By Danny Winterbottom
When Curtis Woodhouse 22-6 (13) and Willie Limond 37-4 (10) clash for the British and Commonwealth light welterweight titles this Friday on the undercard of Ricky Burns’ return to action in Glasgow against Dejan Zlaticanin 18-0 (13) there will be two men amongst the assembled thousands watching from ringside with great interest inside the Braehead Arena.
English 10st champion Tyrone Nurse 29-1 (5) and his trainer Chris Aston will make the journey from Huddersfield to Scotland on a scouting mission after the 24-year-old was told by the British Boxing Board of Control that he would face the winner of the double championship clash in his next contest following the withdrawal from a British title final eliminator by unbeaten North East talent Bradley Saunders.
“Bradley (Saunders) has pulled out three times now” said Aston of the former Olympian’s decision not to take the fight with Nurse.
“He pulled out in January then February and just recently. We could have fought him on the Fury-Chisora card in Manchester but obviously that isn’t gonna happen because Tyrone is mandatory for the British now.
“A fight between them (Nurse and Saunders) is something all fight fans would love to see but I maintain that Tyrone has too much for Bradley at this stage in their careers. I feel that Bradley is lacking that seasoned experience and perhaps Frank Warren thinks the same?”
The winner of the intriguing clash between British champion Woodhouse and Commonwealth champion Limond is obliged to face Huddersfield’s Nurse in their next bout and trainer Chris Aston believes the contest is a tough one to call.
“It’s a very tricky contest to weigh up. Limond hasn’t really been on the radar too much recently although he has been ticking over against the likes of Mitch Prince and at his best Willie is a tricky boxer. Curtis is a solid performer and he brings his own skill set to the fight.
“I see it as a contest in which both men have success before one of them wins conclusively down the stretch.”
And how would Nurse fair against the winner?
“I think whoever wins it will be tough. They are both seasoned campaigners and have done many 12 rounders. Curtis was on local radio this week (in Leeds) saying if he has to fight Tyrone then so be it but he feels Tyrone is totally the wrong style for him. He said he would give 150% to try and win the fight and I believe him when he says that.
“If Willie Limond wins he is a more technical boxer but he would have serious problems with a 6’0 tall Tyrone Nurse if he tried to box.”
The Huddersfield stylist first rose to prominence when he boxed his way to the final of Prizefighter in November 2012 stopping knockout puncher Dale Miles on cuts in his quarter final, outpointing West Bromwich’s former British title challenger Young Mutley in the Semi-final before losing to the inform and extremely tricky Adil Anwar in the final after three close rounds.
Nurse went in to the eight man elimination tournament with a blemish free 20-0 record but at that time he had yet to face a serious test in the ring and he was still mastering his ring craft and cutting his teeth in the pro ranks.
“Prizefighter probably came too soon for Tyrone to be honest” admitted Aston whilst chatting to ‘Scene from his gym this week.
“It was a tough field but he still made it to the final and lost to Adil (Anwar) over three rounds which we weren’t too surprised at because at the time Adil was a handful for anyone especially in Prizefighter.
“It was a speculative chance for Tyrone (Prizefighter) but I wanted 18 months with him to develop as a fighter and essentially that is what the tournament gave us. He had money he could live off for a while that gave him breathing room financially to help him train and have a few fights.
“But that is where the problems started because we wanted to fight for the English title but it was very hard to entice anyone into the ring.”
Adamant that Tyrone would have beaten Anwar over any distance other than three rounds Aston was keen to match his charge with a credible opponent as quickly as he could but he found out that best laid plans don’t always come to fruition.
“It was hard for Tyrone to stay motivated. We got him on a show shortly after Prizefighter with Dale Miles supposedly in the other corner but Dale pulled out the week before and he ended up fighting some horrible southpaw. I can’t even remember his name (Karoly Lakatos) but it was a frustrating time.
“We didn’t really want to be going back to those kinds of fights again. We needed something to really motivate him in the gym.
