about people in need.
about people in need. There’s forgotten people out there. When you fight for a nation, or a people, your country, I think that is different. The buzz out there was different. I haven’t seen that in a long time. What was the energy like in Nigeria? Really good. It’s a different feel to the UK. Any thriving countries where there’s success, I don’t think there’s such thing as real worry. But when there’s a big divide, I feel there’s a real energy. During the trip you tweeted a song title by African music legend Fela Kuti... I met one of his sons who is trying to help the poor. He sent me a load of songs and said, you have to listen to soul-searching music. The melody that rings within you. You can’t just be listening to music talking about killing, drugs or women, because that’s what you’re feeding your mind with. You’ve got to listen to soul-searching music. In the boxing industry, first it’s about your passion, that’s a real cause. Then it becomes about how popular you are and what you earn. Your cause becomes just an object, you’re not soul searching any more. You need to always remember you’re fighting for a purpose. Boxer Marvin Hagler once said, “It’s tough getting out of bed at 5am to do road work when you’re sleeping on silk sheets.” Does that ring true? Yeah, to a certain degree. My life became secluded – gym, home, gym, home, hotel, holiday – but you still need to trust your own instinct. When you’ve got ten people telling you something is suddenly good for you right now, you’ve got to trust your instinct and remember that that thing isn’t what got you where you are today. You’re very close to your dad. How much of a role has he played in rebuilding you since the loss? I keep my boxing life separate to my family life. My dad comes to support and he’s passionate, so when I lose or even when I win the man is going crazy. Good energy. But me and my team built this ourselves. I’ve got lots of good opinions around me on what I should do. So I just kind of see my dad as my dad, for support, and make sure we have a good relationship. I don’t wanna get my dad too heavily involved in my sports. You said you learned a lot about how to be a champion from Wladimir Klitschko. Yeah I spoke to Klitschko many a time. He said things that I already knew instinctively. “ WHAT SEPARATES GOOD FROM GREAT IS HOW MUCH YOU CAN TAKE ” He told me certain things about my training that I didn’t do, and I’d paid the price to a certain degree. But I brush it off, I rebuild and I go again. I’d love to bring Klitschko in, but I don’t run my own camp, we all run it, so it’s a question of how he’d fit in. So I take advice from a distance and I apply it in my day-to-day. What goes through your head in the 15 minutes before a fight? When I’m fighting I can’t have my mind thinking, “If I win this I’ve got this afterparty” or “I’ve got to make sure I’m at this event tomorrow.” Everything is irrelevant. I’ve got to make sure that everything except for winning that fight is irrelevant. When you’re in the ring and you’re under extreme pressure how do you keep pushing further? Your body doesn’t like going through hard times. So most people give up, and that’s what separates good from great – how much you can take. In December 2015, when Dillian Whyte caught you with a left hook and it wobbled you, you chose to fight on rather than taking a knee and composing yourself. What motivated you to go on? If I know I can still make a decision on whether to take a knee or fight on, I know I can fight on. If I’ve even got that thought process in my head it means I’m still in tune with my body. It would’ve been different if he’d caught me and I didn’t know where I was. But when I’m still on my feet, I stay on my feet, figure it out. When I got hit by Ruiz on the temple, from that moment on I did not know where I was! I tried to keep getting up but it was a difficult task. David Beckham talks about his goal against Wimbledon as being the goal that changed his life. What was the punch that changed your life? I don’t need a punch to define me. What changed my life was walking into the boxing gym. How did you rise so quickly? Did they just see something in you at the gym? Purpose. I never miss training. I don’t train to get fit, I live the life. Early on in my career that passion, that drive, my natural God-given ability, would get me through. Now I really need the sweet science added to that and I’ll be able to rewrite the chapter in boxing. In amateur boxing I can slug it out for three rounds, knock a guy out, boom! He don’t get up. When you get to world level fighters like Klitschko and Ruiz, they’re gonna get up when you hit them. Now you need technical ability. If I keep depending on my strength and size it’s a struggle to fight like that. I’m not gonna be 29 forever. One day my body won’t be able to give the same energy. So you have to learn the sweet science of boxing. You’re still in the prime of your career. Have you thought about what you’ll be doing when you’re 40 and going into the second half of your life? I dunno if I’ll be around boxing, but I know I’ll be helping – fundraising, supporting the poor. I think that’s important. I’ll be doing motivational talks, because everyone needs some hope. And I might be down Finchley [Boxing Club] now and again helping out some up-and-coming fighters. But I don’t think I’ll be around the boxing industry saying things like, “It was much better when I was fighting”, like a hater. I’ll keep myself away from that. Lastly, what advice would you give a young fighter today? One thing? Don’t have an option B. Make this your life. Just make it everything. Because this journey requires you to burn the bridge you just walked over. You can’t turn back. PHOTOS: WILLIAMS + HIRAKAWA / AUGUST 40