By Shaun Brown
The Hennessy Sports Maxinutrition Knockout Tournament for light heavyweights reaches its semi-final stage this Saturday night in Leeds and one of the final four, Matty Clarkson 12-1-2 (3), says a win against Travis Dickinson 16-1 (6) will finally see him arrive on the big stage.
Clarkson, 27, who is having to learn his trade in the professional ranks quickly after experiencing only 12 amateur fights will be looking to take Dickinson’s English light heavy strap and earn a place in the final against British champion, Bob Ajisafe, or his opponent Leon Senior.
The event, which has been broadcast on Channel 5 giving the sport exposure on free-to-air television, has been a much needed shot in the arm for the 175lb weight class in Britain. And Clarkson is pleased with the attention that the competition has been given and hopes other promoters do something similar in the future.
“It’s been fantastic. And the press it’s had, because it’s on terrestrial TV, is even better,” Clarkson told BoxingScene this week.
“Everyone’s got Channel 5 but not everyone’s got Sky [Sports]. It does seem to be the pinnacle to box on Sky at the minute for domestic level fighters. It’s what everyone’s pushing for. Don’t get me wrong, if I got the chance to box on Sky I would. I’d never ever turn that down to box on an Eddie Hearn [Matchroom] show.
“But this has done good for boxing and the light heavyweight scene and got people talking about it. If more promoters started doing it, domestically, I do think it would get more people interested. They could get every [domestic] belt in the competition. The Midlands, Southern, Central Area, English, British and have a round robin or like a Super Six format.”
After a successful 2013 which saw Clarkson travel to South Africa for a comprehensive TKO7 victory over Tshepang Mohale on the Chris Van Heerden vs. Matthew Hatton undercard, the boxer/bricklayer then went on to capture his first professional title by winning the Central Area light heavyweight belt with a dominant PTS10 victory over the well-seasoned Carl Wild. Clarkson’s momentum then steamrollered Jamie Kelly with their scheduled six rounder ending early in the first. A good year all round for ‘Magic’ Matty but his day job requirements restricted any further outings.
“I’d have like to gotten out Nov/Dec but I had work commitments. I was up working in Scotland and I couldn’t get back training. I was working long days up there 7am till 5pm and there was no gyms near me so I had some time out.
“I’m having to work, go away and pay for sparring just to get experience. It’s not an easy task in the pro game when you’re trying to learn it with no headguard and 10oz gloves on. It’s pretty brutal to be fair,” he admitted.
And it was work and a healthy income that forced him to walk away from the sport initially. But like the drug that it is, boxing brought him back.
“I went away because it was all about money at the end of the day. I was a bricklayer, I still am a time served bricklayer. I was earning a lot of money, working all over the country and staying away. It was money I couldn’t turn down. My trainer, at the time, said ‘Pack in boxing or pack in work’. It was a no-brainer. I couldn’t pack in work, I just couldn’t afford to. Then I seen a couple of fights on TV and a couple of lads I grew up with do well. I wasn’t doing anything so I thought I’ll just go back in and get fit again and see if a fight comes in. I spent ten days in the gym and then I knew that was it, I was gonna have a go.”
That ‘go’ he had has him now on the brink of a title and even more public exposure. Before all of that, Clarkson knows how hard a fight he has in front of him on Sat against Dickinson. And after his lacklustre win in his March quarter-final bout against Lee Duncan, he accepts that he has been written off in most quarters.
“We had a few things going on during camp and we knew we just had to get through the [Duncan] fight. I think I showed a champion’s mentality by doing that. If a lot of kids today had gone through what I had gone through in that camp then they would’ve pulled out. I made no excuses, I didn’t moan or cry about it. I got my job done and took the flak for it. I knew the stick would come after it because of how I performed but I wasn’t really bothered by that.
“I’m expecting a good fight,” he continued. “I know we’ve prepared well, I think he [Dickinson] would’ve prepared well as well so it’s only gonna for make for an entertaining fight. I can’t box any worse than I did last time but I’m coming with a different mind-set this time. I’m in a totally different shape. Travis knows that was a one-off from me. Out of 16 fights I’ve had one bad performance. They’ve probably seen about 40% of me but they’ve seen a 100% of him. He’s very effective, he’s relentless, likes to come forward, likes to throw big punches, got a good back hand and a good left hook but we’ve worked a gameplan and as I long as I carry that out I’m confident of winning.”
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