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.
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
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
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?’