Ahead of fight week, I got the chance to interview Sam Gilley, a welterweight with a huge frame and a punch to match.
Gilley fights on the MTK Global show in Brentwood this Saturday 7th March bidding to become the Southern area welterweight champion as he takes on Curtis Felix Jr.
Gilley can only see the fight going one way;
"I've been training hard for 10 weeks now so there is nothing that he's going to bring that I won't be able to deal with and he's a lot smaller than me and he will be a lot smaller than me on the night as well. There is nothing I won't be prepared for and there will be nothing that I won't be able to deal with from him," said Gilley.
"We have a solid plan in place and I'm looking forward to it. I'm not going to give the plan away but there is something that I use in most of my fights that will wear Felix down and believe he will go but I'm not trying to put any time or rounds on it I'm just going to get to him and I punch too hard for him to make it to the 10th round."
"My size at welterweight at six feet, weighing in the day before, at ten and a half stone, I'm definitely not ten and a half stone the next day so that plays a big advantage for me, I've got power in both hands and I've now knocked people out with left hand, right hand and body shots so I've got a bit of everything and I'm developing myself all the time."
"My size is a big factor in what separates me from everyone in the division but like you’ll see this Saturday I'm willing to go to places he doesn’t even know exist, I've done it in sparring and all the way throughout my career I was never the best amateur fighter but I would try my absolute hardest, harder than anyone I've ever met, especially for this one. I'm training every single day, twice a day and my willingness to work hard will get me there every single time."
Gilley's last outing was a one-punch demolition of Arnoldo Solano at the world-renowned York Hall in Bethnal Green, I asked him what was next for him if he becomes Southern area champion on Saturday and where he sees the next year of his career moving towards;
"My favourite fight so far has to be my last one, against Solano, it was everything I wanted, I never stopped anyone in the amateurs so for me to get a one-punch knockout like that was just incredible, I have developed my power as I've grown and to get a knockout like that was mad. I'm massive at that weight."
"I've always been a very stay in my lane sort of person, I see people shouting out this person or that person but I'm just 100% focussed on Curtis Felix this weekend and when I win I will see what route MTK want me to go down. I would like to defend the southern area title, that is what I'd want to do, defend it but Rod is obviously looking for me to go the English route but Shaquille Day has the eliminator for that so obviously me and Shaq are on the same sort of path and with the same promotional company so somewhere down the line that will probably happen."
"I was speaking to Conor Benn about this as I've been sparring him a lot and he said some of the fights you get matched at Southern Area and English level are harder than fights that you see in WBA intercontinental fights and stuff like that because they're lads that haven’t made a name for themselves yet and fight like it's their time get to that level and are willing to do things and go places and dig so deep to get that opportunity".
I'm happy to get to Saturday and if you'd have told me at 11 that I would be a pro I'd have looked at you like a nutcase. Back then I looked at the Southern area as a huge goal, I'm here now and I see that now as a stepping stone to bigger things."
"Do you know what though I would actually love one of those WBC International belts, I'm well up for that, Mikey (Sakyi) fought Mckenna for it so I got to see it at the weigh-in and it tickled my fancy. I've always wanted to go the traditional route and go down the English route as you learn more, especially when you haven’t had an international amateur career. That’s the best route to go down."
I asked Gilley about the weight he sees his immediate future at and where he wants to go in the next year and the challenges of making weight and following a strict diet;
"I want to stay at Welter for a while because everyone looks at me and says how do you possibly make welter? It isn’t any fun, the diet is hard but I'm under Greg Marriot the nutritionist from Sheffield and without him I'd probably be boxing at middleweight if I'm honest, he gets me down to the weight with relative ease, I'm a strong believer that if you make weight easy then you should go in the weight below. I go under a strict diet for ten weeks so that I can turn up on those scales and be 147 and then turn up the next day a lot bigger, It's an advantage to your game."
"I had a while off over Christmas and had a little bit of a feast and got a little bit fat and I popped in to see Rod, he took one look at me and told me to get on the scales, I physically had to run away from him laughing and he made me train right through from Boxing day until now, but I like to have a bit of downtime like anyone does, otherwise you'd go mad if you did it 24/7, it's important to have a balance, not just for me but everyone around me, like my girlfriend she hasn’t been out for a meal with me for I don’t know how long because I'm under this diet, after a fight its time then for everyone to enjoy it with me, I've just moved into a flat so her support when I come home a bit grumpy from a long day is the thing that cheers me up and picks me up."
We talked further about how a career in boxing had materialised for him and what had brought him to this title fight on Saturday;
"Boxing is everything I've wanted since I was little, I was clumsy when I was doing trade work and I was never any good at any other sports so ever since I was little I've wanted this, the first time I sat down with it was to watch Ricky Hatton vs Kostya Tszyu and I sat there and thought I’d love to do something like that, I also used to watch wrestling a lot and my Dad said go and have a go at boxing then, I said no, I want to do wrestling, as I grew up I obviously went down the gym to box and since that day that is all I've wanted to do.
