Lyndon Arthur is well aware of how important Saturday night’s light-heavyweight fight against Anthony Yarde. Boxing has given him so much already, but a win over Yarde will push him to a new level. That would not only mean a lot to him, but to those that see Arthur as a role model.
Arthur, 29, grew up in a rough area of north Manchester. Just yards from his home and the gym that changed his life, his brother Zennen was shot dead, an incident that helped turn the then 11-year-old Arthur into an angry young man at conflict with authority.
“As cliched as it sounds, boxing saved my life,” Arthur said. “It gave me a path to where I am now and away from all the stupidness I was doing before I found it. I’m here now and doing a lot better than many people are and a lot better than many people thought I would be when I was a kid messing about doing absolute nonsense.
“Boxing is a great thing. A lot of kids come through our gym too who are on the same path as I was. When you are 14, 15, 16 you are looking for the answers to question you wish you knew when you were ten. So you start going out and you approach things with a bad temper or you look at things and think that might be a better way of life.
“Growing up round here, just two seconds away from where that stuff happened and seeing it on a day-to-day basis, it can push you into a different way of life. That was my past and I need to concentrate on my future.”
That positive future would have seemed unlikely until his uncle, Pat Barrett, the former British and European light-welterweight champion, took him to the gym. But it was Brian Hughes who first identified the talent. Hughes is a legendary figure in boxing circles in Manchester and, while he has now retired, when he speaks, people tend to listen.
“Pat was the one who took me to the gym, he was the one who introduced me to boxing and it was Brian Hughes who first said ‘he can be good, he’s naturally gifted’,” Arthur said.
“It was a surprise to Pat. He said. ‘what Lyndon, who smokes weed and sits on the street and does nonsense?’ When Brian said that, Pat gave me an ultimatum. So he said, ‘Brian likes you he wants to work with you more, so let’s not waste his time, If you want to do it you have to stop all your nonsense, or I will tell Brian you just want to be a keep-fitter’. I said I was going to box and that was that.
“Brian had such an influence on Pat and took him to where he did in boxing, to a world title fight, to a European title, to a British title. To hear someone of Brian’s stature say that about you was overwhelming, so I had to take it seriously then.”
Now Arthur is the man everyone looks up to at the Collyhurst and Moston Lads Club gym.
“We have got a bit of school in our gym for naughty kids,” he said. “It is good for them to be around us because we can relate to their situation. I got kicked out of school and these kids are basically the same as me. They will look at me and see that I have been on TV or I have this many followers on Instagram. I am in it, so, to me, it doesn’t seem that important, but to them it is massive.
“To be able to speak to me or my friends, it can help them. They can see that if I did it, they can do it. It doesn’t seem impossible if someone who has come from exactl where you are has done the same thing, from the same problems and pressures.”
If Collyhurst and Moston helped build Arthur, the finishing school was at the GB Boxing squad in Sheffield. He spent nearly three years on the squad and, while he never made it to an Olympic Games, the experience was invaluable.
“You ask most amateur boxers what they want to do, they want to get to GB,” Arthur said. “I’ve done that. I’ve sparred the best in the country, from Joshua Buatsi to Joe Ward. I’ve been able to have that experience and you can’t buy that anywhere. I’m grateful to have done that, it puts me in great stead.
“After this fight I could fight for a world title, so I am nearly there, and there is the top is being a world champion, In no way am I overlooking the situation, but subconsciously you think, if you win this, everything you have trained for, the ten years you have put into boxing has paid off in one day, because you are there. Things could change after this, but I have to look at the task at hand.”
Yarde is a huge betting favourite for Saturday, but Arthur believes those odds are completely misjudged.
“Respectfully, I just don’t believe he can beat me and that’s it,” Arthur said. “He has got power, I respect it. But I just think I am the better boxer. I just believe in me, shouldn’t I? I have not boxed for 10-11 years to just think this boy can beat me or he is going to know me out.
“I would have loved to have done what I am doing now sooner, but it’s a process. This year has been a terrible year for everyone and sport. I’ve had a bit of a slow career, but the fights I have had have come at the right time. I have dealt with a few things. The Emmanuel Anim fight [in October 2019] was the first one where I knocked a guy down and he got up and put it on me. I was cut in that fight, I got an injury, I went 12 hard rounds and I came through it.
“In the Dec Spelman fight I cruised in first gear. I feel I am a bit more tested. Vecause of the fights I have gone through, I have got it in my arsenal to pull it out if I need to.
“I believe in me, I believe in Lyndon, I believe in King Arthur, I believe in the brand. I’m excited to test myself and this is my biggest test.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for Boxing Scene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.