Saturday, 2 June 2012

Kerry Hope chats about his career, Grzegorz Proksa and Welsh boxing How old were you when you realised you wanted to become a boxer?

Kerry Hope: Probably around 10 or 11 I wanted to become a boxer and my uncle said he would take me down the local gym to calm down a bit you know, but it never happened. I got into boxing at about 13 I think. Merthyr Tydfil has a great boxing history. Did that play a role in getting you started in the sport? 

Kerry Hope: Yeah, Merthyr Tydfil’s boxing history is really second to none. We’ve had some very good boxers over the years like Howard Winstone, Johnny Owen and Eddie Thomas. Not only just professional boxers though. It’s surprising just how many people take up boxing. At one point there were 3 boxing gyms. Everyone you meet seems to have tried boxing at some point in their lives. Wales as a whole has also produced some great fighters in the past like Jimmy Wilde, Howard Winstone, Jim Driscoll and Freddie Welsh. Growing up in Wales and being a boxer, did you ever get told stories of many of the iconic Welsh boxers? 

Kerry Hope: Yeah, people have a lot of respect for boxers in Wales. Plenty of boxers started off not very well off and did tough jobs like working down the coalmines. That’s obviously not a popular job nowadays but back then guys would regularly work down coalmines to make a living and box later on, especially in the Valleys. Guys like Jimmy Wilde, Tommy Farr and Frank Moody all worked down coalmines. Wales is full of very tough people. You recently challenged for the European middleweight title. How did your fight with champion Grzegorz Proksa come about? 

Kerry Hope: Well, we were originally training for a Welsh title fight. Then a few weeks before the fight we were offered the chance to fight for the European title. I would have been crazy not to jump at the chance so we accepted the offer. Why do you think they chose you for the fight and not someone else?

Kerry Hope: I think because I was coming off a good win over Tony Hill and they probably thought I looked pretty good but not good enough to dethrone their fighter. As a big underdog going into the fight, did you think you had a realistic chance of victory?

Kerry Hope: I was only a big underdog at the bookies. I thought I had a chance of winning. We all had a belief in my camp that I could be victorious. I mean you have to be confident of victory in any fight or you just won’t win. I believe if I’m thrown into the Lion’s Den I’ll be victorious. Most people didn’t think you could win. Did that inspire you to prove them wrong? 

Kerry Hope: A lot of people thought I was a poor challenger and didn’t deserve a title shot so yeah, you could say that inspired me to prove people wrong. I got the victory so I proved I was a good challenger. How did preparation for the fight go and did you plan to do anything come fight night that you hadn't tried before? 

Kerry Hope: We trained with the right tactics. We wanted to make it a long fight and take it to him throughout which I did. My preparation was actually quite bad for the fight though. My partner was coming to the end of her pregnancy and so my head wasn’t fully focused on training at all. My sparring sessions were awful. I went into the biggest fight of my career after quite a bad training camp. I told my trainer not to worry though and that I’d work it all out on fight night. Do you think Proksa might have underestimated you slightly or do you think you just went in there with more fight than he could handle? 

Kerry Hope: If you look at our records you’d say he was the bigger puncher and the better fighter so to speak but if you watch the fight between us I’d say it was more like Man vs Boy in my favour in terms of who was the better boxer on the night in terms of strength and determination. Also, he was meant to be fighting Sebastian Zbik who pulled out of the fight because he got a shot against Felix Sturm. He had a full training camp of about 12 weeks. I only had about 4 weeks to train. A rematch has been signed between yourself and Proksa for July 7th at the Motorpoint arena in Sheffield, where the original fight took place. Did Proksa have to ask for a rematch or were you more than willing to offer it?

Kerry Hope: Straight after the fight he asked for a rematch and I said yes. I didn’t have to because it wasn’t a mandatory but if people think the first fight was a fluke win then I’ll prove second time around it wasn’t. I’ll be much better prepared for the rematch and I can’t wait. Do you think you'll need to be even better prepared second time around knowing Proksa won't be taking you lightly?

Kerry Hope: It’s not a case of I need to be, I WILL be. I have a 12 week training camp this time. He’d better not take me lightly this time because I’ll have had a full camp and I’ll be even better. How confident are you of victory again?

Kerry Hope: I’m certainly more confident this time around than I was in the first fight. He’s going to have demons in his head from the first fight and coming off of his first pro defeat. People were saying he was too good for me so in that sense he should’ve won. He can train as hard as he wants for the rematch but I believe I’ll be victorious again. Proksa was undefeated and tipped to be a future star. Has your victory over him given you the confidence to step up a level and push on for a World title fight?

Kerry Hope: Well, we’ve mapped out a future plan more or less but we need to take everything one step at a time starting with the Proksa rematch. I’ve got a daughter now and I’m more motivated than ever before to be a success. When you turned Pro seven years ago, did you envision you would be a champion by now?

Kerry Hope: I’ve had a rough career up to now really. Venues have been cancelled, fighters have pulled out of fights. I was meant to fight a guy on the undercard of Calzaghe vs Roy Jones but he didn’t make the weight so the fight was cancelled. They couldn’t find me a replacement so that was tough for me. I did believe I would be a champion but it’s been a rough ride and I did doubt it would happen for me at one point. You left Enzo Calzaghe to link up with John Tandy in California in 2009. How was that experience for you?

Kerry Hope: I really enjoyed the experience. Sparring in the USA really made me believe how good I was. I won’t say I did a number on any boxers but I did hold my own and it really helped my confidence a lot. I sparred with Alfredo Angulo, Mike Anchondo, Ivan Kirpa and Daniel Dawson. So you really had some very good sparring.

