Coming off the back of the loss to Tony Quigley, Dodson set his sights on another Liverpudlian in the shape of Paul Smith. Before that was to happen, Smith, himself had to fight Quigley at the Echo Arena, with Dodson watching on.
“Frank Warren gave me tickets to watch Smith against Quigley, but do you know where I had to sit? Right at the back of the arena, which pissed me off. I left after the first round, I didn’t stay and watch it. I thought you cheeky bastards, you’ve got a full spread on me in the program, named me everywhere and then stick me in the rafters, are you taking the piss? So, I left and watched it on the telly, I thought it was close, but I might have swayed for Quigley. I thought I was a better fighter than Paul. I mean, like even now that might sound bitter, but technically through the spars, we had over the years, I thought I was better. The next day I got on the phone to Paul and got the fight.”
A lot of things were said before the fight, despite the fact there was a lot of respect between the pair. There was no doubt though, that this helped to sell the fight and made it an entertaining spectacle.
“We're still friends and we were friends then, we trained together, not in the same club just crossing paths. We always respected each other. When he boxed Quigley, I got on the phone, like a dickhead, and asked if he was gonna give me a shot this time. It just went from there and escalated, I said some things and so did he. I didn’t want to disrespect him, I love him and his family, I went about it the wrong way, but I got the fight.”
Ring rust has become a large debate within boxing and combat sports, with many people analyzing the impacts it can have. Between the Quigley and Smith fight, Tony had been out of the ring a year, and he attributes part of the loss to that.
“The way I look at it is with Salah and the form he’s been in for Liverpool. Put them on a bench for 12 months and is he going to be the same player? Would you bring them back in the Champions League Final? Probably not. That’s what it was like for me, it’d been over 12 months since id stepped in the ring.”
Once again, Dodson got the opportunity to avenge a loss, when in 2013 he faced Smith for the second time. This time the bout did not go the distance, although the stoppage may have been early.
“Paul is a very smart fighter; he can fight on the back foot and counterpunch and because I was so aggressive, I played right into his hands. I don’t think the fight should have been stopped at all. He only caught me with one shot, I staggered forward, and the referee jumped in. I got dropped in the second, got up, and won the round! He catches me with one shot, and you don’t give me the benefit of the doubt in a fucking British title fight? I was still defending myself, let me go out on my shield!”
In between the two Smith fights he had the opportunity to feature on Prizefighter. A Matchroom tournament concept all on one night, with a £32,000 prize fund for the winner. Although he first turned matchmaker, helping a young Rocky Fielding to get on the show he would later go onto win.
“I got offered it at middleweight, but I couldn’t have made the weight limit. I and Rocky Fielding were training together, and he came with me to the Olympia for the weigh-in of Crolla and Watson. At this point loads of fighters had pulled out of it and they asked me if Rocky would fancy it. At this point, he’d only had a handful of fights, and he said it was too soon for him. I persuaded him and told him he was good enough etc and he ended up winning it. In a way, if he’d not come with me that day, he may not have made the waves he has, that was his opportunity.”
‘The Warrior’ eventually entered Prizefighter at the light-heavyweight limit, in an attempt to relaunch his career. Despite reaching the final after two dominant victories over Michal Banbula and Menay Edwards, he would not get the chance to fight for the prize fund due to a nasty cut.
“The way that the structure to the money was paid out, I genuinely should have got the 16 grand because I got to the final. Then the stand-in comes in, gets blasted in a fight I believe I would have won and got the money for it. I come out with two career-threatening injuries, beating two good fighters. I didn’t have it east, but my cuts were just too bad, and the doctor pulled me out.”
This was another case of awful luck, taking away an opportunity for Dodson, which seemed to be the unfortunate story of his career. Not only this, but he got the opportunity on two separate occasions to fight for a world title, only for external factors to prevent him.
“I get a call a week later asking if I wanted to fight Robert Stieglitz for the WBO super-middleweight title in 10 days. How the fuck can I do that with huge cuts under my eyes and I’m overweight. That was my opportunity again to fight for a world title. I also got a call to fight Cristian Sanavia, who was the WBC Champion at the time as well. I had to do a warmup six-rounder against Nick Okoth, I just needed a win because I’d been inactive. Then once again, I got cut in the second round, needing 17 stitches across my eye, you could actually see the skull so there was no WBC title shot. That was the story of my career.”
Dodson did also play a part in the future career of Tony Bellew and a former ABC rival. When he turned matchmaker once again, by connecting ‘The Bomber’ with David Haye before the two faced off in two grudge matches.
