By Shaun Brown
The final chapter of John Simpson’s gruelling boxing career begins on June 8 at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. That night, the granite featherweight will share a bill with compatriot and enigma Scott Harrison, as he tries to prove that the fat lady hasn’t sung for him just yet.
Simpson, 22-9 (9), is adamant that if he tastes defeat once more then he will call it a day.
“Any more defeats and it will be game over, I’ll wrap it up,” confirmed Simpson when talking to BoxingScene.com.
Going on age alone, the 28-year-old is by no means washed up. However, a combination of some questionable losses and many a hard night at the office (going the distance in 8 of his 14 title bouts) has convinced him to take the stance of leaving the sport the next time his hand isn’t raised aloft in victory.
Some would see it as a dangerous attitude to take into however many fights he has left, but as everything else; the straight talking Greenock man takes it all in his stride.
He said: “That doesn’t matter because no matter what fight I go into I still bring more experience than most, I’ll train just as hard as I’ve ever done and I still believe I’ve got a lot to offer.”
Before and after Christmas it had seemed that his last outing, with current British champion Lee Selby would have been his last. It wasn’t long before the boxing bug, the fever to fight returned.
“I’d had three months off. I was sitting doing nothing. I’d sit and watch boxing and I got the feeling to do it again,” Simpson confessed.
Simpson’s near on 10-year professional career has been one plagued by frustration. Having once scaled the giddy heights of a top five ranking with the IBF, the Scot hasn’t once fought in a world title eliminator or even a European title fight, a point that wasn’t lost on Simpson when we spoke. However circumstances dictate, money talks and when options are limited you sit, wait and get rusty – or you fight.
A sparkling performance and victory over the much-fancied Martin Lindsay in 2010 gave Simpson the sought after Lonsdale belt outright. That should have been the springboard to loftier heights. However, four months later he was facing the mandatory opponent for his title, a man who he narrowly lost to in Glasgow in the September of 2010 – Stephen Smith.
“Stephen only had 11 fights when he fought me the first time for the Commonwealth title,” Simpson recalled. “I’d just beaten Lindsay and I should’ve been bumped into a European title shot. I was pushed into facing Smith again.
“Yes, I could’ve vacated but there were no other big fights for me. The likes of Billy Dib were ahead of me in the IBF ratings and I didn’t want to just vacate and take the chance of something maybe happening on the world level. I was given good money to fight Smith. It says I lost but I still believe I won both those fights.
“I’d like to fight Stephen again. In the second fight with him I fought better than the first time and won more clearly in my eyes but it wasn’t to be. I’ve been fighting the top boys all my life and sometimes results haven’t been kind to me. At least five of my defeats have been close to the wire.”
And settling a score with the Liverpudlian is one of two wrongs he would like to right.
Having never been stopped before, one body shot from Welshman Lee Selby ended that proud record of Simpson’s in December of last year. Before he failed to beat the count in the fifth round of their contest things were even in many people’s eyes. For that reason alone the Scot would like another opportunity to fight Selby and find out what would happen should he be able to take the current British champion into the late rounds, the part of a fight where Simpson comes into his own.
“I’d fight him [Selby] again in a minute. The first four rounds were two-apiece. I got caught with a good shot. I’d never been on the deck, not even as an amateur! Whether or not Selby continues to defend the British or fight for the European I think my manager [Alex Morrison] could make that one happen.”
In a profession where he’s never had it easy, Simpson has decided to make the efforts of making it to training a little more straightforward.
Instead of the 80-90 mile round trip to Billy Nelson’s gym he now has a half-mile trip to work with his former trainer and mentor Danny Lee, thus ending his association with Nelson.
“Billy’s a great trainer and he’s got a great stable with Ricky [Burns], Paul [Appleby] and all the other guys but things are much easier for me now in terms of getting to the gym. Travelling to Billy’s gym was costing too much. I’ll miss the gym and the sparring but I had to do what was best for me.”
Once again, it seems as though talk of John Simpson’s boxing demise is somewhat premature. But the question is for how long? “I still think there’s more to come from me,” he concluded.