Kerry Hope: Yeah, I remember I was sparring with Angulo and had a fight two weeks later, so trainer said to be careful against Angulo. I got in there and boxed well, we fought about 9 rounds then his trainer said “Okay, we don’t need any more south paw training”. I knew I must’ve done well against him. You’re now with Karl Ince in Bolton. How has the move helped you as a fighter? 

Kerry Hope: He’s been really good for me. He’s helped with my fitness, strength, conditioning, self belief, confidence. It’s going very well. The British middleweight scene is packed full of talent. Could fights against some of Britain's other top middleweights be on the cards for you in the near future?
Kerry Hope: We were hoping for a fight with Martin Murray but it didn’t happen. Now I hear he wants a fight with me. I don’t need him so much now because I’ve got the European title but if the fight does happen, let the best man win. You only have one knockout in 17 victories. Do you feel as though you need to work on your power punching at all or do you think your win over Proksa proves you are doing just fine? 

Kerry Hope: That’s where my record lies. I believe I hit a lot harder than my record suggests. I think part of the problem was when I was training with Enzo Calzaghe I wasn’t hitting properly, I was always starving myself to make weight, I wasn’t doing what’s best for my boxing. Now, I feel a lot fitter and better prepared. At the end of the day as long as I keep winning I’m happy. If the knockouts come then that’s a bonus. Welsh boxing is on a high right now. Do you think you can go on to have similar success as somebody like World champion Nathan Cleverly?

Kerry Hope: Me and Nathan started out together. We’ve had a few sparring sessions. He’s gone on to big success and I think I can too. You've fought at super middleweight on a few occasions. Could a move up to super middleweight again be a possibility in the future? 

Kerry Hope: I fought at super middleweight when I was in the USA because the fight with Caleb Truax was offered to us. It was stupid of me to go from light middleweight up to super middleweight though. Truax knows I won that fight, I know I won, the fans know I won. I’ve even asked to be sent a copy of the fight but I’ve been told there aren’t any copies. I know the fight was filmed but they tell me there aren’t any copies of the fight around. There was a period between 2008 and 2009 where you lost 3 fights out of 4. What went wrong for you during that time? Were there any specific reasons as to why you lost?

Kerry Hope: I boxed the wrong fight, didn’t get the tactics right, I barely sparred. I sparred Gavin Rees a few times for my fight with Matthew Hall but I felt like I was being used to help advance Rees’ career and not my own. The crowd spurred me on against him but it wasn’t enough unfortunately. After that I fought Taz Jones but the ref stopped the fight because of a clash of heads early on. I couldn’t get a rematch even. It was just a bad time for me. You fought Daniel Stanislavjevic and Caleb Truax back in 2009 in the USA. Do you think fighting in a foreign environment helped develop you as a fighter?

Kerry Hope: Daniel was a very tough fight. Even though it was only a 6 round fight it was a tough one. I’d picked up a mild case of pneumonia on the way over to the USA but I didn’t want the fight called off because I’d missed out on the opportunity to fight on the undercard of Calzaghe vs Jones and wanted to make my US debut. So I fought even though I wasn’t 100% fit. Fighting in a foreign environment definitely made me a better fighter. I fought two tough fights and it helped me to believe in myself more. I’m now a better boxer. Before the Truax fight, is it true you had sparred with him?

Kerry Hope: No, we didn’t spar. He came to the gym I was training at for a week maybe. His trainer and my trainer are good friends. I sparred a bit in the Wild Card gym and Justin Fortune’s gym too. Did you meet Freddie Roach and did you talk to him?

Kerry Hope: I did meet him but didn’t really get to talk to him. He’s got a lot of assistants there because it gets so busy. You see three guys on one punching bag because it’s so busy. I did meet Ken Buchanan, Mickey Rourke and a few other famous people who go down there though. How difficult was it fighting him in his home state of Minnesota? 

Kerry Hope: I knew it would be tough, especially going up two weights and fighting at super middleweight and the crowd was pretty hostile too. But the end result was bad. I thought it was close but I honestly thought I had won as did many other people. Who was your toughest opponent to date? 

Kerry Hope: Definitely Daniel Stanislavjevic. He might’ve had 15 losses on his record but he was tough and had knocked out Saul Roman only two years before. I’d only had one week’s notice to prepare for him too. It was definitely my toughest fight. Is there any fighter, past or present, who you think resembles your style, and how so?

Kerry Hope: I wouldn’t say there is any boxer I really resemble in terms of my style. I worked with Joe Calzaghe a lot and I’m a southpaw too. I won’t say I fight as well as him but I did learn a lot from him and have good stamina and work rate like him. I’m always trying to improve on my own game and I’ve pinched a few things from Joe. I really like Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto’s style. I love watching those two fight. You grew up during the great middleweight and super middleweight era of British boxing in the 1990s. Did you have a favourite fighter during that era? 

Kerry Hope: To be honest, I was more of a Mike Tyson fan during that era. Benn, Eubank and all that were all very entertaining but I preferred guys like Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard. In your opinion, who is the current number one middleweight in the World? 

Kerry Hope: Definitely Sergio Martinez. It goes to show you can get really good as you get older. He didn’t start boxing until he was about 20 years old. Before that he played football and was a cyclist. Now he’s one of boxing’s p4p superstars. Could you beat him? 

Kerry Hope: [Laughs] You know, I would love the chance to fight him. It would be a bit weird though because I really look up to him and love watching him fight. I’d be confident of beating him though. I mean you have to be confident going into any fight, otherwise you’ll definitely lose. Finally, would you like to say anything to your fans?

Kerry Hope: I really appreciate the following and thank all my fans and hopefully my fanbase grows. Thanks for talking to us today Kerry and best of luck against Proksa.

No comments:

Post a Comment