Mark Little

What are the biggest differences between unlicensed boxing and the professional sport?  Size of crowds?  Not really, many unlicensed events draw similar number to small hall professional cards.  The length of the rounds?  Perhaps – after all the unlicensed fights taken part over two minute periods, one shorter than their professional equivalent.  For cruiserweight Mark Little though, there has been a very stark difference between the two disciplines – around  seven stones in weight.
 
“I started off as a 22 stone heavyweight!” he laughs.  “Over time it just got less and less and less so I might end up at super bantamweight!  But in reality we just want to start at cruiserweight to get out and we can see where it goes from there.”  This is a new start for the Romford fighter, having spent three years fighting with the IBA (International Boxing Association), who host a number of unlicensed events per year at venues such as the Circus Tavern and City Pavilion in Essex.  “It’s gone on from there really” he tells me.  “Me and my trainer have decided it’s time that we stepped it up to the pro game.  I had 12 fights and won 10 so I was pleased with it and it was time to move on.  I’m only 27 so my body still has plenty to offer.”
 
It is not unknown or the Tavern or Pavilion to be packed with 1,000+ fight fans for big events, so Little is familiar with the atmosphere of large crowds.  It will be an experience that he is going to need as he makes his professional debut on November 21st at the home of English boxing, York Hall.  “The size of the venue isn’t going to bother me, but on a personal level it’s the home of British boxing and it’s time to step up.  I’ll take a good crowd there and it should be great” he tells me, brimming with confidence and clearly relishing the opportunity to test himself in the paid ranks for the first time.  The man stood across the ring from him that night is an old hand, renowned for putting new prospects through their paces while doing his best to entertain the fans, veteran Moses Matovu.  “I’ve seen Moses a few times and he’s a very awkward journeyman.  You’ve got to expect the best of him to turn up” says Little.
 
There is already a common opponent for the two fighters.  Spiros Demetriou battled Mark Little in both of their final fights for the IBA, while Demetriou also made his professional debut against Matovu back in September of this year.  As with most of Matovu’s opponents the fight went the four round distance and he lost on points, with Demetriou making his own first step on the professional ladder.  So did Little catch the fight between former and future foes?
 
“Yeah I saw Matovu when he took on the lad I fought last in the unlicensed, Demetriou.  I lost on points to Spiros, we went six rounds in an English title fight.  I thought it was a good fight with Spiros and Matovu so we will see what I can do with him.  Matovu actually threw his own punches in that fight and I’ve seen fights when he doesn’t throw anything at all, so we will see which one turns up.”
 
Little would do well to stop Matovu prior to the final bell, only 7 fighters in 72 matches have achieved it.  However even before his professional debut has come about he is confident as to what type of fighter he is and where his strengths lie.  “My trainer always tells me that it’s workrate that is my strength, I’m relentless and keep going for as long as I have to and that’s what I work on.  I may not technically be the best in the world but for workrate I’ll be with you all the way” he tells me, before explaining how he thinks that can be adapted within the professional version of the sport.  “The longer rounds will be different as it’s only two minute rounds in the unlicensed so that will be new, but I don’t think my style will change, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”
 
The training team that Little is working with is an impressive setup.  He is gaining the benefit of working with former WBO super featherweight champion Nicky Cook and his father Paul who has a rich history of his own in the sport, as Little elaborates on:  “My trainer is Paul Cook, who has trained people like Colin Lyons at World Level and Kevin Mitchell.”  It was through his trainer that Mark was able to get his first professional promotional contract, inking a deal with Leighton Buzzard based Goodwin Promotions.  So where is the link between promoter and trainer?  “Steve Goodwin was someone that Paul knew and I know a few other lads who had been with both of them so that was always going to be our way into the pro game” says Little. 
 
Mark Little

After having a relatively successful unlicensed fighting career, what was the prompt for the change over to having a crack at the professional version?  “It was getting to that level in the unlicensed where we would either step up and go pro or else there wasn’t really much left to do so we got in touch with Steve.  We asked what we would have to do to get on the shows and it went on from there.”

Little has timed the transition well, joining a promotional outfit that have recently invested heavily in the presentation of their shows at York Hall, debuting the new setup in October with stage, entrance videos, smoke machines and DJs just some of the new additions to make the evening have a ‘big event’ feel.  “It’s massive what Goodwin are doing” says Little, talking of the work of his new bosses.  “What you get with Steve is that everything is best for the boxer and he always seems to be helping the fighter out, which is what we all need.  The boxers seem to be in his best interest.”

So when he makes his way out to the ring on November 21st, will the Romford lad be able to avoid taking a peak back at the big screens introducing him?  “You’ve got to have a look haven’t you!?” he jokes.  “Obviously it’s all about being focussed on the fight and that’s the main thing, I’m sure there will be plenty of people there to record it for me.”

The focus for now is of course on getting through Matovu and claiming that debut win, but unlike some fighters Little has the confidence to make bold future predictions for how far he can take his boxing career and is also happy to consider further weight loss as he looks to achieve his goals.  “I would like to think I can go to English level at the absolute least.  With me as well at the minute I think I could get down to light heavyweight; once we have got this first one out of the way we’ll see where we stand” says Little, acknowledging that he may be able to squeeze a few more pounds out of his body and move to the less packed light heavyweight scene.  With Goodwin Promotions alone holding 7 cruiserweight fighters campaigning out of York Hall, a move down in weight category if possible would be a wise career move to avoid the traffic if nothing else.

Irrespective of which weight division he settles in, Little will provide a good addition to the growing Goodwin stable.  He brings an exciting style with him to York Hall and has a team around him of quality, experienced trainers.  Get through Matovu on November 21st and Little can start to plan his future moves.
 
Little wished to pass on his thanks to the two sponsors who support his professional career, Johnny Hill Air Conditioning and B&P Scrap have just come on board as well.