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KERRY EVANS: A BOXER’S LIFE

A Timely Reminder That Not All Boxing Stories Are Fairytales Where The Good Guy Always Wins

By

By Paul Humphreys

I have been writing about boxing for a while now and it occurred to me that we only ever write about celebrated boxers, but what about the bread and butter of the sport? The unsung heroes? So, we decided to dedicate some time finding out what a boxer goes through when they have to train whilst working full-time, the struggles in training camp and even retirement. With that in mind, here's Wrexham-based boxer Kerry Evans’ story.

Turning Pro

In 2013, Evans' marriage had broken down and it was obviously a very difficult time. However, rather than wallow in self-pity, he decided to go back to his roots: boxing.

Evans had played at boxing in years past, holding a more-than-respectable amateur record of 14-1, so he was no stranger to the ring. But this time, things were different; it was no game, as he would soon find out.

Evans started to train at Brymbo Boxing Club, under the watchful eye of head coach Peter Buckley. He set about his training with abandon, improving every day, and decided to ask his close friend, Gareth Matthias, if Buckley would let him turn pro, as another boxer from the gym was about to do the same. This was the start of a great journey, in which Evans was able to fulfil his dreams of being a professional boxer.

Training, Work and Ticket Sales; A Fighter's Life

During our conversations, Evans recounted plenty of gym stories, from laughing so much during 2v1 sparring sessions that it was impossible to even fight back, to pranks he and his gym-mates played on each other on a seemingly daily basis, but this story stood out the most:

“It’s hard to remember stories that stick out in the memory because a lot of the time it was serious, but I remember going to Impact Gym in Stoke where I went to spar Liam Hanrahan. It was our first spar together; Liam, I think, was 5-0 at the time and I hadn’t had my first pro fight yet! So the bell went and within 10 seconds I got clipped at the back of the ear and I went back into the ropes laughed and thought “f*** me that little f***** can punch!” And that’s when I knew this s*** is serious!”

Evans went onto sign a professional, 12-month rolling contract with Scott Lawton at Impact Boxing. The hard work had well and truly begun.

The Fights

Debut vs Shawn Malcolm

Evans went onto win his debut by TKO against fellow debutant, Shawn Malcolm. The hard-punching “Fifty Star Stan’s” journey had begun.

Kristian Laight

In Evans’ second professional fight, he found himself up against the rock-hard journeyman, Kristian Laight, who made a habit of going the distance. Laight had been stopped only four times in over 100 fights, until he was TKO’d by Evans.

Kristian hasn't been stopped since, having fought almost a further 100 times, demonstrating the level Evans was capable of operating at.

Marcin Ficner

Next came Marcin Ficner, on a Dave Coldwell promotion. However, ticket sales would become an issue for Evans. Though he had previously proven to be a reliable ticket seller, Evans found himself being asked to sell 80 tickets or he couldn't fight. So, on top of training and working his usual full-time job as an aircraft fitter, Evans became a part-time salesman, selling tickets left right and centre, an unenviable task. Not to mention that Evans was homeless at the time, staying with parents and friends mostly throughout the entirety of his professional career.

Evans exclusively told us that he needed to buy 20 tickets himself at £30 per ticket, or he wouldn't have been able to fight; dedication. Evans won that fight by TKO, taking his record to 3-0 with three stoppages; clearly, he was heading in the right direction.

Simas Volosinas

After a short break, Evans next boxed Simas Volosinas (after working an eight-hour shift, hardly ideal preparation) on another Dave Coldwell promotion.

After struggling to match Evans, who by now was gaining a reputation as a big puncher, found himself in the “who needs him” club. He was asked to let Volosinas see the final bell because it would be easier to find matches and he needed the rounds. So for the first time, Evans went to the scorecards, winning all 4 rounds; not a bad night's work.

Lubos Priehradnik

Evans’ fight against journeyman, Lubos Priehradnik, signaled the start of Evans' injury nightmares. During the first round, he broke both hands(!) but somehow managed to score a stoppage victory in the very next round, taking him to 5-0, 4 KOs, but the problems had only just begun.

Mark McKray

After a lengthy lay-off, Evans set up camp for his sixth fight. However, he soon hurt both hands again in camp, leaving him unable to punch for six whole weeks, not exactly ideal preparation in what was considered a tough fight. As Evans had not turned professional until he was 31, it might be argued that his age was catching up with him in the gym.

This was Evans' first six-rounder, and he (just about) made it through camp. After four tough rounds with McKray, having broken a hand yet again, Evans somehow pulled out a stoppage in the fifth round to set up a title fight and what turned out to be Evans' last professional fight.

International Masters Challenge Belt: vs Rhys Saunders

This is the around the time when I first met Evans. I was a keen boxing writer and he boxed for a local professional club, so I decided to help him with some PR work, gaining sponsors etc. (I’ve always had a dream of becoming a promoter, but that's a story for another day). So, through our Facebook page (titled Boxing Matters at the time), I set about trying to raise Evans' profile, which I found was not all that difficult. Things were going really well until a serious problem arose: illness.

