Joel McIntyre
Boxing, as in life, has the moments of despair, anguish,  pain as well as the balance of euphoria, pride and passion.  For Joel McIntyre, 29, the last 12 months have been packed.  Packed full of highs and balanced with lows, but landing at a place of comfort and accomplishment.  For Joel it has been both the best and worst of times, but what shines through about the man, is that he has come through it all with a sense of achievement, satisfaction and to top it all off, an English title.

Go back a calendar year and McIntyre was almost floundering.  A stoppage win over Vladimir Idranyi in July 2016 was good, but it wasn't where he wanted to be.  Approaching the end of his 20's, there was still so much to achieve in the sport of boxing that is his job, but the opportunities weren't there.  A switch of team, joining up with Goodwin Boxing, changed his fortunes.  The rest is now written into the history books.

"It was..." says McIntyre as he pauses for reflection.  "Emotions were running high with the situation and circumstances."  We are talking about him picking up the English light heavyweight title in December 2016.  "It was sweet because I got to revenge a loss.  It was even sweeter because I got to win the English title.  It was then topped off by the fact it was in my home town and the support was amazing.  It fell into place, but I knew it would."

The points win over Miles Shinkwin reversed the only loss on the otherwise impeccable record of McIntyre.  It was the culmination of many things that night in the compact Liquid and Envy nightclub, surrounded by those that mean the world to him.  But there was one person missing, his Grandad.  A man who Joel admired and meant so much to him.  A man, it turns out, that Joel had told a white lie to when their paths last crossed, but one that he would be able to back up with actions.

"This is a true story, but it sounds like I made it up.  I told my Grandad, when he wasn't very responsive, I said listen; I won the English title.  But it was before I won it!  From then on I was like 'fuck, I can't lose now!!'.  That was the last thing I said to him, I told him I won it.  He was really unresponsive, but he smiled a big, big grin.  He laid down and looked up with a huge grin and he closed his eyes.  It's honestly the last thing I ever said to him."

As Hollywood as it sounds, the emotion painted upon the faces of McIntyre's team as the decision was announced shows the raw emotion of the moment as Joel fulfilled the prophecy he had painted to his Grandad in the hometown that means so much to him.  It is a hometown that, very recently, Joel was able to play a part in helping to honour.  Through the hard work of writer Andrew Fairley, a memorial was built to remember the greats of the boxing ring that had lived in Portsmouth over the years.  Joel tells us more about it.

"Andrew Fairley is from the area and wrote the book (Pompey's Boxing Past) about boxing in Portsmouth, he's been working on the memorial for the last year or so.  He made it happen and has done really well, it's a nice touch" he says.  He almost sounds overwhelmed though that he, a man who chose to make his living inside the ropes, could be chosen to be part of the unveiling.  "A lot of this goes over my head to be honest!  The turnout was massive, all of the families are there and very emotional about it while I'm stood there as just a bloke who has done a bit of boxing from the area!  But I understand what it means to everyone involved and it was fantastic to be a part of it."

As much as an honour as it was for "a bloke who has done a bit of boxing from the area" to be involved in something so important, he still had work to do.  On September 9th at York Hall in London McIntyre defends the belt he worked so hard to win for the first time.  He will face undefeated Liam Conroy on the Goodwin Boxing show, and McIntyre has been doing his homework on Conroy.

"I know he struggled with Elvis Dube.  I know he got dropped by Mitch Mitchell.  I know he got stopped at middleweight by Cello Renda.  He said he was weight drained in the fight, but I've been weight drained; it takes its toll over time, it doesn't allow you to get knocked down four times in one round."  I query with Joel if he is dismissive of his opponent, is there any risk of complacency now he is the one being hunted?  "I'm not taking him lightly.  I say all that because that's the facts, but I never disrespect any man who gets in the ring, especially someone who is gunning for me.  
Joel acknowledges there was another down period after winning the English belt.  In a division packed with up and coming talent and the likes of Jake Ball, Anthony Yarde, Callum Johnson, he thought that he would perhaps be a bigger commodity than he was.  "Winning that belt, I thought people will start coming and calling me out, which is where I want to be.  Then it all went a little bit quiet, was a bit underwhelming.  I've had half a year of inactivity until last months four rounder, but this is what I have been waiting for."

