By Terence Dooley
Blackpool’s Jeff Thomas featured in Prizefighter: Light-Middleweights in September, the 30-year-old producing one of the fights of the competition when warring to a majority draw with Kris Agyei-Dua. The decision meant that the scorecard of referee Terry O’Connor decided the bout. Ironically this was the same O’Connor whose terrible 98-92 card at the end of Tyson Fury’s first meeting with John McDermott led the BBBoC to appoint three ringside judges for English title fights.
Jeff, though, has no axe to grind after losing out on the next stage of the contest by the narrowest of margins. Instead drawing heart from the fact that he matched a naturally bigger man and produced a stunning left hook to floor his foe in the first.
“It was a great experience. I was asked about a rematch and so was he but Kris said he wasn’t interested and to be honest I probably wouldn’t have taken it because of the weight,” enthused Jeff when speaking to me about his Prizefighter experience.
“It was brilliant all the way through. The atmosphere, dealing with Matchroom’s people – it was a privilege to be involved, really. I was a bit above my weight. I hope I acquitted myself well enough to get into a welterweight one next time out.”
An avid fan as well as a participant, Thomas no doubt heard the stirrings of the Rocky theme tune when the left hook went in. Indeed, such was the Netherland-born fighter’s excitement he did not immediately realize that the left had done the damage.
“At the time I landed it I actually thought it was a right hand,” he mused. “It was a good shot. I landed the right to the body then left to the head so that was pleasing because we’d been working on that.
“I can hit with my left. In the build up I was catching people in sparring with it. I felt good but the weight was too much. A lot of the lads were boiling down and I was coming up as a former super-featherweight.”
Whilst accepting O’Connor’s decision on the night, Thomas showed a bit of naivety by failing to throw a tantrum or calling for a rematch, he didn’t even chuck a chair at the referee to register his disgust. Jeff clearly has a lot to learn about professional boxing.
“I think it was a bit controversial, I suppose, but obviously it was a draw and that was the ruling,” his opinion. “Even in the first round, I felt it was in the balance until the knockdown when watching it back. The knockdown switched the balance a bit and it was a 10-8 but fair enough, he nicked the other two. If I had a bit more about me on the night I would have made a bit more of a fuss. It was a great night so I’m not too bothered. I hope I get another chance.
“It took me a while to get going. I had a game plan in the gym but I couldn’t work on it in there because I didn’t feel as comfortable. I felt really dizzy throughout, maybe because of his punching.”
Jeff’s passage into the tournament was made possible by a virtual campaign, his quip that he was up for it launched a thousand Tweets. Eddie Hearn took notice of the fan demand and drafted Thomas in, leaving Jeff thankful for his online army’s proactive approach.
“I’m realistic in where I’m going to go in boxing. I’ve a quite unique thing in that a lot of people follow me online and are online friends. I think the accessibility of being able to have a conversation with someone online then watch them fight is a big help. People like it because they feel they know you,” outlined the 9-6-3 (1) boxer.
“I’m not super-talented but I can be in good fights and am capable of winning a title. Those are my goals, to win a title and have great fights. If people look back on some of my coming fights and can say, ‘That was a FOTY candidate’, then I’ll be happy with that. It would be a goal achieved. I want to be in a FOTY. I’m rarely in a boring fight. I’m not good enough to be boring, I just get stuck in.”
“I was disappointed to go out of Prizefighter but to be in a candidate for one of the best fights softened the blow a little bit. I want to be matched at a level where I’m not bothered if I win five and lose five as long as the fights are entertaining.”
He added: “I think Matchroom are quite open minded and fan friendly so they might have me in there again.”
Thomas’s passion for the sport also came through as talk turned to upcoming bouts, particularly Katsidis-Burns, Froch-Ward and George Groves versus Paul Smith. “I really hope Froch does it but I think that Ward is a problem for Froch stylistically,” Jeff’s opinion of Carl Froch versus Andre Ward.
“It is like [Ricky] Burns and [Michael] Katsidis, Ward is all wrong for Froch just as Katsidis is wrong for Burns. You’ve got very good short punchers against very good long punchers – I think the compactness will help Katsidis and Ward.
“Froch will get out-pointed. Ward will be compact, quick and will land before getting away. I think it’ll be completive all the way through Froch will have to turn it into an absolute war to get the win and I’m not sure he’ll be able to do that.”
As for Groves, Thomas saw the flame-haired Londoner in the flesh when Kenny Anderson, his training stable mate, gave George trouble before being stopped on his feet last year.
“Groves didn’t impress me against Kenny. He looked brilliant on TV but not at ringside. I’m not slagging him, please make that clear, but I was surprised by his lack of power and strength,” his verdict on George’s performance that November night.
“Smith is a banger, his balance is really good and this certainly isn’t a forgone conclusion. I don’t think it will be as easy for Groves as it was for [James] DeGale. Smith will put pressure on Groves.
“I really like Smith, I like the way he conducts himself and that warrior’s mentality – he’ll never let himself down and will get stuck in. It is a good fight, a tough one to call. The safe pick is Groves but it wouldn’t surprise me if Smith put him over and gave him a hard fight right down the wire. George’s boxing skills will nick key rounds but Smith will be dangerous all the way through.”
As for ‘Jazzy’ Jeff, he is penciled in for a December 16th outing at Colne’s Municipal Hall, so plenty of time to hone his left hook for another ‘round of the year’ candidate.
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Tags: British Boxing , George Groves , Paul Smith , Groves-Smith , Groves vs Smith