Spencer Fearon

Spencer Fearon
I enter calm – confident that I can hold my own.  My record holds up, I place faith in my ability.  I know the man I face carries a worldwide reputation but why should that put me off?  I enter the cauldron and two minutes later, I’m forced to take a journalistic knee.
The pen and paper that I usually rely upon are no match for the encyclopaedic insight and erudite approach of the man named Spencer Fearon.  He carries the nickname ‘The Knowledge’ with pride and I should have anticipated the quick start as he backs me up into the verbal corner with a barrage of inspiring quotes and quickfire statistics.  I realise it’s last resort territory as Fearon pummels, still only minutes into our verbal sparring session – I have to resort to dirty tactics.  I turn on my phones automatic call recorder and accept I will be listening back in detail.
Detail is something that Fearon utilises at ease.  His head must be full of boxing facts and statistics – for a man who once was paid for the power in his hands and the movement of his head, it is now his head that carries the power in a new era of Fearon’s life.
Fearon was a professional boxer from 1997 to 2003, fighting on three occasions for Southern Area Titles at middle and light middleweight.  Looking back now, what was the finest moment? 
“My proudest achievement was just turning pro” he tells me.  “In hindsight now I know I could have done so many things differently but it’s not where you start, it’s where you end up.  Where I am right now I am in a comfortable place and a desirable place – I’m very grateful for the things I achieved within the sport because it’s given me a platform to do what I’m doing right now.”
So what was it that prompted the exit from the boxing ring on a permanent basis?  “I was always a kid that could do anything I wanted to do and when you’re boxing, you need to have major tunnel vision when you’re fighting” explains Fearon.
“Unfortunately when I was fighting I didn’t have tunnel vision.  I was pretty secure within myself – when I was fighting I was up to other stuff, I was trading – I bought my first house when I was about 18.  Sometimes when you’re looking at things and not seeing a major financial reward you use it as a platform to think “you know what, I’m pretty cool on TV”.
TV is a medium that Fearon has flourished in.  It started in 1999 with a documentary alongside fellow boxer Danny Williams called “Danny and the Fighting Spirit”.  Directed by Saul Dibb the programme was well received when broadcast on Channel 4.  This was one of two that Channel 4 commissioned, along with another for the BBC.  “I got more famous for doing stuff like that, and when I was younger I was pretty handsome so all the girls loved me.  I’m mature good looking now” Spencer tells me, half in jest and half reflecting on the young man that made his TV bow alongside his childhood friend Williams. 
Fearon is able to compliment those involved in his past and recognise that where his own in ring achievements didn’t perhaps reach the heights of others, there were reasons and ultimately, good has come of it
“When you’re young it’s like – maybe I was taken aback by all the hype that was going on.  At the time there were guys who were fighting who surpassed me in accomplishments but when you think about it, what are you fighting for?  You’re fighting for financial reward, that’s cool.  But I’m very vicarious – if I see my trainer doing something and they were really good at it, it was like I was doing it.  People didn’t understand that about me but they do now.  Back at that time anyone who was doing good, it was like I was doing it.  I was never envious of anybody who was doing good.  People realise that as I get older.  When I was younger I was a bit crazy and would speak my mind.  As I’ve got older nothing’s really changed but I know to be a bit more diplomatic about it.”
Speaking his mind is now part of what pays the bills for Fearon.  Today he wears multiple hats – boxing pundit, motivational speaker (which we will look at later) and recently he could also add businessman.  Last year he took on a role with Disciple Media as the Head of Sport and Wellness.  So what does that actually involve and how did the role come about for a man associated to the boxing more than the business environment?
“A dear friend of mine Julian Pittam sold his company for a lot of money.  Julian invested in the tech group Disciple, it’s a social media platform they design for celebrities.  It’s a one stop hub where we make you a bespoke, personal application and website – it is so cool.”
The company’s LinkedIn page tells you that they build technology for fans and talent to bring to life.  So how does it fit with Fearon, a man accustomed to breaking down fights more than figures?  “Every day is a blessing – I’m there and I run the sports department.  We signed up quite a few athletes, but the biggest person we have signed up so far on the music is Luke Bryan, the country and western singer in America.  He’s the highest selling concert artist in the world, he’s ridiculous, he’s massive.  They were like “Spence, we know you know everyone in the sporting realms, come in.”  Sports stars are accessible – it helps I have the platform at Sky, a lot of people know me and it helps get things done.  I’m there now and just having a wail of a time, I couldn’t have designed the job better.”
Another business that Fearon has previously been involved in was company Hard Knocks Boxing Promotions.  In his time promoting he had an English champion, took Nathan Graham to become Southern Area champion, had Larry Ekundayo go on to become Prize Fighter winner.  Ekundayo is someone  that is still spoken of highly by Fearon.  The welterweight with a record of 10-0-0 is the fighter picked by Fearon to be the biggest UK breakout star in 2016 who is currently under the radar:  “He should have blown up ages ago.  Amazingly talented fighter.  It’s unfortunate due to certain things that happened with him, but for talent there is no fighter I have worked with that can match him.  None.  Ridiculous talent.”
These aren’t the only successes Fearon takes pride in, as he elaborates:
“I took Darren Hamilton from homeless guy in the gym to British champion and ranked in the top 15 in the world.”  Did working in promotions help fill some of the gap that being a boxer left?  “I can’t say it filled the void of fighting – nothing does because it’s not a void that’s missed as I’m still involved in the game." 
Promotional duties weren’t always easy though, and Fearon explains that the murky world of boxing can be a challenge to anyone:
“Boxing should be one family, not rivals.  If half of the guys who have seen half of what I have seen in the game – they’d be dead.  That’s my solace, I’m still here alive and kicking with a beautiful missus, a kid on the way, two beautiful kids already.  I’m really really grateful.  I am in a good place and every day I have more blessings that come in to my life because happiness is not complete unless you share it.”
But there were positives taken from the shows – mainly from the fans:  “Our shows were incredible.  I’ve not seen that matched yet for crowd appreciation and hype and I go to shows.  It served its purpose.  Now, I get top guys from America that phone me to suck in my knowledge, I get top guys in the country who want to talk boxing as they know I’m very astute to the sport.”
It was another astute member of the boxing fraternity that Fearon looks back at now as having made a wise assertion:  “Dave Coldwell got it right when he said to me: “You’re not a boxing manager, you’re not a promoter, you’re not a trainer – you’re actually a TV personality.”  I didn’t really read too much into it and just said “whatever” but in hindsight looking back, it’s actually right.”
Coldwell is famed for his work in the sport of boxing as a coach and promoter.  He has guided Tony Bellew’s career and recently been in Jamie McDonnell’s corner as he twice beat Tomoki Kameda.  He has a huge history within the sport and as such, it is a ringing endorsement for Fearon.  One of his first roles on TV was perhaps his most viewed, as he explains:
“It was nice when John Joe Nevin versus Luke Campbell fought in the Olympic final (2012), I was a guest pundit on BBC live in from of 250 million people.  They phoned me up, because the now Editor of Boxing News (Matt Christie) told them to use me because I knew everything about the game.  Now I will champion Matt.”
Knowing everything about the game.  It’s a large tag to live up to.  Matt Christie wasn’t the only person to label Fearon with the role of boxing almanac.  Kugan Cassius of IFL TV first dubbed Spencer as “The Knowledge” – bestowed upon him due to his ability to recall fighters, fights and styles for eras long forgotten by his contemporaries.  “To be real, from my background you don’t really get that many people who have that encyclopaedic knowledge from the environment I came from.  I’m grateful people know this.”  Is it a tag that he embraces?  “It is my pride.  There are people who I have worked with at Disciple who are like “oh you have a show on Sky, that’s cool”.  Then they’re out with me at boxing events and they see the response I get.  They don’t realise I’m quite famous in boxing, and that transcends within my community.  I get guys like Tony Bellew, a learned man in the sport, or Paul Smith – and they turn around and say that I’m a geek.  That means a lot to me!”
He may never have got to show his full fighting repertoire to the wider audience but today another role Fearon takes on gives him a platform to display both his natural charisma and his boxing knowledge.  As predicted by Dave Coldwell, that medium is on the screen and behind the microphone as each week he features on the Sky Ringside content online, as well as being an integral part of the Toe2Toe podcast created by Sky.  Working alongside Ed Robinson and Ed Draper, the show has the highest number of listeners worldwide for a boxing podcast
“When me and Ed Robinson are in the studio we can bounce off each other.  If Ed was in the studio on his own it would be boring.  Me doing a show on myself would be too crazy.  It’s a happy medium when there is Ed Robinson, Ed Draper and myself in the studio and that’s really cool.  When it’s me and Johnny Nelson in the studio we go at each other, but Johnny knows I love him.  I have mad respect for him.  He’s a role model for me.”
So what is it that Spencer feels helps drive the success of the work they do for Sky?

