Frankie Gavin

Hughie Fury
 
 
A year can be a long time in boxing. For Frankie Gavin he had a whirlwind 12 months involving a first defeat, a change of promoter and a Pay Per View topping world title shot. Back in August 2014 Frankie Gavin was coming off of his first ever defeat, raising himself from the canvas to lose a split points decision against unbeaten and underrated Italian Leonard Bundu. In November of the same year he fought Bradley Skeete for the British and Commonwealth welterweight titles on the undercard of the second metting between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora. It was to be his last fight under promoter Frank Warren, whom he left to join forces with Matchroom under the guidance of Eddie Hearn. Then in May 2015 Gavin found himself as the main even on the biggest British boxing card of 2015. He had tasted defeat twice inside twelve months, yet in the same period he had made his mark on the British and worldwide welterweight scene.

May was the last time we saw the talented Birmingham fighter in a boxing ring as he was stopped in the sixth round of a brave performance by IBF title holder Kell Brook at the O2 in London. Gavin didn’t shame himself in the performance; an underdog going in, he had his moments of success against a man touted as potentially the best fighter in the division. But there have been troubles for Gavin out of the ring since, an injured foot in a car accident ruling him out of a potential all Birmingham showdown against Sam Eggington for the British and Commonwealth titles and legal issues hanging over his head that are hopefully soon to be resolved. In that ring absence he has had a chance to reflect on the loss suffered on his first tilt at a world title and has also welcomed a new baby girl into his family. With a ring return looking to be imminent, how is Gavin feeling with the possibility of getting himself back into the welterweight mix?

“I started back properly today” he says, unable to hide the tiredness from his voice of the man who has been put through the mill properly for the first time in a while. “I've been doing bits in the gym but not too much but I'm back full time today, twice a day. Hopefully I'll be back at the end of March to the beginning of April. It's been hard. You need to earn money and I've not been doing that, but at the same time looking at it today I think the break has done me good. I've had a little girl while I'm out so that's good.”

The foot, he tells me, is feeling better now after he was run over in the build up to a December showdown with Eggington. “The foot is alright, there's a bit of pain there but nothing major and I could fight with it.” He didn’t spend long out of the gym after the Brook fight with Eggington looming so close to his PPV headlining show, so perhaps the break from the ring has done him some good to be able to rest and recuperate from the hard training camps and gruelling lifestyle.

We speak about the night in May where he was stopped by the heavy punching Sheffield fighter. For Gavin it was only his second outing under Matchroom, so how much of a privilege was it to be the top billing on a huge night of action so soon after signing for the biggest promotional stable in the UK?
“It's good to be put in there on a PPV. But I want to win one when I'm headlining! I would have preferred to have won it but it was a great experience, a massive experience and the atmosphere was really good.” There was an online negativity at the time that the show should be a Pay Per View event, but the show caught fire and ultimately turned out to be worth the money spent by viewers. Did Gavin take any notice of the criticism at the time? “I don't listen to any of that. There was Kevin Mitchell and Lee Selby, that's three world title fights on it as well as Anthony Joshua in a big fight and British and Commonwealth fights on it. It was a massive card and definitely the best fight of last year.”

Now that Gavin is in a position where he can look forwards to the next challenge, there is one name that continually crops up on his social media timelines: Sam Eggington. The two were due to meet before the unfortunate injury to Gain, and still he is asked regarding the chance of the two meeting in the ring. It's a logical fight; both are from Birmingham, Eggington is the holder of the Commonwealth and British titles that Gavin vacated and both are testament to the fact that losses don't end careers. Egginton himself picked up losses early in his career, both coming in Prizefighter tournaments. He has since gone on to put together an impressive record and become a fan favourite, as well as featuring heavily on the Sky TV schedules. So with all of the talk of the fight, where does Gavin himself stand on the situation?

"It’s what I keep getting spoken to about so yeah, why not? I think I'd wipe the floor with Egginton to be fair, there's no point talking about it. I'm too slick, too clever and too accurate. I really think Bradley Skeete is going to beat him, as long as he maintains his gameplan and keeps Sam off he beats him" says Gavin. Although Gavin's aims to get in the ring with Eggington didn't materialise, Skeete is a foe he is familiar with. When they met in November 2014 Gavin scored a unanimous points victory in a fight that was, at times, difficult to watch as a spectator. Skeete worked off the back foot throughout, rarely willing to engage with the shorter fighter and showing more evasion than attacking intent. "He didn't want to know. It's like he didn't come to win, he came to go the distance" says Gavin looking back at the night. "I think that fight gave him a big confidence boost, it showed he's a decent fighter. He's very accurate and he throws harder punches than he gets credit for as well. He came to survive. I heard in the tenth round his corner say to him 'Brad you're losing, you need to go for it' then he just carried on on the back foot. It pissed me off!"

