Northampton’s neat boxing Kieron Conway may be the early bookies’ favourite to lift the Ultimate Boxxer III trophy when eight top Middleweight hopefuls convene at The Indigo at The O2 on Friday 10th May, but the cobbler hopefully endured his toughest battle simply getting started in the sport!
"I’d been a big fan since getting up in the middle of the night to watch the big Ricky Hatton fights from America. But though my friend at primary school boxed, me dad, who’d boxed amateur, never allowed me to join him, saying I ‘was too soft to be a boxer,’" disclosed ‘Too Class’ who, at 22, is the youngest entrant.
"At school, I was a popular kid, never a scrapper but good at other sports. One day, dad’s old coach visited to buy some dogs and somehow convinced the old man to let me have a go.
"I had the first of my 84 amateur bouts (69 wins) for the Kings Heath club, aged 12. It helped that I’d done a bit of karate (black belt by 11) because I did a lot of press-ups and there were transferable explosive movements.
"I was a little skinny kid, there really wasn’t too much to me, and I’d win one, lose one. But after the age of 16, only Carl Fail in the Senior ABAs beat me, over a period spanning three years. I won eight Midland Titles, two Haringey Cup gold medals and also boxed for England a handful of times."
Since slinging his singlet in December 2017, the MTK Global starlet has steamed to 10 consecutive wins – predominantly down at Super-Welter - conquering the useful Chris Monaghan (one loss in 8), Gino Kanters (one loss in 5) and 26-14 Gabor Gorbics along the way.
"Today, I don’t work. I put everything into my boxing. The thought of losing makes me feel ill so I train morning, noon and night. I aim to be a superstar," claims Conway who, rather ironically, is now coached by Dad James (in tandem with Arthur Daly) at the KH gym.
"Technically I’m pretty good and my strength is deceiving. I’m sharp and adaptable. I’ve two very different styles and can bring either out at any point of any round."
Ultimate Boxxer makes its debut BoxNation appearance at 8pm this Friday night, with 8 middleweights battling to win £50k 🙌— BoxNation (@boxnationtv) May 9, 2019
Here are the big hits and KOs from #UBII to get you in the mood 🔥 pic.twitter.com/ABfdH0glCr
Despite his apparent ability and application, classy Kieron has struggled for recognition, based in the boxing backwater of Northampton that also saw another local, Drew Brown, win the inaugural Ultimate Boxxer tournament last year.
"They enjoy their combat sports here - we’ve one of Europe’s biggest MMA gyms – so it’s strange that more from the town haven’t made it as pros because, trust me, there’s plenty who enjoy a scrap," he quips.
"But I believe that’s about to change, just with the fighters from our gym. Ethan James and Ben Vaughan both represented England at the recent Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas and Ethan won gold. There’s a few others here around National Title level. Watch out for us!"
The young gun warns his seven UB competitors to expect an eggy face if they dismiss him lightly.
"No doubt, the others will underestimate me because of my youth, where I come from, and that I usually box a weight beneath but that would be unwise!" says the 5ft 11 ½ in stylist.
"The bookies have got me favourite. I’ve boxed more rounds and I’ve been on bigger stages than the others. I’ve previously experienced boxing on Amir Khan and Kal Yafai undercards in Birmingham, plus a Jordan Gill undercard in Peterborough.
"Though I’ve acclimatised to eight rounders in the pros, I’m the one with the amateur pedigree. And I’ve been sparring with the England amateur squad for this; everything sharp and pacy.
"I’ve not seen a lot of the other entrants but I know I’ve boxed at a higher level, beaten guys with winning records and I’ve already been punched back. I’m not sure many of the others have. I’m ready for titles right now but can’t get opportunities. This can push me on.
"Hopefully, the venue will be packed and plenty of armchair fans will tune in too. In my mindset, I can’t see how any of the others can beat me. I see all three of mine, ending by stoppage wins."
But irrespective of what transpires between the strands at The Indigo, Conway, eldest of seven, has already converted his earliest critic.
He concludes: "Now, when he gets drunk, me dad confesses he’s very proud of me!"