Luke Watkins

April 8th is a date to mark in the diary for boxing fans for two reasons.  Firstly, a cracking show in Swindon that is headlined by Ryan Martin vs Michael McKinson for the WBC Youth welterweight title and features the names of Luke Watkins, Sam Smith, David Bailey and Harry Webb on the undercard, all local to the Wiltshire town.  Secondly, it marks the start of what could be a significant change in boxing management as the show is the first put on by Trifecta, the organisation setup with Paddy Fitzpatrick alongside the aforementioned Martin, Watkins and Smith.

Fitzpatrick took the time to explain the details here , but it means boxers can take ownership of the business side of the sport as well as the responsibility to perform in the ring.  For cruiserweight Luke ‘The Duke’ Watkins, 9-0, he hasn’t let the new setup take away from the focus that he has on April 8th Risky Business card as he tells me:

“It’s fine.  I don’t think it’s added anything to what I do in respect of extra pressure.  I still go about my day as usual, I’m active on social media as I always am.  The only thing it means is I have to attend a couple more meetings!  The setup is special.  But for me as a person, as long as I check things and I make sure I check the details then I don’t really care about what is going on in general.  You give me the dates and I’ll make sure I’m ready to go.”

The date will be April 8th and the venue is the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon.  “I feel good” says Watkins.  “Normal aches and bruises of camp, bloody faces and the things that come with the territory, but I feel good.  My energy and my aura, I feel like I’m in a good place.” 

The aura of Watkins is always someone of a relaxed nature.  Outside the ring Watkins is as laid back as they come.  Once when fighting at York Hall, when he had weighed in I asked his Trainer (Paddy Fitzpatrick) where Luke was.  “He’s gone for a sleep in the car” was the response.  For Watkins, the pressure and the stress of fight night are taken in his considerable stride.  At six foot one, he is imposing in the ring, his toned physique starting now to be reflected in the stoppages of opponents.  His style is a mirror of his persona outside the ring; relaxed, taking his time to figure an opponent out before breaking them down.
As he approaches now his 10th fight, he is competing in his first ten round bout.  His ability to conserve energy through a relaxed style should suit the extended time in the ring.  Are there any worries for Watkins as he approaches the longer bout?

“As far as I’m concerned I have done it in the gym, my body is physically able to do it.  If for whatever reason I wasn’t able to do the ten rounds it would be a mental block.  I have belief in myself, I believe I’m more than able to do the ten rounds on the night” Watkins tell me.  Fitzpatrick has been working feverishly in the background to finalise an opponent, a task that has become trickier as Watkins has worked his way through the cruiserweight division.  An opponent has been found on the day we speak, but the planning will take place over the weekend ahead.  “The level of fighters naturally gets harder when you start going for fights with longer rounds.  They’re more durable, tougher and more experienced.  It’s another step up, plus a few extra round; we’re moving the right direction in what we’re doing” he says. 

Watkins is reluctant to look past April 8th, however ahead of this date there is the opportunity of his first title in boxing.  In April he will get the opportunity to go back to his roots and fight for the Irish cruiserweight title.  I ask Watkins if the fight in April will provide a good opportunity to prepare for his first belt fight.
“I’m already ready for the Irish title!” he laughs.  “But April 8th does put me in good stead, definitely.  Ian Tims is who I’ll be fighting for it, he’s had 15 fights with 12 wins and a couple of losses, he’s an experienced guy.  It’s legit!  I’ll always deal with the task at hand first though.” 

If Watkins defeats Tims it would also be a ground breaking achievement, becoming the first black Irish champion.  “It would be a piece of history in itself” Watkins states with pride.  “Really and truly right now my name means nothing in the respect of history in boxing.  I’m a guy with an alright record, there are other guys out there with alright records.  To win this, I would stamp my name into boxing history.”

The plans for Watkins have been in place since the start of 2017, since a late notice title chance came up at the end of last year.  “I was offered the British title fight just before Christmas” he reflects.  “It was at short notice though, I would only have had three weeks to get ready and it was to fight Craig Kennedy.  I’ve sparred Craig and I would never take Craig lightly, he’s a good fighter.  I’m not stupid, I wouldn’t take a fight at three weeks notice with a high level opposition and in a high profile fight.  For me, it doesn’t set out good practice, the risk and reward don’t balance out.”

So what is in store for 2017?  “My aim this year, back in January was to fight for the British and win the title in the next 12 to 18 months.  I’m up and around that level.  The landscape is always changing.  Right now, the cruiserweight division is bumping; domestically there is a lot of talent and it’s just waiting to blossom for the rest of the British fight fans.”

Hopefully some of the opportunities will take place in his home town of Swindon, following on from the April 8th showdown.  After a show in the town fell through in 2016, he tells me that he is looking forward to being back on home soil.

“The fact I have my home town and my home crowd, who haven’t seen me box for a while because I have been fighting in London and unfortunate circumstances, it’s nice.  It’s real cool to demonstrate to these guys what I’ve been up to while I’ve been supposedly away from them.  I’ll showcase how I’ve been training.  A ring’s a ring.  When I get in there I can’t really hear what’s going on apart from my Coaches voice, fighters will know what I’m talking about.  Swindon is a small town and people know what you’re up to.  The fact it is small, it brings out the fans in numbers to support and I can’t wait to have them all there.”

How does it feel for Watkins to not only be fighting at home, but also to be on a card with such a prestigious title being fought for as the WBC Youth belt?  “It’s great; I always say to people that when a light is being shone it naturally reflects on everything that goes on around it.  The fact the main event is Ryan Martin fighting for the WBC Youth Title, the light will naturally shine a light on all of us in and around and amongst that.  For me personally it’s amazing.”

The buzz is back around Swindon as a fight town.  Trifecta as a concept will be played out in front of the eyes of the town’s fans.  They are expected to fill the Oasis Leisure Centre on April 8th as a new era is upon them.  Watkins aims to play a big part within this.  With his own plans laid out through to 2018 and a business venture to match, the boxing supporters of Swindon can watch The Duke flourish in his home town.

Luke wished to thank the sponsors who play a vital role in supporting his career.  These are Reuben Inspired, Jazzbones Creative, N&B Foods Exeter, Marlborough Fitness & Performance Centre and Abbeymove Removals.