Derry Mathews still has designs to be recognised as something other than just one of the most exciting and sporting prizefighters of his generation.
Two reigns on both the British and Commonwealth lightweight thrones hardly do justice to the monster hitting Scouse warrior who has partaken in several of the most savage domestic ring wars of the last decade.
But at 31, and with plenty of mileage on the clock, ‘Dirty Derry’ knows that time is short if he is to realise his dreams of succeeding at major international level.
Tomorrow evening, at The Echo Arena in his home city, the godfather of the Liverpool fight scene gets a gilt edged chance to crack the world ratings again when he squares up to Kent whirlwind Adam Dingsdale for the WBA Continental title. With both struggling to find a reverse gear, it’s sure to be extremely lively while it lasts.
Ellesmere Port Super-Flyweight ace Paul Butler headlines the ‘Magnificent Seven’ card – which also features Liam Smith against Zoltan Sera for the vacant WBA Continental Light-Middleweight Championship; Kevin Satchell’s challenge for the European Flyweight crown plus the big North-West clash between Tom Stalker and Jack Catterall for the Vacant WBO European Light-Welterweight crown. Chris Eubank Jnr also features.
Remaining tickets priced are available from the Liverpool Echo Arena Box Office on 0844 8000 400 or www.echoarena.com
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Last night, Derry took time out of his hectic schedule to discuss the fight and his future with boxing writer Glynn Evans.
Last time out you regained your British title with a split decision win over Walsall’s Martin Gethin. How would the Derry Mathews in the ring that night have fared against the Derry Mathews who first won the British title by stopping Anthony Crolla 30 months ago?
This Derry would have beat the old Derry, no doubt. If I wasn’t still improving, I’d walk away. My trainer Danny Vaughan would force me to walk away. My body would tell me to walk away.
Right now, I’m physically stronger and fitter than I’ve ever been. I’m also more clever and have a better engine. Today, due to a few recent adjustments, I’m making weight far more comfortably.
I was pretty pleased with my last performance against Martin; particularly how I followed Danny’s game plan and how I listened to my body, then adapted accordingly. Though I burst my ear drum in the first or second round, there were long stages when I was winning very comfortably. I was also happy to get the rounds in.
You broke your hand in your defeat to Dublin’s Stephen Ormond last December and suffered both ear and nose damage against Gethin. Is the wear and tear of all the ring wars finally starting to take a toll on the body?
Not at all. Right now, I feel a young man. I only turned 31 last month. Everyone assumes I’m a lot older cos I’ve been around at top level so long.
My body feels very fresh and I’m still in love with the game. Every morning I wake up and I’m excited about the prospect of going training. The day that doesn’t happen is the day I walk away.
But I’ve had 46 pro fights and, though I’ll not return to six and eight round level, I’m very confident that I’ll make it through to 50, fighting at championship level against hungry young unbeaten fighters or top world contenders.
I’m still in this boxing game to win more belts, better belts. Saturday night I’m ready to collect the WBA Continental belt and a world ranking.
Last time we spoke, you said that you’d promised a Lonsdale Belt outright to your son. It must have been very frustrating to have to surrender the British title because your injuries prevented you making a mandatory defence against Manchester southpaw Terry Flanagan within the stipulated time frame.
It was, yeah, but I can always drop back to that level later and attempt to get the two notches needed. At the minute, the way I see it, it’d be me giving British champion Terry Flanagan the opportunity, rather than the other way around.
But I feel I’ve served my time at British and Commonwealth level. Now I want to fight better opposition; the biggest fights for the biggest paydays. I need fights I can get up for. First and foremost, I’m a boxing fan. I want to be in exciting fights against the best available competition. I don’t want to kid the public.
Flanagan beat you over three rounds in the semi final of a Prizefighter event two years ago. Do you anticipate a rematch over 12 rounds any time soon?
Maybe but it’d have to be for something worthwhile. If I was offered Terry in a final eliminator for the world title, I’d jump at the fight. I rate him very highly. Alongside Scotty Cardle and Luke Campbell, he’s one of a very talented rising crop.
But at this stage of my career, dropping back to British title level makes no sense. I’ve won the title twice already. At 31, I need to push.
If you exclude Burns’ conqueror Terence Crawford (the current WBO champion), the world 135lb scene is pretty lame at the moment. Which of the belts are you targeting?
I’d happily travel to challenge any of the current bunch, including Crawford. I’m in boxing to fight the best and beat the best. I know that I’ve got the power in either hand to knock out any of the current champions if I land clean on them. I’ve been around for a long time and I’ve got the experience to make it happen.
Now that I’m 31, I have to accept that it’s unlikely I’ll get to a mandatory position. But when the current champions see my age and the nine losses on my record, hopefully one of them will pick me for a voluntary (defence).
You’ve been out of the ring for five months now. How are your external projects progressing?
Really well mate, thanks. I’ve moved into a far bigger gym on the Vauxhall Road, a prime location in L3 close to the city centre. My amateur club Derry ABC has been affiliated to the ABA now and every week night I’m getting between 30-40 kids, aged nine to 22, training here. I help out with the coaching and run fitness classes. If I’m not away at camp, I can be here from 6.30 in the morning until nine o’clock at night.
It’s always been a dream of mine to put something back into the local community. The kids don’t just learn to box here. They learn respect and discipline and to keep away from gangs. The premises are upstairs but once we can sort out access, we’ll be hoping to do something for the wheel chair community.
Given the quality of opposition you’ve confronted previously, has it been difficult to motivate yourself for the very capable but largely unknown Dingsdale?
Not at all. I’ve been really focussed. Adam’s potentially stopping me from achieving my goals of succeeding at international level so I’m taking him very, very seriously.
I’ve spent eight weeks training with Danny at the MGM gym over in Marbella where I’ve had some really tough hard spars with (former Southern Area and Irish champion) Peter McDonagh. I’ve had to forfeit celebrating my wedding anniversary, my son’s birthday and my own birthday so there’s been big sacrifices.
What problems do you envisage Dingsdale presenting?
Adam comes from a very successful camp and has a great coach in Alan Smith. He generally comes in wild and boxes at a million miles an hour so I’ve had to change a few things in training and step up the intensity. He’s going to be very surprised by my work rate. I’ll be matching him, constantly countering.
When we’ve come face-to-face recently, he looks very healthy and a lot bigger than me. I hope he can make the weight.
Why do you win? What would represent a perfect night’s work on Saturday?
I win because I’m hitting exceptionally hard at the minute. Trust me, I’ve prepared for a hard 12 round fight but if I connect on him with the kind of power shots I’ve been delivering throughout camp, I’ll knock him flat out.
I want to deliver a performance that’s stylish yet fierce and spiteful for the Liverpool fans. I want people leaving the Echo Arena going ‘Wow!’