Jake Ball

Many young boxers spend the first year of their career establishing their name in the sport, taking fights they are expected to win as they gradually build a CV whilst performing in front of packed crowds in small venues.  For Jake 'The Blade' Ball, his experience has taken in the opponents, but he has been lucky enough to grace a number of the larger arenas typically reserved for the biggest names in the sport.  In his first twelve months he has racked up an impressive 6-0 record, five of the wins coming via stoppage, and has boxed at places such as the First Direct Arena in Leeds, the Echo Arena in Liverpool and closer to home at the O2 in London.  The 23 year old who was born in Surrey has held court with venues that many of his contemporaries can only dream of.

The reason for his large scale introduction to professional boxing is down to his link up with promoters Matchroom.  It's not all been plain sailing along the way though.  There are no special favours granted to the six for four light heavyweight, as he explains:

"These first six fights I've had a lot of learning experiences" says Ball.  "I boxed September, October and November then was meant to box December last year on the Joshua vs Whyte show.  I was meant to box at half past four but the paramedics were late to the show, meaning it couldn't start.  I was in the changing rooms from half past two and they were trying to get me on as a live float but the whole show got delayed.  I was changed and ready to go through to half past eleven that night and in the end didn't get to box, that was one experience I learned from."

That wasn't the only time that his appearance had been delayed.  "Another was on my third pro fight, I was a live TV float and was ready for seven o'clock.  A couple of the fights went longer than anticipated so I waited around then got on after the main event.  It's a learning curve" he confesses.  Another lesson picked up during his first year has been about looking after his own welfare.  

"The one fight that actually went the distance, I'm not one to make excuses but I was ill on the fight week and shouldn't have fought.  I didn't tell Jimmy (Jim McDonnell, Trainer) as I wanted to fight and get out there.  I won comfortably on points but I didn't box how I normally do, but again it was another learning curve.  I took two or three hard shots off the geezer in that fight so I got a bit of a chin check.  I did six good rounds at only sixty percent fit so I know I can do those rounds with ease."

The lesson clearly hit home.  He tells me how he was due to once again fight at the O2 in July of this year, but with two weeks to go illness once again overcame him.  This time he withdrew from the scheduled bout, realising that the risk of not performing at his best outweighed the short term reward of building his record.  The delay did him no harm as he was able to return to the ring in the same month and show his full capabilities as he made short work of Krysztof Golec.  "My fifth fight up in Leeds I knew I was strong and fit and healthy and I knocked the man out it two and a half minutes, a fella who was tough and durable and had never been put down before."

As part of the Matchroom stable, Ball is in good company alongside the likes of Josh Warrington who he shared the bill with in Leeds, as well as world champions like Kell Brook and Anthony Joshua.  However as Ball is nearer the start of his career than many he is still under the radar, meaning that at present he has to settle at times for taking on the 'floating' fight role on a card.  How does the balance of a higher profile with the premier Promoters work with the need for stability on fight night?  "TV is great for exposure, but for the likes of myself I would rather just have the set time so I know when I'm going on.  Once I'm on TV I'll be on it for the rest of my fights.  At the moment all this is is getting the experience."  

That type of view shows the maturity of Ball for a young man.  It's clear he knows there is a distance to go in his career, the bright lights and large audiences haven't gone to his head.  That isn't to say that he lacks ambition though.  "One hundred percent I want to win a world title.  It's why I'm in boxing, to be a champion.  I want to win the British title on the way, it's a historic belt and it's beautiful" says Ball. He will be a keen observer on September 24th as current British champion, Hosea Burton, take on the experienced Frank Buglioni in Manchester.  Does he see the victor being the unbeaten Burton or the former world title challenger from London, Buglioni?  "It's going to be a great domestic fight.  I think Burton is going to be a bit too good a boxer for him.  He's deceiving, he's a similar shape boxer to me and like myself, he carries good power.  People look at him and think he's just tall, but he carries good leverage into his shots."

How far does Ball see himself from entering the conversations about top domestic titles?  "British title will definitely be next year.  For this year, I've had a chat with Eddie (Hearn) and we're looking at Southern Area and then push on.  I'm in no rush.  The more belts I can pick up the better, I'll take as many as I can.  When the times is right I'll be ready to go for it at a higher level."

Eddie Hearn is the man who will guide his career and has a track record of bringing through young fighters to both domestic and world honours.  Ball is aware of how lucky he is to have those around him who are helping to support his career through the early stages, both professionally and personally.  "I couldn't ask for better people.  I have Matchroom who are the best Promoters in the UK and probably one of the best in the world, I have Jim McDonnell in my corner, I've got my mum and dad with me.  I've got my wife; the stuff she does for me is amazing.  I'll have a sponge bath ready for me when I get home, all my food prepared.  The people I have behind me are absolute diamonds, it's all good."

McDonnell is a key component of Team Ball.  His experience with the likes of super middleweight world champion James DeGale as well as many other boxers mean that he can pass on his wisdom to a boxer like Ball.  One of the gyms they work out of, Club KO in Buckhurst Hill, provides a breeding ground of talent for many fighters including those under the wing of Terry Steward, a Trainer with many years of coaching behind him.  As Ball says, the mix of world champions and upcoming fighter gives him him plenty to keep his training and sparring fresh.  "I get sparring with the likes of Brad Pauls, Linus Udofia and others that Terry Steward trains down there.  It's wicked; sparring with DeGale is unbelievable but it's no good just to spar him because that's only one style.  I need to be tested against different styles, different weights, different speeds.  Every fighter I'll be fighting is different so I need that exposure.  Brad Pauls is a little bomber!" Ball laughs, referring to the middleweight who has been knocking out opponents for fun in his first three professional bouts.

Part of the reason that Ball was such an attractive proposition when he turned professional was down to his illustrious amateur background.  Before joining the paid ranks he was a part of the Team GB setup and one of the first boxers to experience amateur boxing as we see it now in the Olympics where it more resembles the professional sport, head guards being a thing of the past.  So did that change help the transition for Ball?  "When I was on the GB squad, my very first outing was when the decision was made to have no head guards.  Ever since I've been a senior I've had no head guards which has suited me.  Head guards are a false protection, it sounds silly but you feel more free, more aware of the shots that are coming."

There have clearly been no issues adapting to the professional sport as his five stoppages attest to.  One of the other factors is his natural advantage, fitting a six foot four southpaw frame into light heavyweight is an impressive feat.  For the size that he is, one may imagine it is a struggle to make the weight but he insists it is quite the opposite.  "I actually make light heavyweight quite comfortably, come fight night I'm fresh and well hydrated.  Then obviously I have that height and reach advantage and for my size I have good power - it's a triple threat!"

At just 23 and with the backing he has both in and out of the ring, Ball is in a good place at present.  He is relaxed, laid back and yet highly driven and ambitious.  It is undoubtedly a good mix to have as he builds his name fighting on high profile cards up and down the country.  There is a long journey ahead and it is good to hear someone with so much obvious potential plot his career around the traditional route of area titles and upwards.  Belts won't be far away for Ball and with that will come the regular TV slots.  Viewers at home should get used to seeing a lot more of 'The Blade' over the next 12 months.

Jake wanted to thank his sponsors who play a key part in supporting his career.  These include JFB Promotions, RADS Document Storage and All Young Scaffolding (AYS).