Cranham crowdpleaser Lee Markham is promising a demolition derby when he renews hostilities with Essex rival Joe Mullender in the latter’s hometown of Brentwood on June 2nd, writes Glynn Evans.
Twelve months back, the pair collided in a belter for the vacant English crown at London’s O2 Arena with marauding Markham prevailing by margins of three, four and five rounds in a contender for domestic Fight of the Year.
Given he’s already a credible contender for a British title challenge, several were shocked that the bullet-headed 29 year old consented to a replay with the rowdy roughneck who’d caused plenty of chaos in their initial tear-up.
‘Motivation certainly won’t be an issue. I’m always up for a fight with Joe Mullender,’ says the Dominic Negus mentored Markham who sports a 17-3-1 CV.
‘We know the same people so there’s a lot of pride at stake. That means far more to me than the English title.
‘We boxed out of the same amateur gym and, though we never fought, we sparred hundreds of rounds together. Back then, I was a bit more experienced than Joe. Still am.’
There has been an almighty clamour from within Essex County for a second sitting since Mullender finished like an express train in their initial 10 rounder that was part screened by ‘Dave’ TV.
‘It’s a shame that the first fight didn’t get greater TV exposure because it was a real war,’ acknowledges Markham, known as ‘Banjo’.
‘But fans who weren’t there have a misguided impression of how close it was. The TV only showed the final three rounds which were Joe’s best but over the first seven, I boxed his head off. Darren Barker, who was doing the commentary, weren’t singing my praises. He’s a Team Mullender man!’
Just seven miles separates Cranham from Brentwood and while Markham scoffs off any feelings of personal disdain for his ex Five Star amateur squadmate, he concedes that the need to re-affirm regional supremacy is consuming.
‘If he beats me, I’d probably have to move county!’ he quips.
‘But there’s certainly no bad feeling on my part. It just looks like we hate each other when we’re in the ring together!’
‘To be fair, I don’t think Joe believes he was hard done by. He just really wants my English title and believes he can improve on his first performance so fair play to him.
‘Boxing him in his patch certainly won’t bother me but I think it’ll affect him, cause him to ‘play up’ to his crowd and lose focus. I’ll definitely be trying to wind him up, get him to see the ‘red mist, drag him into a tear-up. That’s when he’ll start to make mistakes.’
For the past two years, the 5ft 9in Markham has prowled on the periphery of a British title shot but his dreams were compromised by conceding natural size to good men.
In 2015, he drew over 10 in a brutal war with reigning British light-heavy boss Frank Buglioni and was edged out by close decision in 12st challenges to Jahmaine Smyle for the vacant English strap, then Luke Blackledge for the Commonwealth crown.
Latterly, the father of two has been reaping the rewards of strimming his muscular frame down to 160lbs, despite working full time as a carpenter. Post Mullender, he was hugely impressive repelling the challenge Redditch warlord Andrew ‘D’Animal’ Robinson.
‘Previously in my career, I was giving away natural weight to championship grade operators and just fell short,’ says Markham.
‘For the first Mullender fight I was still acclimatising to the weight drop but I can feel my body getting stronger and stronger at middleweight. Now, I’m training and sparring close to the weight I’m fighting at. Now I’m the bigger guy in the ring, rather than the smaller guy.’
And he knows that a comprehensive crushing of Mullender would further strengthen his already strong claim as a viable British title contender.
‘Look, I know my level, I never get above my station, and talk world titles,’ he states.
‘But take away Billy Joe Saunders and there’s not much between the rest of us. You’ve got Tommy Langford (British champion), Sam Sheedy (Commonwealth champion), Jack Arnfield, Craig Cunningham, Jason Welborn...good lads but I’d happily mix it with any of them. I’ve never shied away from a fight.
‘I’d hoped the Robinson defence would have earned me a direct crack at the British. Mullender is just a means to an end. If I come through, hopefully it’ll propel me into a fight with Langford. He’s got something that I really want.’
With a victory over Mullender already illuminating his record, there is heavy pressure on Markham not just to win but to woo. With BoxNation screening live and a foe he’ll not need to ‘find’, the stage is perfectly set for him to sizzle.
‘Because of our styles, we’ll always be in good fights,’ he says.
‘The difference is Joe can only fight one way – chugging forward, slinging punches. I can meet fire with fire, or do different things. Technically, I’m leagues above. My problem is that, win, lose or draw, I like to give the fans a scrap to talk about. I like to wear my heart on my sleeve and entertain. That way, it’s easier to sell my tickets for the next fight.
‘Joe’s not a particularly big puncher and certainly not the cleverest boxer but you have to respect his fitness, toughness, his heart and will to win. His work rate’s high and he’s usually on the front foot. He’s not shy about sticking his head or elbows in! If he can get away with that, good luck to him.
‘But he can’t box, can’t jab. I really can’t see him doing anything too different from last time and what he had then weren’t good enough. His trouble has always been, he doesn’t listen to advice from anyone.
‘I intend to knock him out and prove I’m King of Essex!’