MICHAEL SPROTT: BIG FIGHTS AND MEMORABLE NIGHTS!

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Professional Reading-born boxer Michael Sprott is an indelible tributary thread wending through the rich, debouched tapestry that was the British heavyweight boxing scene of the late nineties, noughties and tens.

Turning professional in 1996, under distinguished trainer and manager Terry Lawless, Michael has amassed a professional record of 42-29; 71 fights, which have seen him compete against renowned champions, undefeated prospects, plucky journeymen and fringe contenders not only in Britain but throughout Europe, New Zealand and, more recently, Turkey.

Though he is perhaps best known for the fecund period between 2002-2010, which saw his domestic rivalry with national contemporaries Audley Harrison, Matt Skelton and Danny Williams result in him opposing one of them on eight different occasions; a pugilistic polygon which moved with the unpredictability of a quicksilver carousel, and upon which Michael would ride to become the British (twice), European and Commonwealth heavyweight champion.

Not officially retired – Michael is still looking for one more fight – although he acknowledges that it will not be in Britain, given as it is that he is no longer granted a license by the British Board of Boxing Control – ‘I cannot really go and fight anywhere anymore because of my age. But I’ll get out somewhere. Probably.’ – here, Michael reflects on the biggest nights, and the fights against the biggest names of his enduring career to date; as well as shares an anecdote of such mobster hilarity that it would be more akin to the big screens of a gangster-Guy-Ritchie-melodrama than the supposed elite world of professional prizefighting.

Geoff Hunter

Date/Venue: 20th November 1996/Conference Centre, Wembley

Titles: Heavyweight non-title bout. Michael’s debut.

‘I was nervous beforehand; very, very nervous. There was a lot to take in and a lot to get used to. For example, I was not used to going in there and boxing without a head guard. And I also had to contend with a slight injury that I had picked up in training beforehand. Yeh, I was just really nervous to be out there. But as soon as I made it into the ring and they announced my name and stuff, the bell then went and that was it. My nerves were gone, and I just got into my work.

‘But I look back at that fight very differently now than I did then, with really differing emotions. I have had quite a long career as a professional, and somewhere along that journey, I learnt to give up on the nerves that occur before a fight, and in feeling and investing too much in the emotions that go along with it. Time has helped me and it gave me a new outlook.’

Result: Sprott TKO 1

Danny Williams

Date/Venue: 2nd December 2002/York Hall, Bethnal Green

Titles: British and Commonwealth

‘So before that fight, I was in Barbados for two or three weeks. I was having a good time out there and I put on some summer weight. And when I got back, I got a call to go out to Scotland to spar with Mathew Ellis. But as soon as I make it to Scotland, I get another call from my manager at the time, Dean Powell, who says to me: “Mike, Keith Long is pulling out of the fight with Danny Williams, do you mind stepping in?” He wants me to step in and fight Danny for the British and Commonwealth titles and I was like “Wow!” I was like, “This has come at the wrong time. And even though there are titles at stake, I just do not know.” He said, “Well think about it. It will be a fight that everybody wants to see.” I ended up saying, “You know what? I am going to do it.” I picked up the phone, called Dean back and said, “Yeh, let’s make it happen.”

Michael would be retired from the fight by his corner at the beginning of the seventh round, beginning to take heavier punishment and trailing on Richie Woodhall’s unofficial ringside scorecard 60-54. Although rather than this experience being a chastening, demoralising failure, the manner in which he lost and the overall way in which he acquitted himself instead conversely announced his competency at, and instant arrival upon, the British-title-level domestic heavyweight scene.

‘I showed that I was capable of being there. With more preparation, I believe I could have and would have won that fight.’

Result: Williams RTD 7

Danny Williams

Date/Venue: 24th January 2004/Conference Centre, Wembley

Titles: British and Commonwealth

‘Oh man. That was…that was really a joy. It was a lovely night, you know. In my mind, I should have won the second fight [this was the third occasion that the two men had fought. Williams won the first two, with the second being a contentious victory wrought upon the back of a slew of illegal low blows] but yeah, I won that fight. And I won this fight, and, in the end, I was so emotional. I was so happy. I went back to Reading, went all night to the casino, went out to celebrate with my friends and family. It was really amazing.

‘I prepared better, and I was much cleverer. I was watching out for any low blows, you know. For me, I just had to watch out and watch up. And to be careful. Obviously, the referee knew the sort of things that were going on in the second fight. And he had to watch out for Danny too, you know?’

