YOU OFTEN HEAR commentators refer to boxers having to ‘bite down on the gumshield’ during fights, but biting on anything simply wasn’t an option for me during my last fight at the Copper Box in July.
My 12th professional opponent, Richard Baranyi, had no idea of the pain I was in before a punch was even thrown.
Just three days before the fight – the period of time where you are dropping that last stubborn bit of weight, still ticking over with training and carrying out media obligations – I was enduring the excruciating trauma of an abscess.
I woke up in the middle of the night in agony and anyone who has had similar will know what I was going through. At the time I was washing my mouth out with salt water and trying every natural remedy I could think of because I was trying not to resort to painkillers.
I only got to sleep in the end through sheer exhaustion and when I woke up I had a swollen face – on the day of the press conference!
I called my trainer Tunde and said – ‘it feels like my whole head is going to fall off my body’.
I got through the press conference by washing out my mouth with water every 25 seconds or so, but that only helps a little bit.
Unfortunately, I know the drill only too well because I have had the problem with other teeth before because of my former habit of eating too many sugary sweets!
So it is self-inflicted but it dates back to before I started boxing. I still eat a few chocolates now, but nowhere near to the extent I used to.
I got through the press conference in agony and the next day it was the weigh-in. I didn’t go to the dentist because I knew they would say the infection has to clear before they do anything, so it would be antibiotics.
Removing the tooth would be a hospital job and that wasn’t an option. The timing for me was a stinker, just before I was fighting for a big title, the WBO European, at this stage of my career.
After the weigh-in I did take some painkillers, but on fight night the pain washed over me. The trouble is, no painkiller on earth is strong enough to relieve an abscess toothache.
I do try to take the positives out of everything, so I was meant to have the abscess, I was meant to be angry for the fight and in pain – so I got the job done in the first round.
I was always going to fight the fight because it is my destiny.
When my cornerman Frank Greaves went to put Vaseline on my face he just touched my cheek a little bit the pain just shot through me again – even with having taken painkillers.
So then I just stayed quiet before walking out and pondering how I would feel if this guy manages to hit me with a left hook.
For me, no shot landing on my head would be acceptable and I had my right hand up high.
I said to myself, ‘Ant, everything happens for a reason and this is your fight. Don’t get hit and a knockout has to happen’.
I do like to pace myself through fights because I am at the stage of my career where I haven’t had a lot of rounds at all, but I couldn’t take the risk this time.
Showcasing what I have got by taking a little bit longer had to wait for another day.
The belt being wrapped around me didn’t take away the pain at the time. If you look at me I went to the ropes and took my gumshield out and threw it away in agony.
I did my BT Sport and BoxNation interview, went back to the changing room and my celebration consisted of a heavy dose of paracetamol!
I am happy to report the antibiotics I was given the next day have now done the job and any further pain will be saved for my next opponents, the next one being on September 16.