Updated: Aug 7, 2019
LEEDS stylist Jack Bateson says he’s happy progressing his career away from the glitz and glamour of big televised shows - at least for now.
The 24-year-old super-bantamweight, a long-time member of Team GB, was one of the UK’s most decorated fighters as an amateur so naturally many expected him to sign with either Eddie Hearn or Frank Warren when he announced his intention to go pro in 2017.
But Bateson surprised most when he decided to keep things local and learn his trade in the paid ranks under the guidance of his father and established West Yorkshire fight figure Mark.
“You get good publicity fighting on big shows and that was what I expected when I first turned over but what better way to do it than with my dad?” Jack, 8-0 (2 KOs), said.
“I know when I’m fighting and I’m in my own town of Leeds so I can sell loads of tickets, build my reputation as a pro.
“I’ve managed to get a on a few of the big cards with Josh Warrington like the one at Elland Road. I’ve been lucky in that sense and I think eventually it will be time to get on board with one of the big promoters, providing I keep winning. I’m not in any rush as I love boxing on my dad’s shows.”
Jack with his Dad, trainer Mark Bateson (R)
Bateson won every major amateur honour as a junior before proving his mettle as a senior with two ABA titles (the first coming when he was just 17) and a European bronze.
For years he was seen as a sure-fire future Olympian but he had his dreams dashed and he left the unpaid ranks with something of a bitter taste in his mouth.
“The Olympics was the dream as an amateur,” he said. “I was always tipped for it and I think a lot of people expected me to get there. Even before 2012, people were talking about me making it. When that went, most thought I’d get to Rio in 2016.
“It was heart-breaking to know that in the end I didn’t even get the shot to qualify. I was supposed to fight Muhammad Ali in a box-off and he pulled out. I thought that would have put me ahead of him but he got picked for the qualifiers and made it.
“For a bit, I fell out of love with boxing. I kept going and I continued to win fights but my head wasn’t in it anymore. When my contract ran out with GB and the Sky Scholarship I thought it was best to take some time out and get the love back. That’s exactly what I did and I knew from there that going pro would be the fresh start that I needed.”
To add to Bateson’s disappointment, the man who pipped him to Rio later failed a drugs test for the anabolic steroid Trenbolone whilst representing British Lionhearts in the World Series of Boxing and was hit with a two-year ban.
Bateson gunning for Olympic glory
“I get asked about Ali sometimes and I don’t want to even associate myself with him,” Bateson stated.
“For what he’s done, he’ll always be a cheat in my eyes and it’s something I’ll never be able to forgive or forget.”
Ali is still protesting his innocence and is now far in Bateson’s rear-view mirror as the Leodensian concentrates his fledgling career as a professional.
Bateson hasn’t put a foot (or more pertinently a fist) wrong in the little over 18 months that has passed since he marked his debut with a first round demolition of Hungary’s Zsolt Sarkozi.
Whilst it is still early days, things happen quickly in the lower weights and Bateson feels a title fight won’t be too long away.
21-year-old Midlander Brad Foster is set to contest the vacant British 8st 10lbs title against Josh Wale next month despite only having ten paid fights under his belt so there are certainly opportunities for young and hungry punchers in the super-bantamweight division.
“I’ve had eight fights a short space and I’m looking forwards to what will hopefully be a big year and I can start pushing on to towards decent level fights and titles,” Bateson said.
“I think I’m ranked at about 15 in Britain now and when I look at the top ten I can see a lot of good fighters but there’s no one I wouldn’t be prepared to share the ring with right now if I had the chance.
“Once I get I used to fighting over six, eight and ten rounds, I feel I’ll be ready to go and get let off the leash.
Bateson in action
“I think towards the end of year I can start looking at an area title. It’s definitely going to be a big breaking year for me and hopefully I can push into that top ten in the super-bantamweight division and make a name for myself.”
And Bateson doesn’t need to look far for inspiration for his title quest. Jack has kept a keen eye on fellow Leeds-native Josh Warrington as he has progressed from small hall shows to arena and stadium-filling world title fights.
“I remember Josh from back in the amateurs when he used to spar my brother,” he recalled. “It’s incredible to see how far he’s come.
“It’s only a few years ago that he was fighting on one of my dad’s shows, doing the same thing that I’m doing now. He’s got to the top through sheer hard work and determination. He came through the hard way and I don’t see why anyone else can’t.
“I got the opportunity to fight at Elland Road on Josh’s undercard [against Lee Selby] and it was a dream come true. It was a nice day, all the fans came out and it’s something I will always remember.
“Warming up in the Leeds United changing rooms and walking out onto the pitch was a great experience and hopefully it won’t be the last time I fight there. Fingers crossed, if all goes as I hope, I can follow in Josh’s footsteps and top the bill there one day.”