Matthew Chanda

When Matthew Chanda made his ringwalk on November 12th 2016 the building, canvas and ropes were all familiar, but everything else was new.  Only two fights previously he was fighting for a Southern Area title at York Hall and now in only his eighth bout he was back at the same venue and now fighting for a Commonwealth title against undefeated and much feared ex-Olympian Duke Micah.  Less a step up in class, this was a pole vault in standards, a triple jump in abilities. 

Micah had torn through the bantamweight division, the Ghanaian wrecking ball had stopped 17 of his 18 opponents, winning the other bout on points.  Chanda was favoured by few.  But the fight wasn’t a one-sided beating.  It wasn’t the destruction many had predicted.  Chanda held his own, showed his usual effervescent style of walking into the space and letting his hands go to head, body, head; anywhere a gap opened.  Micah had to stop loading up on the big shots he was renowned for and start to display some of the skills that got earned him an Olympic place. 

12 tough, frantic rounds passed.  The pace only occasionally slowed, but both men showed the kind of desire and heart that is only displayed when two people really want something.  You know, REALLY want something.  The judges were split, but it was Micah who garnered the favour of two of them, the other siding with Chanda.  The Ghanaian walking away with the Commonwealth bantamweight belt, Chanda walking away with a new army of fans and the kind of respect only the toughest deserve.

“I have confidence in my ability, I have from the start.  I went in there believing I was that good, but now I know” says Chanda when he looks back at that night in east London.  “I didn’t have any doubts in taking that fight.  On paper he was the best fighter I have fought but I fought top kids in the amateurs as well.  I fought Martin Ward in the amateurs and thought I did enough to beat him.  I’ve mixed it with some good, top fighters and given as good as I got.  I just hadn’t done it on that stage, I’ve done it in the gym.  Doing it in front of people is a different pressure but I know now I am good enough to do it.”

Chanda speaks now as a fighter who knows where he belongs.  The Micah fight has raised his profile in the sport, but also acted as a boost which he says, despite the first loss in his career, will make him a new force for the future.  “It gives me more confidence in training and in sparring, I know I’m at that level and it makes me a different monster now.  You can believe something, but I went in the first round thinking ‘he might hit me in the first round and I go’ – but then as the fight went on and I felt his punches I knew I was at that level.  Looking at his boxing ability, stepping in and out, or his feinting, I matched all of that technically.  I grew as a fighter from it.  Beforehand I believed it, afterwards I knew it.  Belief and confidence makes a dangerous fighter.”

Like good fighters do, Chanda doesn’t dwell on the disappointment or blame others for the loss but instead is reflective and manages to pick apart where he feels he underperformed on the biggest night of his career.  So is Micah an opponent he would like to share a ring with again?

“I’d love that fight down the line.  There were things I did that I shouldn’t have done; got too close and spoiled my own work.  I also didn’t feint enough, just little things that I could do differently.  I didn’t let enough combination go to show the judges I was hitting him.  I could have made the fight a lot clearer but that’s my fault.  Also experience because to be fair to him he was good, at one point I had him going on his bike as he knew on the inside I had the better of him.  He knew how to adapt and structure a fight, change it when it wasn’t going his way.”

The immediate future is an opportunity to work on some of the flaws he identified.  A six rounder on March 18th may be a step down from where he has been, but it is only another foundation block for what he hopes will be a big 2017.  His fight is part of a huge night of action at York Hall as part of the Goodwin Boxing card which features two English title fights as well as a Southern Area championship bout.  Chanda admits the fan inside of him was torn when it came to agreeing to lace the gloves up that night.  “I’m kind of disappointed as I wanted to just go there and enjoy it!  Depends where I’m on, but I’ll try and hang around to see some of it.  Obviously Erick Ochieng against John O’Donnell is a great fight and there’s Michael Ramabaltza against Josh Kennedy which will be awesome, then there’s Wadi Camacho and Karl Wheeler.  It’s worth the ticket price for them!  Hopefully I can get on early and watch them.”

