Dale Evans

The welterweight division in the UK is bubbling.  At the very top, Kell Brook heads up the pack along with the distant but not forgotten Amir Khan.  Beneath them there is a Birmingham rivalry to be settled on 17th October between current British champion Sam Eggington and former Brook opponent Frankie Gavin.  Then there are a host of names that are all looking to break into that scene – Bradley Skeete, Glenn Foot, Larry Ekundayo and one man who holds a victory over Sam Eggington, Dale Evans.
 
Evans (10-2-2) has gone about his career the grafters way.  Turning pro at 19 and now aged 22, Evans is on the verge of a potential British title shot.  In 2014 he suffered a horrendous eye injury in a head clash with Mark Douglas, leaving the man from Wales with the prospect of being out of the ring for six months.  “I ended up going back to work - I was told my eye would take a good 6 months to heal properly and didn't know when I'd be in the ring next” Evans tells me.  I'm now self-employed which is better suited to my boxing as I can work around my training and if I need a little time off here and there before fights.”
 
That happened in May of last year.  The eye injury kept Evans out of the ring until November, when he made his return with a victory over Adam Grabiec.  With such a ferocious cut, has it caused him any issues?  “They eye injury I suffered back in May 2014 has healed up well and to be honest, I don't even realise it's there anymore. I've had a few knocks on it in sparring and in fights without headguards, and it seems to be holding up well.”  That’s positive news for the young man from the Valleys – often we see fighters suffer with recurring cuts (note Brian Roses’s nose!) – but on his return against Grabiec he shook off the ring rust and picked up the points victory. 
 
His next outing ended in his second professional defeat to the skilled Nigerian fighter Larry Ekundayo (10-0-0) in March of this year.  It is not a fight that Evans looks back on fondly.  “I take nothing away from Larry but so much went wrong that night for me, I may as well have not turned up. It was one of those nights where I just couldn't get up for it-the biggest fight of my career - I just wasn't myself. But Larry did what he had to do.”
 
Although he suffered the first stoppage of his career, the fact that Evans can reflect back on the loss shows a maturity and an awareness that suggests he can progress.  He was back to winning ways in May – this time on the road in Sheffield picking up an impressive points victory over the experience Adil Anwar (21-4-0).  “That win has definitely put me back up there and I'm ready to get back in the mix. I'm fighting again in October in a 6 round fight but not sure on opponent yet” says Evans.  That fight will take place closed to home, in Newport, Wales.  The fight is another tune up for Evans as he approaches a prime opportunity to place himself in to the British title scene.
 
On November 7th in London’s home of boxing, the York Hall, Evans will be taking on Irishman John O’Donnell (read our piece with John here ).  The two have exchanged heated words on Twitter – O’Donnell was vocal in calling out Eggington for his own shot at the British title, while Evans has been insistent there is a pecking order that he fronts up.  So what does Evans make of the situation?
 
“My argument was that there are thousands of fighters out there wanting that British title and he's basically disrespecting the champion calling him a "bottle job" when Eggington has fought tough opposition and beaten them in style to get where he is. This guy has been inactive in two years and feels he's worthy of being Eggington's first defence!”
 
Part of O’Donnell’s strategy for a shot at the title involved him writing an open letter to Eggington.  The letter was met with mixed reviews, with fans of the Irishman applauding his bravery and others deriding the attempts to land the fight.  What was Evan’s take on it?

“I thought the open letter to Eggington was pathetic” says a to-the-point Evans.  “I did say a few things on Twitter about it and maybe I should've kept my mouth shut. But It's a joke and I did find it extremely cringeworthy to read - so did many others. I'm one of the many fighters wanting that shot at the title but even I don't feel I'm worthy and wouldn't have the cheek to say I was. And with this eliminator pencilled in at the time, he was trying to get out of that and call out Eggington and get straight in there with him when, in my mind, that eliminator between me and him, may not have been a final eliminator, but the fight could've decided who qualifies or is next in line and in with a shot. No queue jumping allowed!”  
Of course, us Brits love a queue!  This one will be settled on November 7th one way or the other.  There was talk at first that Evans wasn’t happy to go ahead with the fight – he clarifies for us:
“I wasn't happy with the purse values at all, but if I come out victorious, or WHEN I do, hopefully it will put me in a better position than I am right now and I'll be another step closer to that British title. I did request having the contract re-done so the winner takes both purses, like he suggested on Twitter, but I've heard nothing since. So the original deal will go ahead now I assume.”
 
In preparation for the November date, Dale is continuing to put the hard work in with trainer Gary Lockett, the former WBU middleweight champion who also challenged for the WBC & WBO titles.  Gary has trained a number of fighters out of Wales, including former world title holder Gavin Rees.  However, even for Evans to work with Lockett he has to display more of that graft.  “I'm still training in Cardiff with Gary, which is a 150 mile round trip for me and also do my own sessions at home along with roadwork, conditioning sessions etc” he says.  “His experience is helpful of course but being around the other great talents in the gym is also a bonus.”
 
If all the hard work pays off and Evans comes through the fight with John O’Donnell, then he would be due to reacquaint himself with Sam Eggington.  They met back in 2013 in a Prizefighter tournament held in Wolverhampton.  At the time Eggington was a teenager, learning his trade and by his own admission heading towards journeyman status.  Things have turned around significantly for the young Birmingham fighter.  Does the victory Evans holds give him a mental edge if the fight were to happen?
 
“If I did get the shot for the British title, and it were to be against Eggington, beating him in Prizefighter doesn’t give me anymore confidence that I'd do it again. As I said earlier, Sam has boxed some good opposition and taken them apart in style and I have a lot of respect for Sam as a fighter. He's humble and doing very well for himself and I have nothing but respect for him. I don't think Sam has been in with someone as strong as myself but if we were to meet in the future, I think we both know, as well as boxing fans, it would be well worth the money you paid for the ticket!”
 
Eggington has displayed in his recent fights a toughness and resoluteness to be respected along with some refined boxing skill.  He still has to overcome Gavin in October, and Evans has his own task to come through O’Donnell.  If the stars align for Evans and the two former adversaries were to meet again then Evans is right – the fans would be in for a spectacle of a fight and his graft will have paid off. 
 
A final message from Dale for his sponsors:  “I'm very grateful for all sponsors that get behind me and support me for each fight. Holmes Recycling, Elite Scaffolding, Dean Davies of D12 Fitness, Athlete King, Mark Williams Carpets. These are all local businesses that are extremely supportive and I can't thank them all enough for their help. And if there are any businesses out there, however big or small, looking for a little advertisement and wanting to help, please don't hesitate to get in touch. “