Three weeks from fight night, Evans had developed a serious bout of scarlet fever. After he missed a sparring session at Impact in Stoke, I asked him if everything was okay. As it goes, Evans had been bed-ridden for three days and he hadn't been able to train. He had the shakes vomiting and serious flu-like symptoms; it was a disaster.

With eight days left, Evans managed to get back into the gym. Serious training was out of the question, as it was far too close to fight night so they set about speed training, sharpening the tools when in reality, he should have been resting up.

During fight week, I asked Evans why he didn't pull out, knowing that a loss would hurt his progress terminally at this stage, given his age, but he was determined to fight. He was likely mindful that he wouldn't get a chance to win the Welsh title if he didn't fight his Cardiff rival, and he'd sold over 160 tickets to travel to Stoke-on-Trent from Wrexham. So, the fight was set, with Evans not what you'd call 100%.

I had the best view in the house on fight night, unfortunately (media on the apron). As Evans got close to the ring during his ring walk to Tom Jones’ Delilah (and, of course, adopted by Premier League football club, Stoke City), my partner said to me that Evans’ legs were shaking. She was right; he was clearly still under the weather.

The bell rang for Round 1 and Evans almost lifted Rhys Saunders off his feet, but Saunders stayed upright and Evans’ window was gone. His legs were unsteady and an onslaught from Saunders had the usually sturdy Evans on the canvas.

Evans rose and chose to fight fire with fire like his Mexican hero Marco Antonio Barrera, but he just didn't have the strength or the energy and the referee stepped in to stop the fight. A clearly devastated Evans wore the face of a loser for the first time, a bitter pill to swallow given the circumstances.

Rematch?

The immediate response for Evans was to try for a rematch and settle the score once and for all, while fit and firing on all cylinders.

However, Saunders was required to sell 50 tickets for the first fight but only sold five, costing the promoter a lot of money. Therefore, the money required by the promoter for a second bout couldn't possibly be covered, so it was off the table before dates were even discussed. Evans was to be denied.

Picking up the Pieces

With no fight set, Evans and I sat and thought about what his next move should be. We figured that maybe the defeat might help him land a big fight on a big show so we looked at lots of potential opponents: Tommy Martin, John Wayne Hibbert, Dave Ryan and two bright prospects: Conor Benn and Ohara Davies. They were both looking for opponents for the big Anthony Joshua v Dominic Breazeale PPV card.

Scott Lawton made enquires about Conor Benn but was turned down. To be fair, Benn was very raw with only 2 fights under his belt and Evans was dangerous because of the obvious punch power. Davies, however, was another matter.

Ohara Davies

No sooner than Scott Lawton had enquired about the Ohara Davies fight, the social media circus had begun, with Davies (whose exploits on Facebook and Twitter range from hilarious to ridiculous) partaking himself. Eventually, an agreement was reached. The stage was set: Evans had finally landed a big fight against a name opponent on a PPV show, a perfect way to test himself and give him a payday the years of hard work had demanded.

Last Minute Let-Down

You didn't think this story had a happy ending, did you? This is boxing.

10 days before the fight, everything quickly changed. The fight was still on, but on the public workout at York Hall, as opposed to the expected PPV event. The biggest problem for Evans would be getting the time off work for the change of date. In the end, it was taken out of Evans’ hands. Matchroom announced a different opponent for Davies on short notice. After all the hard work, the dream fight was dead.

Comeback

This will be the shortest comeback tale in history. Evans had agreed to fight at the Kings Hall in Stoke-on-Trent and almost immediately reinjured the hand and developed a chronic back problem. Lacking motivation and the drive at 34 years old, Kerry Evans announced his retirement.

Retirement: Evans’ Words

“Retirement has not been too good for me. I really struggled last year. After losing my international title fight I was really down. I tried to pick myself up and aim high, got back training and asked around for a few big fights. The team got into Matchroom Promotions and asked if I could fight Conor Benn. Matchroom said no, so we asked to fight Ohara Davies, bearing in mind no-one in Britain wanted to fight him, but we wanted it!

Matchroom agreed there was a strong possibility this fight was on and on the Anthony Joshua undercard in the O2! A week before the fight we had confirmation that he won’t be fighting me and they chose a foreign fighter. After that, I lost hope of ever getting on a big show. I was 34, had little injuries all over my body, working full-time and training six days a week before and after work, while having to sell 80+ tickets to even fight, and the thought of never getting on a big show after years of training? I was gutted and decided that that was it that it was time to retire. I was depressed for months.”

Kerry Evans has stayed involved in the sport and is currently, receiving his amateur coaching badges and will apply for his professional coach’s license in the new year, determined to pass on the knowledge he amassed through the years of training and sacrifice. He is also now settled in a home with his lovely partner, Cara.