Chris Hobbs
Discipline.  Ability to listen and implement instruction.  Fitness.  Yes, they are three key elements to have success in boxing, but they are also skills that former Southern Area champion Chris Hobbs has to apply in his other walk of life; the army. 
Many boxers in the small hall scene have to make the balance between paying the bills and striving for success.  Hobbs has taken route of looking to defend both country and titles, by being only one of two serving soldiers to also be active, professional boxers.
“There’s myself and a lightweight from Essex who is a paratrooper” says Hobbs.  “The army are very accommodating for me because of the level I box at now, they get a lot of advertising from it.  I’m not one to flip tables or things like that, I always represent them quite well so they like that side of it.  They promote me in their Soldier magazine and in turn, when I’m in the local paper it always describes me as a soldier.  I’m not someone who will get caught taking drugs or anything bad, so they see the positive sides to it.”
Originally from Southampton, Hobbs is now based in Nuneaton.  Having left the army for a short while to become a qualified plumber, the hours of work and training to reach his boxing aspirations failed to blend.  Lifestyle pressures of raising a young family meant that he looked to find a way to create a better balance.  It transpired that a return to the army may be the solution required. 
“I found out that they had other professional sportsmen, such as rugby players, serving at the time.  When I saw that, I thought that if it could be done for rugby then it may be able to be done for boxing.  I re-joined, aiming to get a better balance between my family life.  I was getting up in the morning, training at 5 or 6 in the morning, then going out all day and working, getting home from work then going straight to train until around 9 o’clock.”
The return paid off, as he elaborates.  “Now all my training is done in the day time.  In the evenings I can get to put the kids to bed and spend some time with the wife, so it’s perfect for me.  When I’m in camp I am given time off to train while still getting a wage.  I go to work in between my training sessions; I give my boss my training schedule for the week and sometimes we have to move my training around to fit in with work requirements, it’s a bit of give and take.  When I’m in work, I work hard, so they’re always happy.  The army is great for that and I also help train their boxing squads too.”
There are still links to the south coast, with Manager Michael Ballingall based in Porstmouth.  “He’s part of my team, helps with the corner on fight night too” Hobbs tells me.  Ballingall was one of the first to congratulate Hobbs in the ring when he claimed his most significant victory to date back in March 2017 at York Hall in London.  A 97-95 points win over the undefeated Jordan Joseph meant Hobbs became the Southern Area light heavyweight champion; a belt with huge legacy and a potential platform to bigger fights. 
“It was a great moment for me and a great fight” reflects Hobbs.  “I’ve watched it back loads of time.  Don Charles (Joseph’s Trainer) got a bit angry with the result afterwards but I’m honest when it comes to boxing and always will be, I don’t lie about things.  I clearly won it when I watch it back.  There were some close rounds but I out worked him and beat him.”
Although resolute in the result, he acknowledges that Joseph was a tough challenge.  “I thought he would be weaker than he was, but he was a lot stronger than I thought he would be.  I wouldn’t say it was ‘man strength’ that he was lacking, it was just work rate.  It was a step up for him and he probably expected me to be like everyone else he had fought, easy going.”
The preparation that Hobbs had made for the fight is testament to a man who takes his profession in the ring as seriously as he does in the barracks. 
“When I watched a few of his fights he had them his own way.  He could pick people apart and keep them at his own range, jab when he wants, but he could also be a bit lazy.  I knew I had to get him out of his comfort zone, that was how I was going to beat him; get in close and shut that distance.  In the last two fights before that, the opponents had points deducted for holding.  But when I watched it, they weren’t holding, he was holding the,  When I saw that I just thought ‘I’ll just do it better than you and hope I don’t get pulled up’, which I didn’t.”
The title and the prestige and opportunity that comes with it was huge for Hobbs.  So big, in fact, that it landed him a slot on BT Sport just nine weeks after picking up the belt.  Where many fighters may choose to hold the belt ransom and take an easy route, Hobbs instead chose the path of most resistance.  His first defence was scheduled for May 20th at the Copperbox Arena in London against the much feared and heavily touted Anthony Yarde.  Not many in the sport would have signed the contract; a plethora of spurious reasons could have been made to swerve the challenge of a man that is being heavily invested in to move on to world honours.  But that isn’t the style of Chris Hobbs.  Head on, he took the fight. 
