Paul Weir Q&A: Britain’s first and only 105lb & 108lb world champion
By Ian Aldous: More than two decades after winning his WBO minimumweight and WBO light-flyweight world titles, Paul Weir stands proudly amongst the pantheon of world champions from the British Isles as its sole world champion in those two weight divisions. The British Boxing Board of Control doesn’t even have championships in those weight divisions, dominated at world level by Asians, South Americans and Mexicans. Earlier this week, I caught up with Scotland’s proud former champion to reflect on his career.
IA: Was it hard to find fights early on in your pro career, considering the weight division (105lb) you were competing in?
PW: When I turned professional, I gave away weight to fight at a higher (weight) level. I think my first fight, I fought a Mexican and I fought at a higher weight level, (I was) giving weight away for about three or four fights before I challenged for the world title.
IA: It must have been hard to find sparring partners of a similar weight too? Were you always sparring bigger guys?
PW: Flyweights, bantamweights, featherweights. It’s always been the way since the amateurs because there wasn’t a lot of guys at the weight, so it’s always been the same from amateur right through to professional. I’m used to sparring with bigger guys.
IA: The fact that there’s no British title in those weight classes must have made it difficult to know what level you were fighting at and if you really were world-class?
PW: Well, I didn’t do too bad winning two world titles!
IA: In only your sixth fight, you contested the vacant WBO minimumweight world title against a 40+ fight veteran, Fernando Martinez. You touched down in the first round and seemed to struggle early on. The fight changed in the fourth round and you began to dominate, before he was stopped due to cuts. How well do you remember those rounds and the moment you knew you’d won the title?
PW: I was on top and I could feel him flagging as I was hitting him with body shots and he was slowing down a wee bit. His feet were certainly slowing down and the movement was slowing down. If you watch the fight, you see he wasn’t coming back with much. I was landing the cleaner shots, especially in the fifth and sixth rounds.
IA: In your five bouts prior to that win, you’d not even fought an opponent with a winning record. After that it was fight after fight with 20+, 30+, 40+ fight veterans. How tough was that step-up in competition?
PW: That’s part of the game. Once you win titles, you fight at that level and you can’t really go back, can you? I wasn’t young, especially at that weight. At the end of the day, I wanted to test myself. I’d been fighting for a long time as an amateur. You’re not making any money fighting journeymen. So, you want to test yourself and win – that’s what I done. I had a short professional career and I knew what I wanted to do and I knew when I wanted to retire.
IA: You then moved up to light-flyweight, did you want a new challenge or was it tough to continue to make the 105lb limit?
PW: When I actually fought for the 105lbs title, we weighed in that day and fought that night. When I won the world title, I actually weighed in at 100lbs in the morning. Peter Harrison, my coach at the time said, ‘you can’t get on the scales like that, Paul, you need to put some weight on’. I think I ate two bananas to put a bit of weight on, but I felt strong. It’s not as if I was struggling. When I fought against (Ric) Magramo (for WBO 108lbs title), I weighed in that day and I had an ounce to lose, so I put my ski suit on and the weight was off me. I was under weight again! I had goals I wanted to achieve. I wanted to win at least two or three world titles and I won two.
IA: You claimed your second world title (WBO light-flyweight) in just your ninth pro fight. You must have felt quite literally on top of the world at that point?
PW: It probably took a long time to sink in, to be honest with you. At that time, I was the first fighter to win two world titles within ten fights. No-one else had done that. I think at that time, it never really dawned on me.
IA: You lost three of your final four fights, had you lost your motivation by then?
PW: After I lost the second fight to (Jacob) Matlala, I had three non-title fights, then I had the European title fight with Jesper Jensen. Jesper and I are friends, but at the time, I spent a lot of time sparring in Denmark with Johnny Bredahl (former two-weight world champion), before I won the world title. I sparred with him when he fought in his first world title fight, I was his sparring partner. Then I had some spars with Jesper. I sparred with Johnny for his second world title fight and again I sparred with Jesper. I thought, ‘there’s no way he can beat me!’. I genuinely didn’t think Jesper had it in him to beat me, but he did, he beat me. He certainly raised his game and knew what he was up against. He was a good European champion.
IA: When you’d achieved what you achieved, I guess there was nothing more to prove?
PW: I had a long, extensive amateur career. A lot of the kids these days are so inactive, they hang about with one or two fights a year. I wanted to get in and do what I had to do and get back out again.
IA: Tell me a little about what it was like adjusting to normal life after your in-ring career finished having boxed for so many years.
PW: I was a full-time professional – I didn’t work. I was lucky enough to be able to train full-time and dedicate my life to what I wanted to achieve. I suppose, for anyone, it’s hard. You come out and think, ‘what do I do?’. I had some business interests prior from retiring. I was fortunate enough with that. I don’t really think I suffered to the extent that some of the guys who are full-time professional athletes, whether it be football or boxing or any sport, some of them do find it hard.
IA: So now you’re based out of Dubai as a personal trainer, what’s that like?
PW: Yeah, I live in Dubai. I enjoy it and it’s different from the UK (laughs). I’m in Scotland just now. I came back for a week and it’s frozen!
For more information on Paul Weir and his personal training, please visit probox.net