The fight on March 18th could prove useful in testing his weight out.  Having moved down from super bantamweight, he feels that there is the potential to lose a few more pounds and head further south in the divisions. 
“I’m confident I could make super flyweight with the same amount of energy and strength.  Going into my last fight Steve Kipps (Trainer) was worried about making bantamweight but my nutritionist had a few things in place in case I couldn’t make the weight which we didn’t need.  I didn’t have to lessen my portions or anything like that, but there’s three things he could have put in place to make me lose more weight that we didn’t do.  There’s more tricks up his sleeve if needed.”

“Looking at the bantamweight or the super fly divisions, I feel comfortable enough to beat anyone at those weights.  We have spoken about campaigning at super fly and hunting major titles then going back up to bantam.  It’s easier to get big opportunities at super fly as there are less fighters, but ideally I want to be up at bantamweight.  If everything went right though I’d feel comfortable at super fly and campaigning there, as long as I get the title and showcase my talents at the highest level.”

There is also the issue of holding the Southern Area title at super bantamweight, a title he won against Jamie Speight in March of 2016.  He says if the right fight came along then he would still consider a move back up, but the ease with which he made bantamweight shows him where his future lies. 

The Southern Area belt was his first as a professional in a year which Chanda describes as “a dream”.  So what will 2017 hold?  “Steve Goodwin (Promoter) wants me to fight for the British title.  The English belt is prestigious, but the British is what you dream of.  It’s what I took two buses for to get to the amateur club and train for as a kid, it’s the one everyone wants.  It’s what I got into the game for, these big fights.  I’m not being arrogant but I feel I am a top level kid.  To be on the stage where I can showcase that, it’s amazing and it’s motivating me more now to go and train harder than I even did before.”

Chanda is in a good position.  His name now linked in the history books with a classic for the Commonwealth, the ‘mini Mike Tyson’ has Steve Goodwin helping to guide his career.  Goodwin has been able to place a number of his fighters on televised cards of late and questions always circulate about a TV deal of his own.  Chanda is excited by it all. “Steve feels my style is good for TV.  Even with the Micah fight it only scratched the surface of what I can do.”
To talk of Chanda the boxer is also only scratching the surface of what he can do.  Outside of this career, he is also a key part of his community in assisting young people avoid the pitfalls of life.  As he says, this part of his job can have the same ups and downs as life in the ring.

“I’m still trying to keep kids in shape as an Intervention Co-Ordinator at a secondary school.  It’s been a tough week, we’ve had some kids permanently excluded which is tough to take but we’re still trying” says Chanda.  “I do boxing interventions too, teach them the sport.  Some love it and have gone to train at amateur clubs.  Also it’s about pursuing your dreams, showing them they can achieve.  I left school with four GCSEs so had to go and do my retakes, then I had my son at 17 so I did it the hard way.  I still went to university and got my degree.  If I’ve achieved and can show them my journey then hopefully I can be a role model for them.  It doesn’t really feel like work to me, it’s so rewarding.”

When he talks about this work he is inspiring, clearly passionate in wanting to help others in life.  Speak to Chanda at any point away from the ring and his small, diminutive frame and wide beaming smile hides what a ferocious fighter he is in the ring.  Rarely do you see him not laughing, always good natured and polite as well as being a caring family man.  So how does that side of his life fit with his job of punching people around a ring?

“I think most boxers are nice!” he chuckles.  “You rarely find boxers who are horrible or nasty, there’s a small percentage but it says a lot about boxers really – they’re schizophrenic and have personality disorders!  We all have that competitive nature and wanting to be the best.  That’s just the nature of the fight game, testing yourself and pushing the boundaries.”

Boundaries have been smashed by Chanda in 2016.  That first loss could be career defining for him; he answered his own questions that night comprehensively, proved that he could mix with the best talents in his division.  Not only did he avoid the fear of being stopped in a round, according to one judge he had the upper hand over 12 rounds.  The confidence he can take from the performance and the night he says will make him a different monster.  It is a monster that has put all bantamweights and super flyweight in the UK, and worldwide, on notice.

Matthew wanted to thank Ian Wilson at Sparta Gym who helps him massively with his training setup.