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Prospect In A Pandemic: The Return Of Small-Hall Boxing

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By Ian Aldous: When the world was plunged into chaos during the Spring of 2020, many boxers were left reeling as the sporting world ground to a halt. Being left without fight dates indefinitely, tested the limits of how much they could continue to give to the game.

That was the situation Liam Goddard found himself in. The 7-0 prospect had been steadily building and developing with 7 fights in sixteen months since debuting in October 2018. He would have to wait eighteen months to step inside the ring again, which he will finally do on Friday night.

“To be honest, I almost quit,” Goddard admitted. “I’m not one of these people who just loves being in the gym. I love what I do, don’t get me wrong, but I need to have something to focus on. I need to have that fight in line and a face that I’m hitting.”

“Without that for so long – I struggled massively.”

Thankfully, trainer and manager Graham Everett secured him a regional title fight, and a reinvigorated Goddard maintained motivation.

Without the backing of an Eddie Hearn or Frank Warren, many prospects struggle to achieve their dreams in boxing, even without a pandemic strangling the life out of the sport and creating yet more strife. Being in the gym to hone his craft is something Goddard needs to fit around his regular job and family life.

“I’m quite fortunate with work as I can do flexi-hours,” the twenty-five-year-old told me. “So, I can work the hours around work and boxing and family as well. I’m finishing work at the latest, at 5 pm and heading straight to the gym smashing out whatever’s set out for me.”

His only rest day is on a Friday, and he’ll attempt to make up for that with a double session as and when possible. It’s a life for only the most dedicated.

Not everyone has the sponsorship and backing of an Anthony Joshua or a Canelo Alvarez, but they might well have the untapped talent. Backers and sponsors are crucial at this level of our sport.

“Business for a lot of companies has quietened. I lost quite a few sponsors; I lost my two main sponsors due to Covid. I’ve had some new ones come through, which has helped see me through.”

Promoter and British fight figure Mervyn Turner for Shamrock Promotions helped put a deal in place for the undefeated southpaw to compete for the southern-area welterweight title this Friday night, at The Halls, in his home city of Norwich.

However, the road to Friday’s championship ten-rounder has been anything but straightforward. Chaos ensued as Liam prepared for the biggest fight of his career.

“It’s been a rollercoaster,” he said, in the understatement of the year. “I’ve never had a person pull out, and now I’ve had three opponents (for one fight).”

Curtis Felix Jr. was the originally-slated opponent, but he contracted Covid-19 and was forced to drop out just over a week before the fight. Faheem Khan was drafted in completely and utterly throwing a spanner in the works, considering he’s a southpaw and the opponent he’d been preparing for wasn’t. But, the turmoil didn’t cede there.

Mere days before the fight, Khan was ruled out, and Justin Menzie replaced him. Turner and Everett had performed miracles to keep the title shot alive.

Goddard, his team, and his loyal fans have full belief that he can emulate former British and European champions from Norwich who were also trained by Everett: Jon Thaxton, Sam Sexton, Danny McIntosh, and the Walsh brothers. He’s past fighting journeymen and didn’t want a tune-up notwithstanding his barren eighteen months out of the ring.

“Me and the people who come watch me, a couple of fights ago, said now’s the time when they want to see a proper fight. I don’t want to sell any more tickets to people who want to see better fights. I’m confident in myself.”

Boxing is back at the grassroots level, and the sport is much better off for it – just ask Liam Goddard, Graham Everett, and Mervyn Turner.




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