Updated: Dec 18, 2019

The heavyweight edition of the Ultimate Boxxer tournament takes place at the Planet Ice Arena in Manchester on Friday night. Eight professional fighters contest this one-night tournament, formatted across four quarter-finals of 3x3 minute rounds, followed by two semi-finals and then the final. One of the eight, heavyweight prospect Nick Webb, spoke to ESBR’s Elliott Grigg on the eve of fight week.

It’s been a long time out of the professional prize fighting ring for Nick Webb. In a career which would be expected to peak somewhere between 30-34, losing an entire year when you are already aged 31 and only turned professional at 27 could be described as halting at best and terminal at worst. Yet that is the predicament faced by Webb, who prior to this-coming-Friday was last seen on the 15th December 2018, where two left hooks from Poland’s Kamil Sokolowski (8-15-2) rendered him recumbent, supine and stopped in the third round.

But Webb’s yearlong absence has not been through avoidance, nor disillusionment. Instead, administrative inefficiencies and financial hindrances have resulted in the cancellation of three proposed fights.

“I did try and fight in this time. I had three fights that got cancelled. Last year [since I got beaten by Kamil], I’ve been trying to fight on local shows and they either couldn’t get an opponent in time, or the opponent pulled out, and things like that.”

It is easy for repetitive disappointments to exact a chastening and demoralising effect on anyone within any profession. Boxers, training in exacting preparation towards a specific focus, to then repeatedly have this focus revoked for reasons beyond their control, would be forgiven for slipping into dispiritedness, for subconsciously losing motivation or for slacking in the intensity of successive preparations. ‘Going through the motions’ to use the proper coinage, rather than fully engaging or using their time to steel themselves to the maximum of both their physical and mental potential.

However, contrarily, Nick Webb may have in fact benefitted from his enforced competitive time off. His power, like that quoted in Corinthians (2 Cor. 12:9), now made perfect from a position of previous weakness.

“For the whole year, I’ve been in the gym working on my weaknesses. My defence especially. The positioning of my hands in defence is a lot better. My footwork I feel is a lot better. I think my boxing brain, to predict and read stuff has improved to become a lot better. I’m working on a lot more things. Five months before the Dave Allen fight, I had a major shoulder operation. I never recovered from it. It took me a lot of time to build that strength back up in that arm, but now I’m firing on all cylinders.”

The Dave Allen (17-5-2) fight took place in July 2018 at the o2 Arena on the undercard of Dillian Whyte vs Joseph Parker. Going into the fight, Nick was undefeated. A British title eliminator, it was the biggest challenge of his professional career and one that, despite the portentous medical advice given by those treating him and still being relatively hampered by the incapacitating effects of major injury-treating-shoulder-surgery, he felt he could win.

“Yeh, the hospital and the doctors advised me not to come back that early, but I was raring to go. We wanted to take a lot less of a fight than Dave Allen, but we got a deal that was too good to refuse so it was a risk to take, but I believed in myself. I thought I might not be carrying the power that I normally do in my arm, but I thought I could outbox him, which you know I was, but it wasn’t really my style and that combined with a long lay out and 2 weeks’ notice and what with the injuries I had, it was a big risk. But we took it and it didn’t pay off and that’s that.”

The defeat to Allen was unexpected and arrestingly concussive. Webb had been using his jab to good effect, controlling both the pace and distance of the fight. As predicted, he was competently outboxing Allen. As the Doncaster fighter characteristically pushed forward, Nick started to land bigger shots – hooks and uppercuts finding Allen’s durable chin with eye-catching regularity – but in the fourth round, two lapses of concentration and two looping overhand Allen rights caught him, the first not sufficiently enough to do anything other than act as cautionary precursor; the second collapsing Nick to between the third and fourth rope, before, following a valiant and dizzying attempt to reclaim a perpendicular position, his perfidious legs and overwhelmed brain finally yielded, betraying him to a horizontal position facing upwards toward the o2 ceiling.