Result: Sprott PTS 12

Matt Skelton

Date/Venue: 24th April 2004/Rivermead Leisure Centre, Reading

Titles: British and Commonwealth

‘Oh man, so for the first fight with Danny, I went to spar with Skelton. I did a lot of rounds with Matt Skelton. Then obviously there was the offer to fight Skelton to defend my title. It was disappointing really, as after I had fought and finally won, finally got my British title, I should have been able to manage my first defence, or to take some time out to rest, but I never got that.

‘I had had three or four eliminators in order to get to the title, which was not fair, because, you know, usually you have one eliminator and then you fight for, fight for the title. But I had about three of them and then eventually when I won the title, I was due to have a break, but I got a call from Dean Powell and he said that I had to fight Matt Skelton in a certain amount of time or I would have to forfeit my title. My girlfriend was saying, "Well this is not right. You did not have a rest Michael. You have been fighting back to back." But the rest never happened. We took the fight and then…yeh. To be frank I was quite exhausted when I got into that fight. I had just had a fight, the fight with Williams that went on to last twelve rounds. I was knackered.

‘And Skelton was just strong. I got caught in a bit of a barrage. He was just rough in there. He just roughed you up. The next day, the day after the fight, my back had rope burns all over it. Plus, he fights a bit below the belt, you know.

‘I had rope marks on my back and just, yeh. It was mad. He rubbed me against the ropes and at one point it looked like he was going to knee me. Thank God he did not because he was a K1 fighter!

‘Two or three weeks later, I went up to David Haye's gym, and David said to me that he should have been disqualified for some of the stuff he was doing in there. But you know, well, it is what it is.’

Result: Skelton KO 12

Audley Harrison

Date/Venue: 17th February 2007/Wembley Arena, Wembley

Titles: European Union and vacant British

‘It was a big build up because me and him had fought each other a lot in the past. I sparred him a lot as an amateur and I also sparred with him a lot again once he turned pro. I sparred with him during the Olympic preparations and I sparred with him down in Cornwall, for quite a while actually. When Dean told me I was going to fight Audley Harrison, I go, "Well this should be interesting" because we’ve literally just sparred, literally just been sparring, you know.

‘So then on the day of the fight, this is what happened. I was waiting to go on; I was in the arena in the back, just waiting. I was quite nervous, nervous and stuff because it was a big, big fight that was gonna be shown on live tv. It was the main fight. I was getting ready and I got my stuff out and I said to my trainer, "You know what, I have forgotten my boots." Right before we were going to go on. And I am feeling a bit nervous, more so now, and my stomach is getting smaller and smaller, and so he rushed back to my hotel, to my room and to my cupboards. Eventually, he found my boots, but he was having trouble finding them and it took a lot longer than was comfortable. He rushed back, got to me and said, "Calm your nerves and get ready." He gave me my boots and everything, we warmed up quickly and then we were off.

‘I had a lot of supporters going. I think I sold like forty thousand pounds worth of tickets or something like that. Forty, maybe forty-five. A lot of people who supported me were there. There was therefore a lot of nerves, and plus it was a good day for Reading as the football team had won a big match. So that, combined with the size of the event meant that I was nervous before I went on. But by the time I arrived in the ring I was focused. I was tuned in and my manager Jim, my manager, Jim Evans, told me to run out there and throw a big right hand at him. But I said to him, “Nah, I am not doing that,” because I know Audley Harrison and I know him very well. Good counter puncher, so no I’m not gonna go and run at him. Overhand right, nah. I said I am going to take my time really. It might have been a boring first round or whatever. I don’t just want to go in and get knocked out. I want to get the knockout. I am in this to win.

‘I was confident I was going to win. I was not overconfident. I knew him well. I’ve sparred him a lot, so I knew what to expect. But I think I was still a bit cautious. Even though I knew him from sparring beforehand, I started off slow. But the thing is that Jim, Jim Evans is telling me beforehand that he’d marked the bags up as Audley Harrison’s chin. So I trained the left hook, right hand, left hook. I just practiced that combination over and over again. Jim said, "Look, we are going to practice this as much as you can because in the fight you will not even think about it. It just happens," and that is what happened, in exactly the same manner. I did not think about it, it just happened.’

Result: Sprott KO 3

Lamont Brewster

Date/Venue: 14th March 2009/Ostseehalle, Kiel

Titles: Heavyweight non-title bout

‘I remember they called up Jim Evans and said, "Does Michael want to fight Lamont Brewster?" So Jim was like, "Oh he’ll fight anybody. Yeh, of course he will." He rang me up and he told me. Jim told me and I said, “Yeh, fair play. I will fight Lamon Brewster. It is only an eight-round fight.”