But the fact that fighters weren't mentioning the name of McIntyre is perhaps because frankly, he is still dangerously under the radar. 

"I fit into the light heavyweight scene quite nicely" laughs McIntyre.  "I like where I am, I like that there isn't much footage of me.  There are people like Jake Ball's camp who try to find out things about me, asked me for sparring once which we said yes to, but it didn't happen in the end.  Don't know what went on there.  People want to find out things about me as I'm an unknown quantity.  I won't be for a long time, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts.  Even people that have seen me live, they haven't seen the improvement I have made since then.  As I didn't have a long amateur career, I am just learning new things all the day"   

As he puts it to me, those boxers who have spent their lives in the gym and learning have nothing new to add.  For McIntyre, he is always adding new skills, tactics, combinations and movement.  It all happens under the watchful eye of Trainer John Murray.

"We have game plans as usual, which we will use one September 9th.  As a Trainer and fighter there's nothing better than those game plans coming to fruition, so me and John are looking forward to it.  John is always dedicated.  I don't know how he does it!  He has a young family as well as older kids, he runs a charity (Amelia Mae Foundation) and then work on top.  It's great dedication."

As John balances the different aspects of his life to help his charge, one of the regular sessions that they attended was sparring in the presence of boxing royalty; Chris Eubank Sr.  McIntyre was part of the training camp for Eubank Jr's defence of his IBO world title against Arthur Abraham, he and his team travelling to the Brighton gym where the Eubank family put in the hours of hard work preparation.  It was, as you may expect, an experience for McIntyre.

"It was really good.  It was good to be in the gym, be around his trainer, Ronnie Davies, and to meet Chris Eubank Sr too.  Jr is an animal, every spar with him was basically a fight.  Every spar turned into a tear up and that's how it is, there's no better preparation that that.  I have a lot of respect for him.  He comes across as a bit Marmite, but I just think he's cool.  His old man is a polarising character too, but was great with us.  The fact is though, love him or hate him, he puts in the work and I have a lot of respect for that.  It's inspiring to see him in the gym and the work he puts in."

The work clearly benefited both men, as Eubank Jr went on to dominate Abraham.  For this fight though, warmer climes than Brighton have been found, as McIntyre has spent time preparing in Valencia.  "A friend kept telling me to go and see this place, telling me how good it was" says McIntyre.  "It's unreal.  It's so remote, there's literally a mountain in your back garden, a desert in your front garden, organic orange trees, chickens running around.  There's everything for a training camp.  It's relaxing, 37 degrees and a swimming pool to jump in.  We're going to start putting things on out there, it's amazing."

If the warm weather preparations go to plan and McIntyre defends his title on September 9th, where can we expect him to go next?  There is the option of current British champion at the weight, Frank Buglioni perhaps?  "I sparred him a lot, but there are some factors that mean it may not happen.  It doesn't matter to me who it is, I just want the British next after my English title."

With September 9th being a British title eliminator, it sets McIntyre on the right path to the British title.  There may be further eliminators to go, but defending his title for the first time is imperative.  "I've been looking forward to defending that title for a while.  I won it in such bitter sweet circumstances, a lot was happening around the time of the buildup for that fight.  It was a lot of extremes and a bit mad."

This time around the camp appears more settled.  McIntyre did what he felt was fate, what he had told his Grandad he had already done.  He gave a huge grin to a man that no doubt would have loved to have seen the title raised.  He believed it had already been won, and you get the feeling that McIntyre felt that too.  That night in Liquid and Envy fulfilled a promise to a man he loved.  Now McIntyre has the chance to go and achieve more, much more.  With the peaks and troughs seemingly levelled out for now, McIntyre will be looking to make sure that one day, his own name and photo are etched into Portsmouth's boxing history.  Who knows, perhaps it will go full circle and McIntyre himself will appear on the memorial he was honoured to unveil.

Joel wanted to thank the sponsors that support him in his professional career.  These are CJ Meats Butchers, DSC Nutrition, Bryburn Developments, Strong Down South Clothing, Morson International and Qualitas.