So if the Londoner Skeete does dethrone Eggington, does that take away the allure of a local matchup for Gavin or is it still a fight that appeals to settle local differences or would Skeete be a viable option to regain the belts? "I don't mind if the belts are on the line, I keep getting people in Birmingham coming up and asking or having an opinion so I just want to get the fight over with. It's the biggest fight that can happen at the moment, there's no other fight like it. I don't see the point in going over old ground with Skeete as the fight would more than likely be the same as last time. If Skeete comes for it I beat him comfortably but I don't think he would, so I would have to have a gameplan to just beat him."

 
So does it frustrate Gavin, currently sat on the sidelines, to see a man that he has previously beaten get the opportunity to face a man that he wants to fight for titles that he has previously relinquished? "It doesn't matter to me. It's belts that I gave up, Sam never beat a champion for them, I gave them up. I know that sounds bitter but it's not bitter, I gave them up for him to give him a chance to win them" Gavin tells me. Of course the British title is something that he has previously achieved, so is it that he has his sights set on bigger prizes in the division?

"I've got a decent record, I've only lost to two top undefeated fighter and I more than held my own against Bundu. I still think I won that but it could have gone either way, then it lost to Brook, he's the only one to beat me comfortably and he's the best in the world right now in my opinion. I want to get back to that world title level. It's a lot more open now, last time there were only two champions, Brook and Mayweather. Now there's four, maybe five with the WBA having two, so there will be chances and I just have to go out there and get it."
 
Gavin has always come across as someone that is willing to take on any fights. You don't hear from him the demands of money, TV deals or swerving one opponent to face another. His career to that extent has seemed straight forward, fight whoever is put in front of you that will give you the best opportunity. "I'll fight anyone, no problem" he says. "As long as the deal is right I have never priced myself out of a fight. I want to win titles. I wouldn't want to fight someone who is really good without a title on the line as I want to win things. I like big fights." I put one name to him, John O'Donnell, who has previously called out both Gavin and Eggington. O'Donnell was supposed to provide the main support for the recent David Haye comeback fight but mysteriously pulled out in the week of the action. O'Donnell has been vocal on Twitter about his desire to fight either man, but with a smaller reputation than Gavin is it a fight that he would be willing to invest his time in? "I'm not too bothered about that fight. I grew up with John and I like him, I still see him now and he's a nice kid. But he needs to be boxing and he needs to get his name out there. I, still ranked high, I'm number three in Britain behind Kell Brook and Amir Khan whereas he's nowhere near there and probably wants one of the big names. Going after me would have been the wrong fight for him."

One avenue of Gavin's career that was often spoke about during his formative professional years was his amateur background. There were large expectations when he made the transition to the paid ranks as Gavin was the first, and to this day still the only amateur World Champion. That record has increased the pressure for success, so is it something that has been an issue or annoyance to the Birmingham boxer? "It doesn't annoy me. I'm still the only person who has ever done it but at the same time I still have a lot to prove as a professional, to get to where I was as an amateur. But ultimately this year and next year will be the years that I do it."
 
So once this year really gets started for Gavin, does he see himself under the guidance of Eddie Hearn getting back into the world title mix, and are their any routes that he has planned out? "Eddie sorts that out. It shows you how good he is as a promoter, how many of his fighters get world title shots and how many are winning. I leave it all up to Eddie and Barry Hearn." So if one of those options was a rematch with Kell Brook, is that something that would interest Gavin? "Yeah I'd give it a go with a different gameplan. I don't turn down any fights. I would have a lot to prove against Kell because it wasn't a good fight for me. He beat me comfortably really so I'd like to give it another go. His accuracy was great. He hits you flush every time he throws."

Brook is one potential option, but with the proliferation of titles amongst the governing bodies as well as the handing out of titles with the retirement of American Mayweather is it possible that Gavin could look for overseas title opportunities and if so, how much of an eye does he cast upon the welterweights in other countries? "Since I got with Eddie I've taken a lot more interest, thing about being with Eddie you could get a phonecall any time saying I've got you a fight in America, are you ready? So I watch it a lot more closely. With Frank (Warren) it would be more domestic. With Eddie he doesn't mind a trip overseas. You never know, I could get a call in a few months saying Errol Spence hasn't got an opponent or someone like that. He's good. He beats a lot of them right now, I can't say he's the best but he beats a lot of them, he's top five in the world right now. I want to be in contention for these big fights."

It is the big fights that Gavin craves. You can sense from him that he is a boxer who is as focussed on creating a legacy as he is on reaping the financial rewards. He tasted the big fights in 2015, the bright lights of headlining the O2 and a Pay Per View show. The result didn't go as he intended but despite that he has not been put off stepping up to that elite level of fighter. His appetite for taking on the best in the division hasn't gone and you sense if anything has been heightened by the small taste he has sampled. At still only 30 years old and with a wealth of experience behind him to match his amateur pedigree, once 2016 starts properly for Gavin he could be looking to re-establish himself amongst the top tier once again.

Frankie wanted to give his thanks to his key sponsors CNP Professional and Ringside Online UK who has been pivotal in supporting his boxing career.