Cruiserweight contender, Jack Massey, will be a very keen observer when Jordan Thompson attempts to gatecrash the world cruiserweight scene by shocking IBF cruiserweight champion, Jai Opetai, this weekend.
In January, Massey (20-2, 11 KO’s) was given his own short notice shot at glory when he stepped in on two weeks notice to fight former WBO heavyweight champion, Joseph Parker. Massey performed well in what could have proven to be a thankless task but hasn’t received much reward for his efforts. Nine months on he is still waiting for another fight.
“We’re still waiting. Coming off that loss to Joseph Parker up at heavyweight we were looking to get a fight back down at cruiserweight. Get a win under our belt and then we can push and challenge for something,” Massey told BoxingScene.com.
“The fight we want is [WBO World champion] Chris Billam-Smith. That’d be perfect. I have heard that Lawrence Okolie has triggered his rematch clause so we’ll see what else is there if that is the case but we want title fights after we get a fight back at cruiserweight.”
Massey assumed that - win or lose - a strong performance against a top-ten heavyweight on a major show couldn’t help but elevate his profile and lead to more opportunities. He assumed wrong. Massey dropped a unanimous decision to Parker but put in a resilient display, battling through the early rounds and ending the fight strongly. Rather than flocking around him, his potential cruiserweight rivals scattered. Suddenly, the 30 year old from Chapel-en-le-Frith became very easy to avoid.
“I think so a little bit,” Massey said. “Chris Billam-Smith was sat at ringside when I got in the ring. When I got out he wasn’t there. As I was walking back to the changing rooms I bumped into [Richard] Riakporhe. I shook his hand and he went, ‘Nobody will fight you now.’ I thought, ‘Oh, here we go.’ I was struggling for fights before.”
This isn’t the first time that Massey has found himself unable to capitalize on his position. He lost a debatable decision to Riakporhe for the British title in 2019 and had to wait two years for another notable chance, one he snatched by demolishing the durable Bilal Laggoune inside three rounds to win the IBO world title. Again, Massey seemed poised for lift off.
The IBO title gets overlooked but Laggoune is a known, solid operator and Massey produced the type of performance that should have catapulted him into an even bigger fight or - at the very least - provided him with a steady stream of quality challengers against whom he could prove his worth. Instead, boxing politics reared its ugly head and Massey lost his title without being able to defend it. When his manager, Kevin Maree, called with the news that he had been offered the fight with Parker, he was working on a building site.
“I was skint and working for my brother on the scaffolding, freezing cold in the pissing rain and then the fight with Parker came around,” he said.
“People are scared of fighting each other in this day and age. You’ve gotta get in there. It doesn’t matter if you take a loss. Get in there and find out who’s the best by fighting each other.
“Say if you put me, Lawrence Okolie, Richard Riakphore and Chris Billam-Smith together. Four top fighters who have similar records and have had a similar number of fights. We’ve all been around for about the same amount of time. Get us all fighting and see who’s the best. If you lose, so what. The losers can fight each other.
“Okolie is as game as they come. He’d be up for fighting. I’m not sure Billam-Smith will ever fight me. Isaac Chamberlain would have it. He’s game. Team Bulletproof - that Brandon Glanton - is apparently number one in America. That’d be a good little scalp.”
Fans see a tiny percentage of a boxer’s life. There are two of three nights a year when the bright lights shine and the adrenaline surges through the veins but the other 360 or so days can be a relentless grind, especially when there isn’t the prize of a fight night to work towards. It is around six months since Massey began training with Joe Gallagher at the revamped Champs Camp in Manchester and whilst he has been waiting for his phone to ring, Massey has been enjoying improving.
Together, the pair are working to ensure that the next time Massey is given an opportunity, he makes himself impossible to ignore.
“I’m loving it. I settled in really well,” Massey said. “I’ve been a professional for ten years now. You know what you’re getting and know what you see when you’ve been around the sport for while. Joe’s a great trainer. His C.V says it all. I think the people who don’t get along with him are people who don’t wanna hear the truth. Joe wants the best for his fighters.
“He’s just making little tweaks. Getting me on my toes a little bit and working on my boxing. I feel like I’m learning again and i feel like I’ve learned a lot about the other side of boxing. I thought I knew a lot but then you hear stories about what goes on at the very top around these big fights. It’s good to hear those stories. If and when I get involved in these big, big fights and you come across these little speed bumps, it’s good to know you have somebody who’s got your back who’s been through it all before.”
And as for Thompson’s chances of beating Opetai this weekend?
“It’s a big, big step up for him [Thompson],” Massey said. “I think it’s too big of a step up for him if I’m honest.”