In boxing, and in life generally, we never truly know what may be coming our way – Even the famed Nostradamus would have struggled to foresee the events of 2020, namely the global pandemic and mass halt brought about by Covid-19. But, in difficult and testing times, opportunity is often born. Former American motorsport racer Bobby Unser once said that “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet” and while Covid-19 has hindered many, it may well be the point at which preparation and opportunity meet for Wales’ Nathan Thorley (14-0 6KO).
Fight Camp Week 2 | Matchroom Boxing
“Lockdown has come at a good time for me, it has allowed me to stop working and train full-time. I’ve been able to train, I’ve been able to spar, I’ve been able to run and I’ve been able to get into the gym. To be honest, I’ve been quite lucky where I’ve been able to train as a full-time pro for the last ten weeks".
With lockdown bringing about the opportunity, all that remains before success is doing the hard yards in training and it looks as though Thorley plans on leaving no stone unturned. A fundamental part of sharpening a fighter’s tools is to step inside the ring for sparring, something Thorley has invested heavily in.
“I’ve sparred with Enzo Maccarinelli three times now and this is my third week up in Watford for sparring, I’m not sure who I’m sparring today but I know Mo [Prior] has got two cruiserweights for me doing five rounds each. I’ve been sparring some big lumps, sparring the smaller guys is no good for me.”
As Thorley looks to establish himself in his move up in weight from light heavyweight to cruiserweight, I was intrigued to find out more about how sparring with former world cruiserweight champion Maccarinelli has supported his development.
“Enzo is a well of knowledge. He was British, Commonwealth, European and WBO world cruiserweight champion and he’s won every title in the weight division I’m in, so I’m like a sponge – If he tells me I’m doing something wrong or if I can do something a little differently, I’ll take it on. Enzo knows what he’s talking about, he’s not stupid and he was world champion for a reason and the sparring with him has been phenomenal. I’ve been in there with someone who’s been there, done it and bought the T-shirt!”
Thorley spars former world champion Enzo Maccarinelli | Nathan Thorley (Twitter)
As is often the case in boxing, the bond between a fighter and their trainer plays a fundamental role in any subsequent glory. In his preparation and development over recent times, Thorley extols the impact of his coach, Gary Lockett and lauds him as one of the cornerstones of his success.
“Gary connects to us. For me, he’s not just my trainer, he’s my friend. I can go to him and ask him for anything if I’m ever in need or if I need advice on something. He’s one of these guys that will always be there, he’s not just a trainer. When you’re there with him he just makes things easy for you, he shows you things and if you’re in the wrong position or place he shows you little adjustments that make the world of difference. Being the fighter he was, Gary’s able to say ‘Well, this is how I would throw a jab but if it doesn’t work for you, let’s try a different way’ – He explores the different avenues.”
This week brings Thorley his biggest career fight to date, the opportunity to capture the Commonwealth cruiserweight title against Chris Billam-Smith, a fighter with a record of 10-1 and nine of his wins coming by way of knockout. Billam-Smith’s only loss saw him on the wrong side of a razor-thin split decision in favour of Richard Riakporhe, a fight that Thorley scored in favour of Billam-Smith. I asked Thorley if there is anything he can take from that fight and implement into his own matchup with Billam-Smith.
“Yeah, I thought he just won it but I watched it a fair while ago. I know people who have watched it recently who think he didn’t win it. My opinion was he just nicked it. Gary’s watched, but I’m not really like a Riakporhe – No offence to Riakporhe, he’s British champion and he was WBA Inter-Continental champion and he knocks people out, but he’s a bit wild for me and I’m not very wild.”
Thorley hopes to celebrate victory again at Fight Camp | TopClassBoxing
In the build-up to their Commonwealth title clash, Billam-Smith has been complimentary of Thorley and his skillset making specific mention of Thorley’s hand speed, foot speed and ring IQ but does question how Thorley will cope with the step up in quality.
“He [Billam-Smith] is a step up but he’s a step-up to my quality. If I’m being honest with you, I can’t get out of bed for journeymen and I’ve had fights where I haven’t performed great and I’ve looked terrible but why am I motivating myself for these boys that I can beat in my sleep? I know it’s not the attitude I should have but it’s the attitude I picked up. There was never a fire there to be like ‘Right, I’m gonna knock this guy out!’ but this fight now, I’m training two and three times a day, I’m eating the right food and I’m looking after myself and everything has gone right for me so far. For me, I’ve got nothing to prove to anybody but I’ve got that quality, I just haven’t been able to prove it or been in with somebody good enough that I’ve had to show it. I’m confident in my ability and I’m confident in what I can do.”
If the suggestion that success lies at the junction where preparation and opportunity intersect is correct then Nathan Thorley may very have found himself perfectly placed to seize glory. Heading into the biggest fight of his career so far, Thorley shows no signs of fear nor the slightest inkling of nerves but what he does portray is confidence, belief and a burning passion to prove himself.
“I’m just ready to show the world my ability and for people to actually know who I am and recognise me and be like ‘Wow, that Thorley is a good fighter!’”
You can see Chris Billam-Smith Vs Nathan Thorley on the upcoming Matchroom Fight Camp Week 2 show on August 7th live on Sky Sports.
Fight Camp Week 2 | Matchroom Boxing