“David was making a comeback and hadn’t done any sparring; I was fighting on the undercard of his show, so I went to help him out because I’d been mates with him since we were kids. We were supposed to fight in the 1996 NABC finals, but he wouldn’t fight me, and we were on the England camps together. I put a post up about sparring with him and Bellew called me asking If I was with Haye and we were in the car, so I put him on loudspeaker.
They spoke for a minute, then David asked him if he’d be interested in the fight. Bellew said he was contracted to Eddie and wouldn’t want to upset him, but they exchanged numbers and said they’d talk about it. David said to me ‘if it happens I’ll offer you some dough’ the pair of them made over 10 million each.”
Tony Dodson formally retired from the sport in 2018, before qualifying as a firefighter, a job which in his own words ‘has saved his life’. It was not an easy road to get there, but his perseverance and work ethic- seen throughout his years in boxing- definitely played a part.
“I had to basically go back to school because I got no qualifications at all. So, I had to do my English and Maths GCSE level, to actually get in and we had to do a lot of studying, a lot of it. My cousin’s a maths teacher so I had to go and see him three times a week for three months just to understand everything. I’d never done anything like that before because I basically left school at 12 years old, I don’t know how I got away with it, but I did. It was satisfying for me to actually achieve this, to try and get this punch-drunk brain to remember all of it.”
It was an emotional time for Tony, who whilst qualifying, had to come to terms with his Mother’s illness.
“My mum was dying and when I went on the recruitment course, she was so proud of me because she wanted me away from boxing. She said I just want to see you happy, to get this job and be away from there and enjoy your life. When you pass in the Fire Service, there’s a big ceremony but my Ma was too sick with the chemo. So, the fire service made a DVD, ‘To Mrs. Dodson, Congratulations on your son passing’, I sat down and watched it with her, she was crying her eyes out. That was fucking boss”.
The fire service is known for saving lives every day, and with Tony, they are no different. After all the hardships, many of which are not discussed here, Tony needed to find something to dedicate his life to, and the service filled that role.
“One person always said to me, you'll never work a day in your life if you'd love the job you do. That's what it's like for me in the fire service. I've done 12 hours last night; I've only had two or three hours of sleep but I can't wait to get in again. It saved my life because I went through a divorce and a lot of personal shit. I lost my mom to cancer and you know, I went through possibly the worst turmoil a human could endure and without my job, I wouldn't be here.”
After such a long career, it was clear that the sport gave Tony so many invaluable memories that will last a lifetime.
“I was on a Naseem Hamed undercard when he came to the ring on a flying carpet. Nas was an absolute diamond of a guy, he was so nice to me. I was sat in the changing room with P Diddy, talking to him for about 25 minutes. When he left, I said to my Dad, do you know who that is? He said ‘no, but he seemed like a nice fella’. I told him who it was, and he said, ‘your fucking messing’.”
He gave some advice to younger fighters, who will now be embarking on the same journey Tony did in 1999.
“I’d tell young lads to take every opportunity you get because it won't last forever. These fighters now who are with Eddie Hearn or Frank Warren make me laugh, thinking they are their mates. They’ll screw you the first chance that they get, to make money from you, and then as soon as you lose you are gone to the back of the queue. They are using you, you’re a fucking meal ticket. Frank Warren took 15 weeks to pay me, they kept saying they were having a few issues and it went on and on. But because I was friends with Dean Powell, I let Frank off with it but in the end, I had to contact the board.”
It is important though to have no regrets, and especially to concentrate on the multitude of positives.
“If I do say things that I regret, they sound like excuses, which in turn makes me sound bitter. I’m grateful for the success I had. Could I have had more? Possibly. Did I? No. So who gives a fuck. It is what it is. I’ve been a British champion, not a lot of people can say that. I won five titles and had 42 pro fights and can still speak clear. No one has ever walked away from a Dodson fight and said that that they weren’t entertained. There were fights that I shouldn’t have taken, but sometimes you’ve got to take risks to earn a living.”
After such a rollercoaster of a career, it could sometimes be easy to look at the near misses and wonder what if. Although it is important to remember just how much Tony gave to the sport of boxing.
“I was in touching distance of being a fucking superstar. Froch beat me and went onto win four world titles. Paul Smith went onto get four world title shots. Enzo Maccarinelli went on to become a world champion. David Haye wouldn’t even fight me! That was the company I was in. The chances literally come and go so quick, if things had have happened differently. I’m proud of what I’ve done, I’m proud that people want to talk about it. I don’t need cars and money to feel like I’ve achieved something in this life. Just people recognising me on the street and saying hello to me gives me a fucking buzz that I couldn’t describe.”