By Jake Donovan
John Thompson was out of the ring for more than a year and stuck on the lone of his career when 2015 began. Two last-minute opportunities later, and the 26-year old from New Jersey is feeling on top of the world.
Now on heels of having run the tables in the ESPN Boxcino 154 lb. Tournament, Thompson embarks on his first pro fight outside of the United States. It’s well worth the trip, as he faces unbeaten Liam Smith for a vacant super welterweight title on October 10 in Manchester, England.
The bout is paired up with a lightweight title fight between unbeaten local favorite Terry Flanagan and American southpaw Diego Magdaleno.
The chance of a lifetime comes with a bit more notice than his previous opportunity. Thompson was given barely a day’s notice that he would serve in the eight-man Boxcino tournament, entering the bracket after Cleotis Pendarvis missed weight by three hours at the pre-fight weigh-in.
A crack open was all that Thompson needed to kick down the door, eventually running the tables to claim top honors. His run was capped by a 2nd round knockout of tournament favorite Brandon Adams in May, the feat coming in the finale of the long-running ESPN2 Friday Night Fight series.
The next step in his career wasn’t made clear, until he was given the chance to fight for his first world title. Thompson wasn’t the first in line, but was at least given seven weeks’ notice this time around, jumping in after Michel Soro was forced to withdraw over a reported promotional dispute.
“It didn't take him 30 seconds to say, ‘Yes I'm going to England to fight for the world title’,” Artie Pellulo, Thompson’s promoter revealed of the brief discussion the two had when presented with the chance to face Smith on the road. “It is an opportunity for both guys due to circumstance. Neither one of them said no. They both said they want to fight for the world title.”
For Smith (20-0-1, 10KOs), it means an hour-long trek to Manchester from his hometown in Liverpool, England. Thompson’s journey comes with a seven-hour plane ride from Newark into hostile territory.
Just don’t hold your breath waiting for the visiting challenger to buckle under pressure.
“Definitely not,” Thompson (17-1, 6KOs) said of any lingering concern in conceding hometown advantage to Smith with so much at stake. “As an amateur boxer, I used to travel all over. As for being away from home, a lot of people take it as pressure. I don't, I just see it as another stage on which I need to perform. I'll have a lot of people from Jersey there, so I definitely won't be alone.”
The card will air live on BoxNation in the United Kingdom.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com.