I am living the dream in the sense that I wake up every morning and I go and train, there are not many people that do that after putting a pair of gloves on at 11 years old. My wrestling finisher would have been the stunner by the way!"
We moved on and discussed his relationship with trainer Rod Julian and just how big a part Rod has played in Gilley's career and how the pairing works so well for them;
"Rod Julian has been the biggest influence on my career by an absolute country mile, I was standing in a warehouse cutting up lino and literally earning about £250 a week and going out every weekend and as I said I didn’t win anything in the amateurs so I started to fade in boxing. I had to start working to earn money and thought this is a bit better than going to the gym and one of my mates said to me why don’t you go down and speak to Rod, I walked into the gym and Rod said have you boxed before, I said I've done a little bit."
"Obviously, I had been in the gym since 11 so had done loads but he pulled me aside after about 6 weeks, I was sparring his fighters and I was doing quite well, shall we say and he pulled me aside and said if you give me everything you’ve got I will give you everything you’ve wanted since you were 11. Since that day he's literally said mad things to me, for example, he said this year we will fight at the O2, he took me out to spar Kell Brook and Billy Joe Saunders in Fuerteventura and within 3 weeks we were on the undercard for Billy Joe at the O2, I don’t know how he does it, somehow he just brings it on but yeah he just does it."
Next, we discussed challenging times for the young fighter from Walthamstow and how it has built his character and determination to succeed;
"The hardest period that I had in boxing was at the start, I did all this training and Rod said I’ll get you your debut, then I actually had a brain scan declined, they said there was query on it so I had to go to Milton Keynes, the result then came back and I thought oh no I'm going to lose this opportunity at the first hurdle. That was really tough, I had to wait about 3 months, I had to go back to Milton Keynes and have a separate brain scan, afterward, they only met like once a month or something, I had the scan like three days after they'd met so I had to wait almost a whole month for the results and to make a decision and they just went yeah he's fine to box. That was definitely the hardest part of my career so far."
We discussed what it was like to sign with such a big named promotional company like MTK Global and how he is determined to make the most of the opportunities that are now coming his way;
"Signing with MTK Global is right up there for me with my achievement as well, they're such a massive brand and it was really exciting for me. Lee Eaton gave me a chance to get on an MTK show and I fought a guy who had only been stopped once by Bradley Skeete I think it was, and I got him out of there quicker than Skeete did. They're making moves all over the world now with people like top rank and the likes of Billy Joe and Tyson Fury, so it's fantastic to be under that banner."
"I think it will only be a matter of time until they outgrow places like the Brentwood Centre and York hall with shows like the golden contract, what they’ve done with that is just unbelievable, I've been to a couple of them, once with a stablemate of mine fighting Tyrone McKenna, I can see those shows going to the Copperbox Arena or something like that, those shows would be amazing."
"I've been saying for years now that Eddie Hearn and Matchroom have changed British boxing but now Eddie is into so much other stuff like DAZN now and he only seems to be signing world champions and Olympic medallists now and leaving out the other young fighters at grassroots level that has made him what he is, MTK are buying into that now and moving these fighters through and giving them opportunities and are doing it the right way."
We moved forwards and began to discuss who Gilley admires and respects in boxing and different fighters that he has sparred with and how that went for him, who would have been a dream fight for him and how he would like to be remembered at the end of his career;
"Listen, if you're a fighter then you’ve got to respect every single other fighter, anyone that climbs through those ropes and take a shot on the chin in front of all those people in front of your friends and family, you’ve to go respect that but people are going to look at me and feel a bit of fear, knocking people out with one shot, six-foot, strong, big, fast and a good boxer inside and out and I want to show everyone what's in my tool bag, I've either stopped people early on or I've been in four or six rounders. I've not got to show the benefits of that yet."
"I've sparred Kell Brook and he was the best fighter I've shared a ring with by a country mile but this is very interesting, I've actually sparred David Avenesyan, the European champion who is headlining the O2 against Josh Kelly and I'm telling you what, he is good. He is very, very good. You don’t beat Shane Moseley if you aren’t good, it will be a tough ask for Kelly."
"Ricky Hatton would have been my dream fight, 100%, just the pressure and everything that he brought, the bravado, the crowd, he is very much like me, I'm just a normal lad from a council estate in Walthamstow, he was the same in Manchester. He enjoys going to the pub and playing darts and stuff like that, he's a very similar character to me. Just how he was with his fans, just to be sat opposite him at a presser with all that going on at the weigh-in and then getting in with him, I don’t think anyone else could have brought the same intensity to the ring as Ricky always did."
"I grew up watching Ricky Hatton as most kids did my age but I really liked Tony Bellew also, he is so family orientated and I really like what he stands for, someone to really look up to, very knowledgeable as well. If he got offered a challenge he was straight in there looking for the win, so yeah Bellew was someone I really liked to watch and admire a lot. Like Bellew, I'd like to inspire young kids, if a kid was told that they can't do something I'd like to inspire kids to think that yes they can, the same sort of thing as Tony Bellew, he didn’t duck anything and took everything on and was a good fighter, that’s how I'd like to be remembered for my career."