By Nick Halling
Hull lightweight Tommy Coyle is looking forward to a massive year which could, if all goes to plan, culminate in him winning a world title.
Had that statement been written this time last year, it would have got laughs. The 24-year-old was showing promise, with his only defeat coming against the experienced Gary Sykes in Prizefighter, but while the potential was there, he was clearly still a youngster learning the game.
He’s learned a lot in a very short space of time. Last April, he hired the services of former European light middleweight champion Jamie Moore, and three months later he was a huge underdog when challenging the veteran Derry Mathews for the Commonwealth title.
Coyle was bombed out by a massive Mathews left hook in the 10th, but until that point he had totally dominated the affair, showing unexpected maturity and poise, whilst clearly sticking to a well-prepared gameplan from his trainer.
Defeat could have shattered him, and in the immediate aftermath Coyle did indeed look a bedraggled figure. However, he soon picked himself up, determined to learn from the experience.
“Losing to Derry was the best thing that could have happened to me,” he now acknowledges. “If I had won, I don’t think I would have analyzing my performance as thoroughly as I needed to. I got caught with a great shot because I was making the same mistake over and over again, and eventually I paid for it. It was a lesson I had to learn. A very hard lesson.
“Jamie is great to work with. He’s different class, so passionate, living boxing 24/7. He’s such an anorak of the game, always analyzing, looking for an angle or something. He’d be a great chess player, because he’s always three moves ahead.
“The biggest thing he’s done for me is that I am not loading up so much anymore. I always used to just try and bomb them out of there, but as you step up in class, you cant do that. He’s taken the young head off my shoulders and replaced it with a wise one. You cant cut a tree down with one punch, you have to keep chopping away.”
Coyle showed his ability to chip away in November, stopping the durable John Simpson in seven. Simpson was stepping up in weight and filled in at short notice, but that didn’t hide the fact that Coyle set a good tempo, picked some excellent shots, and never allowed the veteran Scot to build a platform. Simpson, a veteran of some 14 championship fights, had only previously been stopped by British featherweight title holder Lee Selby.
The improvement was such that his promoter, Eddie Hearn, began talking about an all-British clash with Kevin Mitchell as an IBF eliminator. If it happens, Coyle will be the underdog again, and couldn’t seem to care less.
“I’ve got to get through my next fight, then with luck Mitchell will be lined up for me in the summer,” he said. “He’s a great fighter, he’s been there, done it, and is proven. But he also has a lot of miles on the clock, and I’m the kind of person who rises to the challenge. The better the opponent the more I step up.”
Coyle believes he has the right people around him in Hearn, Moore, and manager Steve Wood. He also hopes that the roadmap to a world title is clear. “When you consider that I only really emerged onto the scene six months ago, it sounds daft to say this, but by the end of the year, I could be a world champion.
“If I get through this one next month, then beat Mitchell in the summer, I could be boxing Miguel Vazquez for the IBF title. That sounds mad, and I don’t quite believe it myself, but funny things happen in boxing.”
Islington middleweight contender John Ryder is hoping for a second shot at the British title after his narrow defeat at the hands of Billy Joe Saunders last September.
The big-punching southpaw is hoping for an eliminator in the spring, and that if he is successful, another assault on the domestic crown could happen in the summer. “That’s my whole focus,” he said. “The British title is the one I really want.
“I learned a hell of a lot from that last fight,” he admitted. “Mainly I learned about myself, but I also found I could do 12 competitive rounds. I had done it before in sparring, but until you do it for real, you are never quite sure. Looking back, I took my foot off the gas in the middle rounds, and that was a mistake. You cant do that in championship fights, you have to go full on all the way.
“Going in I knew I had to win big, and I didn’t do that, so I have no complaints about the verdict. But I don’t feel I lost that fight, I think I learned from it.”
The Saunders decision cost the Londoner his unbeaten record, but Ryder says he would gladly take a rematch. “I’d be very confident of beating him next time, but saying that, he’d probably be confident about beating me too. A rematch would be very interesting indeed.”
Nick Halling in a commentator for Sky Sports. Tags: British Boxing , John Ryder