Mark Hobson: The Road To Redemption

The road to redemption is a phrase used to describe the fixing of one's life. It is often used in the sport of boxing to describe a fighter who is coming back from defeat, whether it be in the ring or whether it be in life. It creates the perception in an audience that there is a certain road that the individual must travel to reach their ultimate goal and the resultant satisfaction that they have always strived for. 

Credit - Action Images
Credit - Action Images

Mark Hobson is a fighter who many British fans have followed throughout the 2000s, enjoying the highs and sympathising with the lows of his boxing career, but as we took a trip down back to the 1980s, Mark described his early days and his introduction to a sport which would ultimately take more from him than he would take from it.

“When I was a kid I was a big fan of Rocky Balboa, and one day my dad bought me home one of those spring balls that you could hit and it would bounce right back at you, and with it was a book which had a telephone number to call if you wanted to find out where your local boxing gym was. So, me and my dad we called the number and we went down to Keith Tate’s gym (Batley Amateur Boxing Club), and from day one I was just transfixed with boxing.

“As an eight-year-old walking into the gym for the first time, it was like ‘Wow.’ The guys in there looked like they were sculpted out of marble. When you are watching them knock lumps out of each other you think that there is no way that I can get to that level, but you can, however, you have to be prepared to work hard, as boxing is the hardest sport in the world, without a doubt.”

In 2001 after amassing a respectable record of 14-1-1 (6KOs), Hobson was presented with an opportunity to fight for the world boxing union cruiserweight title against Sebastian Rothmann (12-1-2 9KOs). Now, this was a title that had previously been held by Thomas Hearns in 1995 and James Toney in 1997, so the opportunity to fight for what was then regarded a reasonably respectable title seemed like an opportunity that could not be turned down. However, it is a decision that Mark looks back on now with regret.

“At the time my promoter Tommy Gilmour had a strong relationship with Barry Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, now they had Rob Norton who had the WBU title at the time and they brought Rothmann over from South Africa expecting Norton to beat him, but Rothmann beat him and the only other cruiserweight Tommy and Barry had in their stables between them was me. At this point I knew I was nowhere near ready for the step up - the most I had done at this point was 8 x 2-minute rounds - but I think at the time they thought let's sling him and see how he gets on. 

“The most I had earnt from boxing up to this point was fifteen hundred pounds from a fight, and when they told me I would be getting a fifteen-thousand-pound purse I was like, ‘Yes, no problem,’ without even really thinking about it. The problem at this point is that I was nowhere near mentally and physically prepared for that level and, as always throughout of all my career, I was still working full time during the day and then going straight to the gym.

“After the first round of that fight I thought ‘Fucking hell, this is going to be a long night.’ He stepped through with a jab and it rocked my head right back and that is when I knew that this was a whole different level to what I was used too. Now after that fight I realised how far away I was from where I needed to be, and the Monday after we made some major changes in training after learning that massive lesson. On the positive side, the fifteen grand I got for the fight I was able to put down on a house, so it wasn't that bad!”

It would not be too long before the first real taste of success would arrive for Mark, when in 2003 he beat Abdul Kadou (13-2-2 2KOs) for the vacant Commonwealth title, stopping him in four rounds. This was where the career of Mark Hobson really took off, when later in the year he put his title on the line and also contested for the vacant British title against Rob Norton (23-2-1 13KOs), in a fight which was back and forth throughout with Hobson dropping Norton to the canvas in the bout only for Hobson to nearly taste canvas himself. Hobson would go on to win a points victory in a fight he recalls as he best night in boxing:

“That night against Norton was a very hard fight. He had such an awkward style, but I always enjoyed fighting southpaws, and I was able to control the fight using my jab and then I would follow through with a straight right. I knew that it was my time that night., I thought if I was going to make it to the top this was the night.”

Following on from his title victory, Hobson would go on to make three successful defences of the title against Tony Moran, Lee Swaby and Bruce Scott, cementing his status as the best cruiserweight on the domestic scene; however, a certain Welsh foe would lie in wait in the form of Enzo Maccarinelli who was the WBU champion after picking up the title that Sebastian Rothmann had vacated in 2002. Enzo would secure the unanimous decision over Hobson with two of the judges having him only a point ahead on the cards in what was a tight-knit affair between the two, and Mark recollects the fight in detail:

“I always fancied my chances with Enzo, but I knew how dangerous he was, so in the fight, I tried to get him on the backfoot because if you let Enzo swarm all over you then he will do damage. Luckily, I was cool and calm under pressure, and it was a hard-fought battle. Unfortunately, I came off on the wrong end that night, but credit to Enzo, he is a nice guy and as hard of a fight it was, I did enjoy it”