Simon Vallily Q & A
The 2010 Commonwealth Games Champion Simon Vallily makes his long-awaited professional debut on Thursday 21st March at London’s York Hall.
He features in a four-round contest on the undercard of Billy Joe Saunders’ British and Commonwealth Middleweight title defence against Matthew Hall, live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546).
Middlesborough man Vallily, who also won the 2009 ABA Super-Heavyweight title, has now based himself in Canning Town with trainer Mark Tibbs alongside Saunders and unbeaten prospects Billy Morgan and Tom Baker who also appear on the show.
An action-packed undercard features two further title fights: Penge welterweight Bradley Skeete making the first defence of his Southern Area title against Basingstoke’s Darryl Still, and Tony Conquest’s rematch with WBO International Cruiserweight Champion Neil Dawson. Unbeaten Cheshunt super-flyweight talent Charlie Hoy and Bowers Gifford super-middleweight John Dignum complete the card.
Tickets priced at £40 and £60 are available from Frank Warren Promotions Box Office on 01992 550 888.
Saunders v Hall is live and exclusive on The Home of Champions BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.com
Name: Simon Vallily
Family background: I’ve got three older brothers and two younger sisters. I’ve also got an 18 month old son, Rubin. Today, I live in a house in Walthamstow, east London but try to get my son and girlfriend down as often as I can.
Trade: I worked in scaffolding before getting selected for the GB squad.
Nickname: I’m not interested in them. I’ll probably just go as Simon Vallily.
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? My granddad boxed in the navy and the family’s always been interested in boxing. I was a big fan of (Muhammad) Ali and Lennox Lewis.
As a nipper, I was always getting into fights at school or on the street so my mum thought it would be a good thing for me to get involved in.
An older brother Carl boxed as a junior and, from the age of 13, I went along with him, first to the Middlesbrough ABC then to the South Bank.
What do you recall of your amateur career? At the South Bank, I was trained by Dennis Power, a terrific coach, and we had a very strong team that included (future Commonwealth featherweight champion) Paul Truscott, Danny Phillips and (Shafiq) ‘Chubzy’ Asif.
I’ve absolutely no idea what my record was. I didn’t do much as a junior and I went off the rails. When I was 19, I was put inside. When I came out at almost 22, I was desperate never to return to prison again and I really committed to boxing. Prison made me realise how much I loved boxing and how much I missed it. I got my fire, my spark, back.
When I returned I won the senior ABAs in 2009 and that provided me with a springboard to get into the GB Podium set-up. After that I beat Danny Price to win the GB championships and then I won the gold medal at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. India was a fantastic experience and winning gold topped it off, definitely my amateur highlight.
I boxed for England about 20 odd times and went away to France, Finland, Bulgaria, Russia, Azerbaijan, Mauritius, India…
I had a fantastic time up in Sheffield with the GB squad. They were a great bunch of lads who all got on and Rob McCracken and his team were top class coaches. I got the experience of fighting and sparring real pedigree lads from Cuba, Russia….I fought a French world bronze medallist.
Unfortunately, if I’m honest, I didn’t live the proper life of a fighter and I blew my chance of getting to the Olympics when I lost to an Algerian in my first fight at the 2011 World Championships in Azerbaijan. After that, the England selectors sent Warren Baister to the final qualifier and my dream of making the Olympics was gone.
My reflections on the amateurs are bitter-sweet. I’m proud of all I achieved but could’ve done even better if I’d worked harder. That’s all behind me now and I’ll be taking all I’ve learned into the pros. Time to move on.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? After winning the Commonwealths I was keen to make the Olympics. Things didn’t work out for me but I still learnt loads in those two years in Sheffield so no regrets. But I’m 27 now. I knew the time was right.
Tell us about your back up team: I’m managed and promoted by Frank Warren and trained by Mark Tibbs at the Trad TKO gym in Canning Town.
Moving down south was a big decision but I’m really glad I made it. Away from all the distractions, I can concentrate fully on just being a fighter.
I had my last amateur bout last November and I’ve been training with Mark since about February. He’s not only a top coach, he’s a really top bloke and he and all the lads at the gym have made me really welcome. There’s real quality fellas training here like Kevin Mitchell and Billy Joe Saunders so I watch and take on board what they do.
