THE Commonwealth Games gives boxers the chance to change their lives. I won flyweight gold in Melbourne in 2006 – and it catapulted me. I had won national titles and international titles, but nothing compared to winning the Commonwealth Games.
It’s a massive sporting event screened on terrestrial television and watched by millions around the world. Who doesn’t want to spend their summer watching sport on television with a cool beer?
I’m a proud Brummie and I’m glad the Commonwealth Games is coming to my city. It’s massive for my city and is a massive platform for the boxers. I know how much winning the Commonwealth Games can do for them.
When I got home from Melbourne everyone wanted me! It was crazy. It seemed that every radio and television station wanted to talk to me, I got invited to dinners where I rubbed shoulders with celebrities and ended up turning professional with one of the world’s top promoters, Frank Warren.
I’m just a normal lad from Erdington and growing up there, I didn’t expect any of that to happen to me. It happened to me because I won the Commonwealth Games.
The platform is even bigger this year because it’s in Birmingham. Three of my fights were on at five o’clock in the morning, so most people weren’t able to watch them live and there was no interactive television in those days. That makes me feel old!
This year the boxing will be on at peak viewing times – and there’s interactive television these days.
I had four fights in six days to win gold in Melbourne – and the draw couldn’t have been any harder.
Bradley Hore (Australia) went to two Olympics (2000 and 2004), Ryan Lindberg (Northern Ireland) had a win over Carl Frampton, the Indian I beat in the semi-finals (Jitender Kumar) was quality and so was the South African (Jackson Chauke) I had in the final.
Chauke is still boxing now and is ranked No. 8 in the world at flyweight by BoxRec. He’s only lost one pro fight (out of 23, with two draws). I beat him on the outclassed rule in Melbourne. They stopped it in the third round when I went 20 points up. I think I beat him before the fight. One of his team mates had asked me what would happen if we fought and I said: ‘I will batter him.’ I wasn’t trying to intimidate him, I was just being myself, but I think my words got back to him because the final was my easiest fight of the tournament.
I know other English teams have been more successful in Commonwealth Games since Melbourne, but I don’t think any of them were better than the 2006 team, boxer for boxer.
There was Frankie Gavin, James DeGale, Stephen Smith, Jamie Cox, David Price, Tony Jeffries… all quality fighters.
I’ve looked at the England team this year and think they are all good enough to win medals, but there will be a lot of unknown and hungry fighters in Birmingham who want medals as well.
The English boxers mostly face European opponents in tournaments and in Birmingham there will be a lot of fighters from Africa and other nations they haven’t seen before. The Africans don’t fight because they want to be on television. They are fighting for food and that makes them dangerous.
I was hoping to be at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham as a coach. I’ve got my Level Two badge and help out at West Warwicks Amateur Boxing Club and if it hadn’t been for covid, I might have been an England coach by now.