On Friday December 8th, live and free on Fightzone, Matt ‘MatMan’ Windle will defend his 108-pound Commonwealth title against Craig Derbyshire, in a glamorous location far away from their respective Birmingham and Doncaster homes. The Cayman Islands will host a cracking competitive clash between two Brits who have done it the hard way.
Their records may not inspire feelings of an impending instant classic, as Windle (7-5-1) and Derbyshire (8-29-4) prepare for battle. But looks can be deceiving.
“His record is the same as pretty much everybody’s record if they decided they wanted to just take away (corner) fights and earn a bit of cash,” Windle expressed when quizzed on his opponent’s pro ledger. “When you look at his record in title fights, he’s got a winning record.”
Indeed, when analysing Derbyshire’s title fights, he is 4-3-1 in championship bouts contesting Area, English, British, Commonwealth belts.
“His resume in title fights is very, very impressive.”
“I’m looking at his title fights, and he’s got a winning record in that sense. I anticipate, quite possibly, the most difficult fight of my life. Not necessarily because on paper he’s the best opponent, but I think we could be good dancing partners.”
Considering Derbyshire’s choice of becoming a pro to pay the bills as opposed to win gold, it’s staggering to believe he’s made it to this point after losing his first nine fights. Windle, meanwhile, reached this stage without exclusively choosing to go in the away corner. The 33-year-old captured a Midlands title as an amateur, but with no Olympic medals or standout unpaid career, has made it without the backing of an Eddie Hearn or Frank Warren.
Fightzone has helped bridge the gap between the British small-hall scene and those scant few who promote in big arenas and stadiums on DAZN, Sky Sports and TNT Sports.
“Coming from lads at my type of weight, we really do appreciate all that we get, because we get very little,” Windle explained.
“It’s (Fightzone) been a fantastic platform for fighters that deserve screen time and have Fights-of-the-Year and give everything that they’ve got.”
“I have no ounce of imposter syndrome, or even pinching myself or anything like that, because both Craig and I deserve this.”
Both have paid their dues to the sport and deserve their moment in the sun. Thanks to Fightzone, Windle has had a platform for his last four fights, all which have unquestionably been career-defining.
In 2021, following two narrow points losses in Area title contests, the Brummie earned a unanimous decision win against the undefeated and talented Neil McCubbin in a 12-round war. He parlayed that into a British title loss against Tommy Frank. Another undefeated opponent was vanquished in 2022 when Siphelele Myeza was stopped as Windle captured the Commonwealth light-flyweight strap. Then, at flyweight, in a division slightly too big for his frame, he was outpointed by Connor Butler in a European and Commonwealth title challenge.
He admits he’s had a love/hate relationship with boxing, recently due to the strange circumstances that surrounded his fight with McCubbin. The 12-rounder was billed as being for the Commonwealth light-flyweight championship. Just two days beforehand, it was switched to an eliminator for the Commonwealth Boxing Council (CBC) flyweight title instead.
“Despite the McCubbin fight being changed to a flyweight eliminator for the Commonwealth,” he told me, “off the back of the fight being so good, we then heard the Commonwealth (Boxing Council) were considering recognising the light-flyweight division again (laughs)! The light-flyweight Commonwealth title has existed since the early 1900s, apart from three months in that 100+ year period. It’s existed for 120 years, minus three months, and I just happened to fight for it in those three months (laughs).”
He was subsequently informed he would be ranked as the CBC No.1 at 108 pounds, and despite his British title loss at flyweight to Tommy Frank, Windle then captured the elusive CBC belt.
The history of the Commonwealth light-flyweight title is a strange one: It was competed for just twice from 1902-1987. Windle will be the man to make the first ever defence of it on December 8th, in a fight which will be his fifth 12-rounder in just his 14th pro contest.
Away from the ring, Windle, trained by Spencer McCracken, describes himself as a ‘Poet by day, boxer by night’. The pugilist is in fact a Poet Laureate. The wordsmith hopes to one day transition into a punditry and/or commentary role for Fightzone. It should be a breeze for a man of his talent.
In an age of spoilt and overpaid heavyweights who wait years to fight legitimate contenders – if ever – these lower weight fighters actively seek out the toughest challengers and give EVERYTHING to the sport. They are a credit to themselves and the sport they represent.