Mark’s got some fantastic methods and techniques and I’m enjoying it loads. I absorb everything he says, like a sponge. Everyday I feel I’ve learnt something new and you’ll see a much better fighter when I make my debut. He’s really bringing out the best in me. I’ve 150% confidence and trust that Mark will take me where I want to go.
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? As I’ve not got a (fight) date I’m just ticking over at the minute. Mark ensures I get plenty of rest to re-fuel and re-charge but I’m running between four and six miles every morning from Monday to Friday. I enjoy a morning run. It sets me up for my day.
At the gym, after Mark wraps my hands, I’ll warm up thoroughly with some stretching. I’ll then shadow box for about four rounds with Mark overseeing, telling me what I need to work on. Then I’ll do about six on the bag and four on the pads. Mark’s a fantastic pad man and has really slowed me down, got me moving my upper body and fighting more like a pro.
We’ll finish off with groundwork and this is probably the biggest change from the amateurs. It’s a real strength of Mark’s and I’m feeling so much stronger and fitter because of it.
Every boxer loves fighting so sparring is what I enjoy most but I’ve not had much as a pro yet. The only thing I don’t really like is skipping. I’m shit!
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I can do it all. I’m a boxer with good skills and I can punch a bit with both hands but particularly the left hook. I knocked quite a few out in the amateurs. For a big guy, I’ve got quick hands and quick feet. I’ve been down but I’ve never been knocked out.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? I’m a long way from being perfect, no fighter ever is but, specifically, I probably need to relax more and let it all flow. Mark’s already helped me a lot with that.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? Because there are more rounds, you have to relax more, slow down and really make your shots count. It’s not about point scoring on a computer, it’s the hurt game. I’m a good boy now but I still love hurting people!
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? Probably the Russian, Artur Beterbiyev who was a world and two time European champion and boxed at the London Olympics. I sparred him over in Russia and he was very strong, had quick hands and was really relentless.
I also sparred (2012 Olympic super-heavy gold medallist) Anthony Joshua when we were on the GB squad together in Sheffield. He’s quite a bit bigger and heavier than me and was very strong and powerful but also quite skilful.
All time favourite fighter: Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad. Always came to fight, wore his heart on his sleeve and was a devastating puncher, especially with the left hook.
All time favourite fight: Probably Benn-McClellan. I’d have been ten at the time and it was probably the first fight I watched ‘live’ on TV. It was a brutal fight. Very Sad. I wanted Benn to win obviously but I’ve since become a huge McClellan fan and have all his fights on DVD.
Which current match would you most like to see made? Mayweather-Pacquiao has lost a bit of its sizzle now so I’ll say Amir Khan against Kell Brook at welterweight. Amir’s achieved so much already and Kell’s a class talent. I couldn’t say who’d win which is why it’d be so good to watch and find out.
What is your routine on fight day? I’ll get up normal time, can’t lounge around. I love fight day. It’s what you’ve trained so hard for and I’m determined to enjoy it. I’m old school.
I try to stay chilled and relaxed but might watch a tape of the opponent and the fight will certainly be on my mind. But it’s not a worry. I look forward to it.
In the changing room, I’m generally calm and I’ll think about what I’ve learnt in training and what tactics I’ll need. Of course I get nerves but they’re great. They keep you sharp and, anyway, I’m very confident in my ability.
Entrance music: I’ve not thought that far ahead.
What are your ambitions as a boxer? Firstly, to get myself up there and be successful. I want titles. Cruiserweight is wide open in Britain at the moment and I believe I’ve got what it takes to get a stranglehold over it and make the division mine. I know it’s going to be a long, hard road but I believe I’m mentally and physically prepared for that. It’s every fighter’s ambition to be a world champion, eventually.
How do you relax? Mostly spending time with my little boy; taking him swimming, or to the park. I used to play football and was on Boro’s books until I was 13 – centre of midfield – but don’t bother playing any more.
Football team: Big Boro fan. Still go the matches and have a good sing when I can!
Read: Biographies, especially good life stories. I really enjoyed The Sixteenth Round by Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and ‘Mi Vida Loco’ by Johnny Tapia.
Music: Hip hop and rap.
Films/TV: I like the old battle films; 300, Spartacus, Gladiator, Braveheart.
Aspiration in life: To be able to look back knowing I achieved all I wanted in boxing, to see my kids do well and to be happy.