Dean Laing
Keeping busy is never seen as a problem when you are an elite amateur boxer.  Bouts are anticipated on a regular frequency, opportunities to test yourself come thick and fast.  But for Dean Laing, those chances dried up.  A hugely promising amateur boxer, three ABA semi-finals and two Haringey Box Cups to his name, the North East native started to find fights increasingly harder to come by.
“To the end of my amateur days I was just struggling to get bouts” reflects Laing.  “I was fighting at the ABAs, in the Box Cups and for England in tournaments but otherwise it was getting hard.  I had a conversation with Pat Barrett about turning over at a time when I was getting sick of the amateur side of it, the politics and all that.  I got to the semi finals of the ABAs but my head and heart wasn’t in it, I was getting sick of it.”
It was by chance that a friend passed on the message that Barrett was interested.  Barrett, a former British and European title holder, knew of Laing from his amateur days due to a family link.  “A friend up here said Pat was always on the phone saying he wanted to sign me, always asking after me.  I boxed Pat’s nephew in the ABAs and he’s had an interest since then.  When I got the call I signed and turned over.  Boxing is a bit dead up in Newcastle; as an amateur it’s brilliant, our club was a proper good gym.  Put the pro setup was a bit dead, it’s all lads on ticket deals and the scene is a bit dead.  It felt like there wasn’t an option to turn pro, but when Pat gave me a call it was a new lease of life.  I love training again and I’m loving learning.  I just need to keep my head down now and push on.”
Laing is now eyeing up his first professional bout.  He is already wisely making adjustments both inside and outside the ring as he explains.  “I’m training with Pat Barrett in Manchester.  I’m from Newcastle, but I turned professional with Black Flash Promotions so I spend a few days down here, a few days in a hotel at a time.”  So what is the professional side of the sport teaching him that he didn’t pick up in the amateurs?  “It’s different, very different.  This gym I’m at now is all about defence, head movement and instead of thinking about punching it’s thinking first about your defensive movement.  There’s loads of things to change, just not being in a rush all the time” says Laing.
Many a promising amateur has made the decision to join the paid ranks, only to fall away in time.  Is the transition a hard one for someone of Dean’s style?  “Definitely.   Where I’m used to throwing a few punches and then getting out, I’m being taught to stay in the pocket and slip shots.  Instead of foot movement all the time it’s about staying there and landing my own shots.  It’ll come; it’s only been a few weeks so far and we’ve made great progress.”
He is spending the start of the week, Monday to Wednesday, in his new surrounding of Manchester to ensure that he is as well prepared as possible to make his bow.  The other days he is back in his native Newcastle, where Barrett also visits on occasion to train, as well as Laing going back to his old amateur club, Birtley, to continue practicing his art. 
It isn’t long until Laing will be starting his professional career on a Black Flash show.  He gives me the details.  “My debut is on July 29th, I’m looking forward to that.  It’s at the Bowlers Arena in Machester with some good names like Zelfa Barrett too, it’s a good card.  I’m fit and ready to go now, it’s just the little adjustments to make here and there while I pick up the pro style.”
Is there any concern for Laing that he is going to struggle with the longer gaps between fights than he was accustomed to as an amateur?  “It’s very hard.  I’m used to international tournaments, the ABAs and things like that where you fight plenty of times in 3 days.  It’s just something I’ll have to adjust to.  Lucky enough though my Promoter keeps everyone busy, fighting every other month and that’s brilliant,” 
There were some great highlights for Laing as an amateur.  Two wins over Seb Eubank (one to clinch a Haringey Box Cup) but what he takes most from his time is the advantage of seeing different styles.  No more so than in his own gym.  “I’ve had a good mix of styles through my amateur career and even being in the gym I was at, there were so many different styles to spar; southpaws, orthodox, counter punchers.  Now I’ve just got to put it all into a package” he says, aware that the experience will only take him so far.
The plan for now is to campaign at light heavyweight, a domestic division that is flourishing with the likes of Frank Buglioni, Nathan Cleverly and the promising and dangerous Anthony Yarde.  However as Laing puts it, “I’ll just see what happens and where my weight goes when I live the life”.  He is hoping that his first year can serve as a solid grounding to a Successful professional career.
“I just want loads of bouts, plenty of learning.  I don’t want it to be in 12 months time that I’ve had two bouts, I want 5, 6 or 7.  I want to pick up the pro game and see where it goes.  Titles are my aspirations.  You hear about good amateurs on the circuit and then they go missing for a year, I don’t want to be that person.  I’ve been blessed with Pat Barrett though as he keeps his lads so active.  I remember seeing Zelfa Barrett in the ABAs and now he’s 16-0, it’s amazing.  Hopefully I can be part of that as well.”
If current form of other boxers in the stable is anything to go by, Laing should have no problem in keeping himself active in the ring.  His talent and pedigree and undoubted; wins over household names on his record, Laing is in a prime position to become a major factor in the UK boxing scene .  With a solid team around him to match his pedigree, the North East may have a new start to get behind. 
Dean wanted to thank Unique Fitness, who are helping with his training as well as strength and conditioning.  He is keen to have new sponsors help support his professional journey.