Jamie Cox

Jamie Cox is somewhat of a boxing enigma.  Stories permeate from gyms around the country of a man who has handled world champions past and present, so skilled and powerful that many turn down the opportunity of a return visit.  Yet, as he now approaches the tenth year as a professional and still undefeated, there has yet to be a defining fight or an opportunity to display the talents that set tongues wagging behind closed doors. 

Personal issues and stories are well documented, but it is the fighter that I am interested in.  He comes across on social media as a feisty character, someone not afraid to bite back at criticism but always with an undertone of good nature.  His character to those who have not spoken to him may be the archetypal angry boxer but, when I caught up with Cox, it was far from it.  Laid back, happy to discuss the criticism his boxing career has taken and the frustrations of life outside of training and fighting, articulate and well mannered.  In other words, there is more to Jamie Cox than appears on the surface.

An accomplished amateur, Cox stepped into the gym at 8 years old, nearly 22 years ago.  98 amateur bouts, with a Commonwealth gold medal in 2006 the highlight, show that Cox was a special talent.  But his aspirations laid beyond the headguards and vests of the time.

“I just wanted to become world champion” he says.  “As an amateur I just wanted to become a professional at some point, I didn’t really think about being a superstar and staying in the amateurs for too long, I always wanted to be a professional.  I would have probably got more money in the amateurs than the professionals; I was on the point of going to the Olympics but turned professional before that.”

So has he ever wished he took a different path other than that of a professional boxer?  “There’s no regret; you can’t regret what happened in the past.  Never regret anything.”

At the point in 2007 when he decided to join the paid ranks there were high expectations of the Swindon native.  Through 2007 and 2008 he took on 9 bouts, winning 5 by way of stoppage against the standard array of journeymen and tests for young prospects.  He was starting to develop and show the knockout power that was so often talked about.  But various issues stopped him carrying on the career trajectory and the fights slowed down.  As Cox says, it hasn’t been ideal for him.

“Of course I’d have wanted more fights.  There’s been some stuff in the past that was my fault but yeah, I should be fighting more regularly and would like to but I can only do what the Promoter or anyone else lines up for me.  I can just do my part in the gym, train and be ready.  I broke my hand and that had me out for a period.  Apart from that it’s been pretty good, the odd cut and whatever but you can’t go in the rain without getting wet.  I’m in the gym every day now, training twice a day waiting for something to drop.  Even Saturday and Sunday I’m there, I train every day.

As with every boxer though he has been reliant on those outside of the ring to help establish him in the business of boxing.  It has been a steep learning curve.  “I don’t think I’ve been managed or marketed right from the start but I’ve made the best of what I’ve had.  I don’t come from a boxing family or background so I didn’t have that headstart and it’s a very different business to normal business.  My family all have business in construction, and I understand that their business is done in a very different way and I’ve had to learn that.  I’ve been left behind a little bit – I see people who are 2 wins in getting more attention than I get and no disrespect to them but they aren’t going anywhere.  That’s what I mean about this business, it’s very unusual.  I’ve learned it as I go along.”

Cox is still in a position many would covet.  In August 2016 he was still ranked in the top 10 of super middleweights by the WBO, again inactivity costing him his place.  But with one of the UK’s elite Promoters, Frank Warren, behind him there are still plenty of opportunities for the 30 year old to develop.  Has it been frustrating though that the big fights haven’t come about for him?  
“I can’t comment for Frank on it, I know it’s hard to get the fights.  Even the current world champions I have dealt with in the gym, it’s going to be hard to get them in the ring.  The boxing world can be quite small sometimes and no doubt word gets about.  Sometimes you might have to invest that money to get what you want and maybe that’s where I’m left behind.”

So if the right fights presented themselves, can Cox foresee any roadblocks in making them?  “I’m telling you now, any big name comes to me and let’s go.  As long as the money is fair then let’s go.  You can have it anywhere, in their gym or anywhere, I’m not fussed.  I’m a proper fighter; how many fighters do you hear about that are always saying ‘not him or not him’ – I’m not like that.  I want a big fight.  I’m not boxing to be pretty or have the reputation on the street; I’m there to build a reputation, earn money and see how far I can get.  That’s the difference.”

