Kody Davies returns to the ring this Saturday night in his second fight since signing with Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions, and his second fight since the tragic, premature death of his sister Jade.
In January of this year - aged only 30-years old, and also a beloved daughter, granddaughter, mother, niece and cousin - Jade tragically passed away from what was later diagnosed as a spontaneous intracerebral haemorrhage.
For those death leaves in bereavement, there are often experienced feelings of loss, disquietude and emotional suffering, yet in unanticipated instances like Jade’s, those that are especially premature and unexpected, the disorientating and distressing fallout is often more acutely pronounced, and the pain more shocking and intensely felt.
A fighter who prides himself on being in 'tip-top condition all year round', following this harrowing occurrence, Davies would spend an extended, uncharacteristic period of nine months outside of the ring (September 2018-June 2019). It was he who was first discovered Jade, injuring his leg in breaking through the front door, having sensed that something was urgently wrong, as he viewed her lying collapsed and unconscious from outside her ground floor window.
Yet whilst the physical wounds of that day would subsequently heal without complication, the hidden mental effects of such a distressing experience would take much longer to reconcile. Coming to terms with grief and loss is unfortunately a unique journey, idiosyncratic to the individual, and a path which is far from certain, predictable or linear.
In Kody’s case, he questioned his faith, belief, the elemental foundation of and framework scaffolding his identity, as well as his future in boxing.
'During that period, I wasn’t motivated at all.' Kody explained.
'It was a very, very dark time in my life and boxing wasn’t given a second thought for quite a period of time. My whole life was shaken and turned upside down.
'I realised that I need to get back in the boxing gym because I’m a fighter, that’s who I am. It’s in my blood.'
Kody continues, 'I gotta crack on with things and get my arse in gear. I know that is what my sister would have wanted. She was my biggest fan. She would want me to be kicking arse, which is exactly what I plan to be doing.'
An eight-round fight in June against Harry Matthews (16-46-3) at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, on the undercard of Josh Warrington vs Kid Galahad, marked his boxing re-appearance and was his first fight as a member of the Queensberry Promotions stable.
Given the hiatus, this fight was an important and a necessary milestone, one that was booked to 'get rid of the ring rust,', but which was certainly not indicative of his wider aspirations.
'I want to step up a level. I could have fought another Harry Matthews or a journeyman, but I do not want to do that. I want to be able to put my future family in a position where we do not have to worry about finances, and you aren’t gonna do that fighting journeymen. I want meaningful fights, titles and world championships.'
On Saturday night, his opponent will represent the step up that Davies desires. Zak Chelli (7-0) is a 21-year-old undefeated prospect with a winning record, and he is the current Southern Area champion. Like Davies, Chelli has campaigned professionally across both the super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. However, unlike Davies, Chelli has boxed the complete 10-round distance, beating Jimmy Smith (7-2) on points in April this year. This modest, comparative inexperience across the distance, does not phase Davies:
'Preparation for this fight has been great. I’ve done numerous 12-round spars this camp. I’ve been training harder than ever. Gavin and I have been in the gym day in and day out.
'I’ve got a new girlfriend whose been very supportive, really helping me with the diet and nutrition side of things, which is a big part. And my family have played a big part as always. I feel unbreakable right now. This fight is gonna be a great win. It’s gonna be great to win against an unbeaten fighter, but this is just a stepping stone for us.'
His desire for titles and world championship honours is shared by his trainer, former WBA super-lightweight, European and British champion, Gavin Rees, who has previously stated that they would push for a 'Commonwealth, continental, or even British title' by the end of this year, before making that final lofty push for world honours.
Whilst Saturday’s fight is taking place at the 175lb light-heavyweight limit, Davies maintains that title honours are still possible across both the light heavyweight and super middleweight divisions, and he is confident that he can compete at either weight.
'I can go down to super middleweight, definitely. We offered the Chelli fight to them at super middleweight, but they didn’t want to take it there, so we followed him up to light heavy. I want the fight. I want those meaningful fights, and this is how to do it.'
As an individual sport, boxing is unique in the sense that final earnings, ticket sales and promotional obligations remain largely the responsibility of the individual fighters. This intrinsic axiom often results in pre-fight press coverage being littered with insincere quotes of faux outrage and fabricated rancour, industry salesman patter, essentially, designed to increase PPV buys or boost social media likes and promotion.
At the exclusion of everyone but themselves, fighters also precede the nearing of a fight by sharpening their moods and searching for any psychological advantage, sensing and exploiting often barely-perceptible weaknesses in their opponents. To avoid yielding any themselves, they are consequently prepped and experienced in expressing the banal and trite; dispassionately and easily dispensing platitudes for the awaiting press to regurgitate en masse, but which add little insight or nourishment to the overall coverage. Refreshingly, Davies isn’t like that.
He is likeable and speaks with a forthright directness and sincerity that betrays an underlying steely and committed focus. When questioned as to his desired outcomes for Saturday’s fight, he unassumingly replied, 'To win. At the end of the day, it is a business and I’m focused on the final goal, which is cracking on and winning some titles.'
When subsequent questioning queried his preferred and predicted method to win, as well as whether he is looking to make any sort of statement in his performance on Saturday night, the answer was characteristically candid and unpretentious: 'I’m not concerned about statements, what I’m concerned about is victories.'
To endure and sustain through such a calamity as that which the Davies family continue to work through, whilst also ascending through the exacting ranks of professional boxing is an inspiring testament to the inner fortitude of Kody Davies. It would be unreasonable to expect things to return to as they were prior to such sorrow, nor to not have your future or perspective on life altered and shaped in some new way, but in boxing terms Jade’s enduring legacy for Kody will be celebrated through his success and the realisation of his utmost potential.
'I used to be a cautious fighter before, very protective of my record and my resume. All that has happened has put that in perspective. Now it’s about just going as far as I can go. Boxing is a massive part of my life, but it is not life. What is important are my family and my loved ones and I owe it all to them. Sometimes when I don’t feel like training, or I don’t feel like running, I’ll see a memory on my phone of my sister and it puts it in perspective for me. I am gonna put all that focus and energy and dedication into boxing, and it's gonna take a lot to stop me now.'
On Saturday night, this writer wishes him every success in taking the renewed step forward in the welcome recommencement of that journey; and with his devotion, family and a higher inspiration augmenting his every move, one would certainly not bet against him achieving those global goals.
Kody would also like to thank all his sponsors for their continued support. These include: Lee Batchelor from Batch Plant Ltd; Richie Morgan from Tip Top Motors; Chris McNeal from CNBC Building; Luke Mann; 420 Headshop & Lounge; Ringside Boxing UK; Empire Pro Tape; and Nathan Jenkins from Valley Water Services, and he would also like to give thanks to God, without whom “none of this would be possible”.