“By January last year Tyrone was ready to take a step up so we targeted the English title when Curtis (Woodhouse) was the champion. That wasn’t happening so we took a Central Area title fight against Joe Elfidh but that ended abruptly.
“Joe picked up a shoulder injury I believe. He came out absolutely flying at Tyrone in the first round but Tyrone sat back and was ready to go through the gears before the injury Joe suffered resulted in the fight being stopped in the second round.”
To watch Tyrone Nurse apply his craft from ringside is to witness an exquisite exponent of the sweet science. His hair trigger reactions and spilt second timing allow him to sway, bob and slip out of harm’s way of his opponent’s attacks before tattooing them with sharp counters.
Instead of the archetypical British ‘stiff’ upright boxer, Nurse’s languid and fluid style is influenced by tapes of American great James Toney that Aston encouraged the raw 16-year-old Tyrone to study in his spare time. Married to that style is substance developed from a tough but educational upbringing in gyms around the UK.
“When Tyrone was 15, he was sparring with Choi (Tseveenpurev), Stephen Foster Jnr, Anthony Crolla and Carl Johanneson in six and eight round sessions in the gym” said Aston
“He has been brought up like a Mexican fighter because he has been training like a pro since he was a teenager.
“Choi was his biggest test in the gym because the guy will try and knock you out if he feels that you’re not good enough! Tyrone was knocked about a few times as a 16-year-old but that is how he learned how to survive.
“I would show him tapes of James Toney and his shoulder rolls and defensive moves and then put him in with kids three years older and say ‘show us those shoulder rolls because your gonna need them!”
“That’s why I wasn’t concerned about taking the Saunders fight because Tyrone can take a shot. He thinks he is Floyd Mayweather at times but he has faced hard punchers in the gym and never been hurt by them.”
At 24 and with 30 pro fights under his belt Nurse has been brought along nicely by those charged with guiding his career so far giving him the best possible chance of claiming major titles later on in his development.
“At 18 Tyrone was ready to turn pro (after an amateur career that saw him defeat the likes of Callum Smith and Andy Townend) and because of his body type we knew it would be a slow burner.
“He is filling out now into a genuine 10st fighter and I think anyone who should have or was considering fighting Tyrone should have done it last year because he is only going to get better and better.
“I think he is the best 140lbs fighter in Britain right now. What we do need to do going forward is to get him some international experience because he is sparring with world champions and has been doing so for a while. He works with Argenis Mendez and another American kid who comes over with Lee Beard as well as being Ricky Burns ‘main sparring partner for a few years.”
Having had success with the likes of Mark Hobson (British and Commonwealth cruiserweight champion), James Hare (Commonwealth welterweight champion) and flyweight talent Dale Robinson (Commonwealth champion) how would Chris Aston rank his latest charge amongst those that have gone before him?
“Pure talent wise I think James Hare was a bit special” admitted Aston
“Tyrone has some of the James Hare skills but he also has Mark Hobson’s jab. Tyrone can fight inside too and he has taken bits from each one of my fighters because he was around them as a kid in the gym.
“James Hare comes down to the gym now and again and he could be someone who works with Tyrone in the future”
“Mark Hobson brings his kids down to the gym but it is always mayhem when he shows up!” laughed Aston.
“He (Hobson) would have a fight with anyone would Mark. I remember him trying to beat Bruce Scott up but Bruce hurt him badly to the stomach (Hobson was on a drip in hospital following the fight) until Mark decided he would use the jab and he won on points.
And what of Dale Robinson, the diminutive flyweight who seemed to be on our TV screens every Friday night in the early 2000’s?
“Dale could show Tyrone how to party afterwards!” Aston joked.
“He could have been special could Dale. But I think he had things too soon with big sponsors and fighting on Sky Sports. He made his debut on Sky against a super bantamweight called John Barnes and Dale was only a flyweight but he dismantled Barnes and Sky were amazed!”
Tyrone Nurse has the potential to be Aston’s next success following his technical dismantling of Tyler Goodjohn in Liverpool over 10 rounds when he claimed the English title in April and if he can emulate his gym mates from years gone by fight fans will be in for a treat along the way.