By Terence Dooley
Liverpool’s Rocky Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs) is no fool, the 31-year-old knows that he is a big underdog going into his WBA World Super middleweight title defence against Saul Alvarez (50-1-2, 34 early) at Madison Square Garden yet the “Rocky from Stocky” firmly believes that he can upset the odds.
Fielding beat Tyron Zeuge in Germany to win the belt earlier this year. The win heralded the end of a frustrating period in his career and has led to a huge opportunity against Alvarez, and it was one that Fielding could not turn down.
“It was a big surprise, a massive challenge, and a big test,” said Fielding when speaking to BoxingScene. “I was in bed when I got the call to say that Canelo had asked for me, how do you turn that down? It is a huge fight in Madison Square Garden so you have to take it. If you are in it to be the best then you have to fight the best. This is it, this is boxing, this is who I am, and this is what I’ve been in it for all these years.”
Stepping into Canelo’s world was a real eye-opener for the softly-spoken Scouser. It meant a media tour, a flurry of requests from the ever increasing number of media outlets, and this eventually became a drain on his time. Never one to say no to an interview, Fielding was spared an endless round of them by his trainer Jamie Moore.
“It was busy, there was nothing crazy like shoving at the head-to-head and that, it was all spot on,” he recalled. “I took it all in, enjoyed it, and I got a taste of what it is like to be around a superstar of boxing and what it takes to be one once you are there. Once I got home, all that went and it was down to training and being with my family.
“I’ve had lots of phone calls and all that, you are lucky because I’ve just put the baby down after her bottle so I can answer the phone while she’s sleeping for a bit,” he added. “I’ve done stuff for the local and all the big media. I knew it was coming so I went with the flow until we were stepping up in camp and had to ease back, so Jamie sorted it all for me. It is ideal because I am not the type of person who likes to tell people ‘No’ because it makes you look like a bighead when that isn’t the case with me. I’ll talk to anyone, but if it becomes a problem when you are stepping up then someone needs to step in.
“I was doing sessions early then doing interviews, which was OK, but sparring kicks in and you have to go behind closed doors at times. Jamie has a trainer’s point of view, he wants me to be able to train, go home and rest, and then train again, so I’m grateful for that.
A world title tilt looked unlikely back in November of 2015. Fielding had just been knocked out in a single round by city rival Callum Smith, now the WBA Super World title-holder, and his mother revealed that she had been secretly battling cancer during the run-up to the fight. His grandfather also had the disease, and later died from it, so that quickly put losing a boxing match into perspective.
Once things had settled down, Fielding started out on the road to contention and has not looked back.
“I’ve taken everything that has been put in front of me, I didn’t knock anything back,” he said. “Anyone Eddie [Hearn] has put in front of my I’ve said ‘Yes’ to them. I can’t lie, it has been more smooth than bumpy, yes I’ve had setbacks but that is life — you have to overcome them.”
The Zeuge fight came at just five-weeks’ notice, Fielding knew that an offer may not come around again so he grabbed it with both hands and his superior power told on the night.
“I caught him and knew, without being nasty, that I had to take him out,” he recalled.
“It all went well. Everyone was with me, we had press conferences and the weigh-in, and he had no one there — it was all my fans. For a title fight you expect public workouts yet there was none of that and I didn’t feel I was fighting away from home, I felt it was all there for me. Then in the fight the shots we had worked on came off in the right way, I took a few bumps but there was no stopping me.”
Now, though, there is the small matter of facing the man who drew with and then beat Gennady Golovkin to underline his supremacy at 160lbs before moving to 168. Like most boxing fans, Fielding has followed Canelo’s career, sometimes even trying to pick up little tricks and tips from his fights, so he is aware that he is facing a monumental task.
“I watched him, obviously, but that was when his fights were on before I signed to fight him, you’d try to pick little things up from him, and now Jamie is watching him to prepare me to fight him,” he said. “We work together, I have an input too and we talk about what would work with him.”
“He is a man, just like me, so you have to go there with confidence that you can catch him. If someone on Twitter says I’m going to lose then that is sound, but I have to take it, try to give it to him, and then come back home for Christmas with my kids. If I don’t beat him my stock still rises, if I do beat him then I wake up the next day having beaten a superstar of boxing.
“All that is on my mind is winning, this is win-win for me. I’m in there daring to be great with the best pound-for-pound fighter out there. It is big thing when you think where I started out in boxing. It is quite a story, isn’t it? My career has had surprises and stings, sometimes I had no plan other than taking every fight I’m given. I’ll give this my everything.
“As a nine-year-old kid you walk into the gym wanting to be a world champion yet other things come first: you become the schoolboy champion, win an ABA, then British and other titles as a pro. I’ve done all of these things, I got myself up to the big shows and have worked hard to come back from setbacks and some time out of the ring.
“This is Canelo. The new face of boxing. A guy who has just signed the biggest deal in boxing, and he picks a fight against me, a fighter who turned over with no big promotion and no backing. How do you knock that back?”
Once the dust settles on this particular fight, Fielding will not party like a rock star for a few months, he told me that he is a man of simple pleasures and is simply looking forward to being able to immerse himself in the minutiae of family life.
“You asked about the media thing earlier, I’m not all for the cameras and all that. I just want to work, set myself the goals, and then come home and play on the couch with my kids. I don’t want to flash out all this stuff, it isn’t me and it is not my family. If I’m not in the gym I’m with them. This time, I can enjoy Christmas properly with them.
One could say that by getting himself into this position, Fielding has already done a huge amount for his family and their collective future, and that is what it all boils down to at the business end of the sport.
He said: “I looked at my career, where I am at now, my age, and I knew it was too big to turn down. I want to test myself, to see where I’m at — and what an experience it will be.”
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