Hobbs lost the fight, being stopped in the fourth round.  Being dropped multiple times however, on each occasion he rose back to his feet and the bout only ended when his corner threw in the towel.  There was no shame in losing to a prospect with as much potential as Yarde and Hobbs is able to be realistic in his assessment and honest with where it leaves him.
“It didn’t knock my confidence too much; I was more annoyed really, as I didn’t get to show how good I could be.  But Yarde will go on and win big titles, there’s no regret taking the fight.  I could have sat and had some easy defences until I was forced, but I’d rather take on the best to see what level I can get to.  That’s why I want to get straight back in with Miles Shinkwin; I don’t want warm up fights like a lot of fighters do, where they lose a fight and go back and fight journeymen.  Why would I want to fight journeymen again?  I’m not that sort of fighter.  I’d rather lose my next ten fights in hard battles than go and fight another journeyman.”
Hobbs expects Yarde to go on and challenge for world honours one day.  However, surprisingly, it isn’t the much feared power of the Londoner that stood out most.  “He’s quite powerful and very quick.  He’s not as powerful as I thought he’d be, I’ve been in with more powerful people, but his accuracy was bang on.  The body shots were absolutely bang on.  That’s why I kept getting up so much; it wasn’t that they overly hurt me, but when they landed they just took the wind straight out of me.  His accuracy was good and they got the game plan right so fair play to them.”
Out of a Yarde sized frying pan, he is about to jump into a Miles Shinkwin shaped fire.  Shinkwin was a highly decorated amateur and also a former Southern Area champion.  Having fought for both the English and British light heavyweight titles in the last 18 months, coming up short on both occasions, he is also highly experienced in the professional sport.  It isn’t something that fazes Hobbs though.
“Miles is a top fighter, I rate him quite highly.  I actually thought he would beat Joel (McIntyre) when they fought in Portsmouth but he didn’t.  He wasn’t himself or whatever, but either way he didn’t win that fight.  I think he’s underestimating me, sees himself as a higher level.  But I think I can push it and make it a horrible night for him; that’s my plan but we will see what happens on the night.”
The fight takes place on a Goodwin Boxing show, September 23rd at the historic York Hall.  Given the only time he has fought there before he left the arena with a title, is he eagerly anticipating his return?  “It’s a great venue, I love it there.  I love the whole experience.  This year I have had some great experiences; the Yarde fight with all the press conferences, the same with the Joseph fight.  It was brilliant to box at somewhere as iconic as York Hall and tick one of the achievements off my list that I wanted to do when I turned pro.”
Hobbs says he is predicting “a war” on September 23rd, acknowledging that although Shinkwin possesses fine boxing skills, he is a man that like Hobbs, will happily engage in a scrap.  “He’ll box, but he gets drawn into a fight quite quickly – maybe that’s his Irish blood!” laughs Hobbs.
When we talk about what aspirations there are for a man who has recently celebrated his 30th birthday, Hobbs is typically realistic in where the sport can take him.
”I just want to be remembered as a good fighter.  I never expected I would become a world champion, I’ve said that from when I turned over.  I had an average amateur career and you have to be honest with this.  You see people become professionals who have never been in the ring and tell you they will be a world champion.  It doesn’t happen like that.  World champions are normally special.  You get some who get there with a bit of luck, but on the whole you have to have a top, top amateur career to get there.”
Hobbs doesn’t have the glorious amateur career and medals to display.  He doesn’t have the hope of becoming a world champion.  But he has the history of being an Area champion, a feat that although not in the upper echelons in boxing, is still something that only a small percentage to ever compete will achieve.  He also has a tremendous heart, as displayed by raising himself from the canvas on multiple occasions against ‘The Beast’ Anthony Yarde.  On September 23rd he has the opportunity to launch himself again.  Should he achieve victory, the doors may well open again to bigger titles and platforms.  Until then though, Hobbs will keep marching on, being safe in the knowledge that his legacy is already in the books and he can be remembered as a fighter than fans enjoyed.
Chris Hobbs wanted to thank Raging Beasts, who make his kit. He also wanted to give thanks to Southpaw Jab, who help handle his PR opportunities.  He wanted to give special thanks to the army, for their ability to support him in both careers, as well as the supporters that travel far and wide to back him.  “You can’t beat the army loyalty.”