With Frank Warren securing a deal with BT Sport to broadcast shows, it could mean that doors start to open for Cox that were previously double locked.  These aren’t things that a fighter can necessarily influence and as he says, it isn’t his job to do so.  “I try not to think about the politics, I just do the training and hope someone pulls out a name and I get my opportunity.  Frank hasn’t given me a plan yet, he’s probably been concentrating on the BT Sport deal.  That deal is beneficial to boxing as a whole, not just me but all the fighters.”

The last fight that Cox was in lead to some criticism from viewers for his slightly agricultural approach at times.  Back in October 2016 he took on Argentinian Martin Rios in Bolton, a performance that Cox looks back on as a bit of a learning curve.

“To be honest I was sparring so well in the gym, sparring world champions and everything was on point.  I watched a couple of rounds of the guy but I didn’t care too much, my team look after that.  I went to the weigh in and he didn’t look too much so I most probably was over confident, which was a very, very big mistake.  He was very skilled.  He dropped a former WBC champion and got a draw, he was better than his record suggested and was a very good spoiler.  Where I wasn’t prepared for that I maybe lost my head early on and fair play.  My conditioning was good which I took out of it.  I didn’t box well in that fight at all but won every round convincingly, but if he wants to bite my ear then he can expect something back!  All is fair and love and war so there’s no issue.”

It was a performance that perhaps left those that had heard the name of Cox but not seen him in action pondering more questions rather than providing with answers.  Look at most boxing forums that cover the Swindon fighter and you will see a range of views on how good he is – from a potential world champion, through to someone who hasn’t taken a meaningful fight in 21 bouts.  What does Cox make of the questioning of him online?  “I’m just hoping the time will come.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion and can say what they want it doesn’t matter.  Truth is, that’s the public saying it.  Go and ask people in the boxing gyms and get their opinion, it’s different to the armchair fan.  I just need the opportunity.  I’m training without a date and I don’t believe others would do that.”

With personal issues now cleared up and reaching the milestone of his 30th birthday, Cox is clear that 2017 is a defining year in his boxing career.  Make or break?  Perhaps. 

“If I don’t get a big name this year I’ll most likely go back to tarmacking the roads” he laughs.  “I’m working so hard, so hopefully there will be a big fight.  I’m working harder than anyone in my weight division and that gives me confidence.  Even though I have nothing I bet they’re not training like I’m training.  It all goes on behind closed doors.”  So is there anyone out there in particular he has an eye on?  “I want the best.  Probably James DeGale.  He may have drawn with Jack but he’s still the best so why not?”

We discuss belts, with the British title likely becoming vacant as Callum Smith moves towards world honours.  Is that a route he would still consider?  “Belts I don’t really care about, it’s the names.  If the belt is on the line then no problem, but I’ll give it to my mother and she can put it in the cupboard, but it’s not the belts I look at, it’s the names.  The belts are smokescreens; the only ones you want are the world titles and the rest are pretty much nothing.  When Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward fought, there’s no belts on the line it’s just a great fight, the belts don’t matter.”

We end it there.  Perhaps we didn’t cover every item that boxing fans would want answered or turned over every stone of his career.  That is perhaps apt with Jamie Cox.  That wouldn’t be down to him; Cox is willing to discuss in depth every element of his profession, both past and present.  He is open and honest and incredibly likeable.  The sense of frustration is clear though, the desire to secure that big fight that can open doors for him.  Perhaps his naivety in the business of boxing has hampered him; being too good in the gym is a risk.  Take out those names at the top when there is nothing on the line and it will become a lot harder to convince them to do it for real when there are world titles on the line.  It can only be hoped that 2017 gives Cox the chance to build a legacy under the lights and not become a story of a fighter who excelled in the dark confines of the gym.  For that, he will no doubt be reliant upon others.

Jamie wished to thank those who have provided support through his career and continue to do so in avarice ways.  These are  Dave Hill Ringside UK who provide top class equipment, Nice and Clean (Window cleaning and Commercial Cleaning Services),  friend Ricky Mazzotta who has helped out in many aspects, his mother and Steve Gannicott, Trainer John Costello who is imperative in keeping Jamie working in the gym and sacrifices time with his family to whom Jamie is equally thankful and Team Des Fitness who play a massive part in his strength and conditioning.