By John Evans
The boxing season is once again underway and the websites and magazines are filled with interviews and reports detailing the various hopes and aspirations of numerous ambitious fighters [Editor’s note: or endlessly reporting on the to-and-fros of boxing politics]. As you pour over tales of warm weather training camps in faraway places and upcoming super fights, spare a thought for the fighters who usually occupy the red corner. The journeymen.
“I train all year round. There are no gaps for me,” Kristian Laight told BoxingScene recently. “I’m usually boxing two or three times a month. I don’t need heavy training because I’m always fighting.”
“Always fighting” is an understatement. To give you some idea of Laight’s workload, the 32 year old went 0-30 last season. Yes, you read correctly, 30. Only one of the fighters he shared the ring with sported a losing record and the vast majority of them were unbeaten. Not one of those opponents managed to stop him.
His attitude and value to the business is summed up perfectly by his final bout of last season. By facing one the countries hottest prospects — James “Jazza” Dickens — on two days notice, he both saved the promotion and provided Dickens with a solid six-round workout. Having been stopped just four times in compiling his record of 6-129-6, lightweight Laight isn’t just the hardest working man in British boxing; he is also undoubtedly one of the toughest.
“I had 30 fights last year and there’s no reason why I can’t beat that,” said the personable Laight when discussing his aims for the coming months. “Personally, I would fight every week. Sometimes though, I’ll get booked on a Sunday afternoon show and might have to miss a week because you have to have six clear days between fights.”
So, what does boxing mean to Laight? Anybody who steps into the ring as often as he does must have loved the sport at some point in his career but does that enjoyment diminish along with ambition?
“It’s a wage now to be honest,” he said. “The first couple of years, I actually thought I could do something. Then you have a couple of close ones and start to get the drift of referee’s decisions and you start to think: ‘What’s the point?’ It’s turned me into a journeyman. What’s the point of going in there and giving 110% and if you’re the away fighter? You’re never going to get the decision.
“It’s just a case of looking after yourself, making sure you put in a good performance and taking the money. Keep yourself safe and make sure you can box the week after. Personally, I’d be a liar if I said I love the sport. I don’t love the sport. I do enjoy the training, but I don’t love the sport and I’m in it for one reason. Money.”
The term ‘journeyman’ is used freely when talking about fighters such as Laight, but how does he himself feel about being categorised in such a way? It may be a very literal description of the position he fills in the sport but does it fail to do justice to the importance of his role.
“I don’t find it (the term) insulting at all,” he says. “It is what it is. Journeymen are journeymen. In this day and age you never see a prospect fighting a prospect. Whether you’re an up and coming prospect or a ticket seller you have to get on a winning run. Journeymen are basically lads who aren’t very skilled but are tough. I don’t mind being called a journeyman because I am one!”
Laight may be happy to accept the journeyman tag and all that goes with it but the same can no longer be said of his friend and companion on many last minute trips around the country Sid Razak.
With a mere 103 fights under his belt, Razak is a virtual novice compared to his colleague. Maybe that partly explains why the 39-year-old still retains some ambition and seems dead set on launching one of the most unlikely comebacks imaginable. If a man entering his 40th year carrying an 8-95 record managed to fight his way to a British title shot, it would rank amongst the greatest stories in British boxing. Yet that is exactly what Razak has planned for his final chapter.
“I wanna be known as a journeyman who turned it around” Razak revealed to me recently. “I’ve got the experience and now I’ve fought the best the country has to offer I’ve got belief in myself. I’ve had 100 fights and done my apprenticeship. Now I’m gonna be dedicated. It’s the only thing I haven’t got. I’ve been so used to being a journeyman that I got stuck in a rut. I’m dreaming when I say this but if I can get to a stage where I get a British title shot then that would be a dream come true for me.”
“I’m not lying to you, I’ve been thinking about this,” he continued. “I was talking to my trainer Peter Buckley that when I finish boxing I don’t want to be known as a journeyman. I want to see if I can turn it a round and I’m going to give it one last bash.”
Whilst he seems determined to end his career having enjoyed a taste of glory, any future success will have to wait. Razak has a more immediate target in mind. “I’ll be honest. My preseason training has been easy. I haven’t done any!” he laughed.
“I’ve put loads of weight on. My hardest challenge is my diet. At the moment, I’m working in a pizza shop and when I get hungry I‘ll have a slice. Before I know it I’ve eaten the whole pizza! I’ve just started trying to get the weight off so I’m going to start eating some vegetables. The hardest part isn’t the training it’s what you do outside the ring. I want to get down to 9st 7lbs or if I get six weeks notice, maybe even 9 stone.”
Whereas Laight is happy to admit that boxing has become a means to an end, Razak is determined to give the sport he loves one last shot. Perhaps surprisingly for somebody who has probably come to count on boxing to provide a good proportion of his monthly wage, the driving factor isn’t money.
“I don’t want any regrets when I retire from boxing. I want to be able to say that I gave it my all and tried my bollocks off. I haven’t done justice to my career. I know I haven’t given it 100%. I’ve been thinking: ‘I don’t care who I fight as long as I get paid — light welterweight, featherweight is doesn’t matter.’ Now I’ve reached the stage where, before it’s too late and I regret it for the rest of my life, for six or 12 months I’m going to give it all I can. Win, lose or draw, I’ll be able to live with myself and say I gave it my all. I love boxing but I’m 40 next year and sooner or later time’s going to catch up.”
Two of the sports most prolific journeymen enter the new season with totally different strategies and targets. Whether they accomplish their goals or not over the next ten months they will undoubtedly earn even more respect and appreciation from boxers, fans and promoters all over the country.