When Kid Galahad and Jazza Dickens first shared a ring, eight years ago, it is fair to suggest that no one present thought the rematch would have had a world title on the line. Both have been on a long path since that night in a converted steelworks in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, but when they clash in Eddie Hearn’s childhood garden in Essex on Saturday, it could be a life-changing night for the winner.
When they met in 2013, for the vacant British super-bantamweight title, the pair were unbeaten prospects, so it was a crossroads fight in some way. Galahad won by a tenth-round stoppage, seemingly another step on the road to greatness that he was being groomed for. But things didn’t go as planned.
A year later, after being crowned Young Boxer of the Year, Galahad failed a drug test and was banned. Meanwhile, Dickens kept going. He was thrown in with Guillermo Rigondeaux and stopped, he then lost to Thomas Patrick Ward. But he kept boxing and started winning and victories over Leigh Wood – which looks a spectacular success after he claimed the WBA featherweight title last weekend – and Ryan Walsh, led to him being matched with Galahad again, this time for the vacant IBF featherweight title.
However, anyone looking back eight years for pointers of how things will go on Saturday is looking in the wrong place.
“If he hasn’t changed since the first fight, then he wouldn’t be in this position,” Galahad said. “He has learnt from that fight and moved on and he has learnt from fights after that. And I have. I just believe I am better than him in every department.
“Even though he has got better since the last fight, I have got much better.
“You can never under-estimate someone like him because he lives the life, he is a very good fighter and he will give anyone trouble. I do believe he is world class, I just believe I am special.
Understandably, Dickens expects a different result this time and while he has not been looking back at their first fight for any tips, he believes Galahad’s style has not changed too much.
“It is a rematch but it is a long time ago and I haven’t watched a fight of his in a long time,” Dickens said. “I wouldn’t take much from that. He is more mature, but the Ingles’ fighters tend to go with the same style, so I can’t see him being much different.
“I watch it and I laugh – why are you doing this and doing that? I’m a critic. I’d have been wasting my time all these years if I haven’t improved.
“He’s the only person to have me over. Is that fuel? Too right. That’s why I have wanted the fight all these years. I’ve prayed for this for years and now it is here.”
At 30, Dickens life would seem to have been leading to this moment. As he child he grew up in a house where his parents were addicted to drugs. Boxing and his local church provided his salvation. But having seen the good and bad in life, he knows that there are more important things in life.
“I just see it for what it is,” Dickens said. “The things that are important in life is what is behind the door when you go home. But we get lost on a course to fulfil our own selfish desires. That’s what I talk about the ‘bullshit’ [in boxing].
“It will mean everything to kids around the community, we’ve not had a world champion from the areas I am from. I am carrying the flag for us all.
“It doesn’t matter how you win. The feeling you have when you lose is that you would do anything to win, by all means necessary.”
Galahad, 31, who will be having his second shot at the IBF title after losing a split decision to Josh Warrington in 2019, is not expecting Dickens to last the distance.
“We respect each other, but when we get in that ring, I’m going to try to be taking his head off and he’s going to be trying to take my head off,” Galahad said. “I’m going to go in there and smash him from pillar to post.
“I’m going to go in there to smash him. If the stoppage comes, the stoppage comes. I don’t go looking for a stoppage in any fight, but I am looking to seriously hurt him.”
The featherweight division is quite congested in Britain and Ireland now. While Warrington is no longer a world champion, he remains the biggest draw and a target if he wins his rematch with Mauricio Lara next month, while Michael Conlan became interim WBA champion by beating TJ Doheny on Friday in Belfast.
That should earn him a shot at Wood, who claimed the WBA “regular” title by beating Xu Can last weekend. Both Galahad and Dickens have history with Wood – Galahad shared a gym with him for many years, while Dickens beat Wood in 2020. Yet anyone hoping there would be some tension between the pair and Wood, will be disappointed.
“He deserves it,” Galahad said. “He has been in the game for a very long time and he deserves to be a world champion.”
Dickens went as far as to say he has become a bit of a fan and dismissed the idea that because he beat Wood last year that he necessarily would again.
“I was happy for him,” Dickens said. “I didn’t beat Xu Can, I didn’t beat Leigh Wood for a world title either. I wasn’t watching it like I had an eye on Can Xu or Leigh Wood. I was just watching the underdog winning.
“I’ve become a bit of a Leigh Wood fan since. I don’t really know anything about him, but now I am watching podcasts on him. I think he done amazing.
“When I win a world title I sure there will be a call for us to fight him again, but for now, I take my hat off to him, to Ben Davison [Wood’s trainer], Dave Coldwell [his manager], he has got a good team around him.
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t really take to Leigh Wood years ago. He had that little bit of the Ingle way about him. But he’s moved camps and is more like himself. He seems like a really, really nice lad.”