Sexton vs. Fury: Q&A with the British heavyweight champion

Image: Sexton vs. Fury: Q&A with the British heavyweight champion

By Ian Aldous: On Saturday May 12th, Sam Sexton (24-3) will defend his newly-won British heavyweight championship against world-rated contender, Hughie Fury (20-1). The battle for the prestigious belt once held by Hughie’s cousin, Tyson, will be shown live on Channel 5 in the UK, from the Premier Suite, Macron Stadium in Bolton. Last week, Norwich’s heavyweight hero took some time away from training to chat with me over the phone.

IA: How’s fight preparation going ahead of May 12th?

SS: Yeah, it’s going great, mate. To be fair, every time we fight now, we try and tweak the training a bit, so we can get things bang on. We had a few injuries going into the last one (against Gary Cornish for the British title), this one – touch wood, no injuries. So, things are going great.

IA: Has it been difficult to find sparring that replicates Hughie’s style?

SS: Not really. We’ve got a bit of a secret weapon in a new up-and-coming heavyweight, he replicates him really well. His name’s Fabio Wardley. He’s really coming on, he’s kind of got a similar frame and style (to Hughie). It’s been good.

IA: Fury’s got a relatively low knockout ratio for a heavyweight with a big reputation, are you confident you can walk through his hardest shots?

SS: Yeah, I think so. I’m always confident going into a fight. If I didn’t think I could win – I wouldn’t fight. He’s not worrying me at all, to be honest. I know obviously they’re looking at me as a big underdog and they’re not taking me seriously enough, which is all good in my favour.

IA: Fighting on Channel 5 must be something you’re excited to do?

SS: Yeah, definitely. I can remember years ago when I was a kid growing up, we always had the boxing on terrestrial TV. If you tune in and see a heavyweight fight whether you like boxing or you don’t – you’re going to stay tuned and watch it. It just gives everyone a chance to see it and not have to pay for it.

IA: Do you approach this fight as the biggest of your career so far? I suppose every fight is a world title fight for you now?

SS: I’m thirty-four soon, so a potential loss to me now could be retirement. By the time I’d get back on my feet and get to the level where I’m at now, is it going to be too late? I’m not saying it is, but it could be.

IA: What were your thoughts on Fury’s performance against Joseph Parker for the WBO heavyweight title?

SS: I thought he was awkward and a few times he was making Parker fall into shots when he was trying to get close to him, and I think he could have maybe just nicked it.

IA: You won the British title against Gary Cornish on away turf in Scotland back in October of last year. As the bell sounded for the end of the fight, did you honestly expect to get the decision?

SS: I knew I’d done more than enough to win and I thought if they do take it away from me it’s literally just because we’re in his backyard. But I thought, even then, there’s no way they can do that.

IA: You know what judges are like though!

SS: Yeah, they can be bad. I was confident they can’t possibly take that one away from me.

IA: So, what was going through your head when you heard, ‘and the new’?

SS: I always wanted that British title. I said before the fight, if I never do anything in boxing again, to win the British title was great for me. I promised my family members, I promised my mum, bless her, rest in peace, that I’d win this title for her. I visited my mum just before we went to Edinburgh and I promised that I’d be bringing that belt back and lay it on her grave. I was just more than happy I promised my mum that I’d do it for her – and I did.

IA: Was it a prouder moment than that famous night back in 2009 when you went to Northern Ireland in front of a huge crowd and dethroned commonwealth heavyweight champion, Martin Rogan (then went back and defeated him again in a rematch)?

SS: I think the Belfast one, in terms of occasion was bigger for me, just because of how we were treated over there. It was pretty bad. First time was alright, second time we went back and we were literally really hated. So, I think when you win after that, it makes the winning better.

IA: You’ve been with trainer Graham Everett since day one, just how much of a positive influence has he been on your career?

SS: He’s sort of kept me on the straight and narrow outside the ring, as well as in the ring. He’s just always been there. Sometimes he does my head in and I know sometimes it’s the same for him, but he’s always been there and I’ve got to thank him for everything. Two years ago, I was injured again pretty bad and I walked in the gym and I’d had enough. I said, ‘look Graham, I think I’m going to call it a day, I’ve just had enough’. Then he promised me something good was coming and it did. We got the British title and there was times I didn’t even feel like taking the British title fight! I’d been out of the ring then for fifteen months and part of me didn’t want to take it. Now I’ve got the buzz back again. When you’re a champion and you train for twelve round fights – you feel like a champion, so you train better. I feel like I’m on top again.

IA: There’s been quite a few spells in your career when you’ve just been fighting journeymen. Has it been hard to find meaningful fights at times?

SS: I always said to my promoter and trainer that I want the fights that are going to get me on top. I am getting on (age) in boxing terms and I just want to get out there and see what I can do while I’m still kind of fresh. The man to do that at the minute for me is Hughie Fury. He’s still highly rated on the world scene, so hopefully a win over him will then catapult me up to where he is and maybe knocking on the door for world titles.

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