Limond on 26 March at Sheffield Arena.

“Domestically, the division is good at the moment with John Wayne Hibbert, Lenny Daws still in the mix and Jack Catterall who is a very good fighter.”

Nurse may have felt that he wasn't ready to take on the best in his weight class back in his Prizefighter days, but as a defending British champion he can expect the full wrath of a talented domestic division to be forced upon him in 2016.