“I have great people at Sky, the two producers I work with push me and are great.  We are getting more guests on the show – we had Crolla and Quigg on the show which was really nice.  They want to come in to the studio.  We have a really great following, it’s the top boxing podcast for numbers in the world, so I’m grateful.  So, so grateful.  When I do the podcast I’m trying to share knowledge with people so they can go away and learn.”
So how did the linkup with Sky come about for Fearon?
“I built something through Ed Robinson giving the heads up at Sky, that’s how it happened.  Me and Ed spoke three hours of boxing on a train ride home from Blackpool.  I’ve known Ed for years, I know his wife and his brother in law really good as he used to box at our gym.  Ed Robinson I love because he was the one that put the word in at Sky so I never want to do anything bad for Ed – if he says we’re breaking down such-and-such a fight, even though I know it already, I’ll go and research the things that they do and the little intricacies of how they fight to get to the bottom of what they do.”
I put it to Fearon that as Sky typically employ fight pundits who have reached the highest level of the sport, does his less glamorous professional career have an influence on the insight he can provide to Sky viewers?  “Knowledge is knowledge.  I may not have been elite but me in the gym – I’ll kick anyone’s ass.  I’m not saying it to be vocal – go and ask Richard Williams or Danny Williams.  Go and ask any of those guys that were around that time, they knew my skills.” 
It was on a recent edition of the Toe2Toe podcast that Fearon said he could devise a plan that would allow either Scott Quigg or Carl Frampton to beat Doncaster’s bantamweight Jamie McDonnell if he chooses to step up in weight.  So I wanted to know if it was a common occurrence that a fighter or coach would look to utilise his unique ability to disseminate fighters styles, tactics and skillsets? 

“Fighters and coaches come to me all the time.  I’m a consultant who doesn’t charge them, maybe I should!  I have conversation with guys in the game constantly.  There are loads of guys in the press who phone me up who want knowledge from me but it’s all good – what is knowledge if it’s not shared?”
Listen in to the podcast or go online to see or hear Spencer light up a studio with his effervescent enthusiasm for the sport.  Aside from breaking down individual aspects of a fighter to the minutiae details, he is also able to call upon a wealth of information about fighters in history – all part of being “The Knowledge”.  He has criticised a number of modern fighters for not utilising the double jab within fights.  Where does he see the problem lies? 
“I wonder if trainers today actually watch boxing how I watch boxing.  Boxing is the gravitas of the insecure.  I say it time and time again – people who are so insecure will jump in to boxing.  If you had a tumour and it had to be cut out and you said to the doctor “what’s your experience?” and he said “I don’t have experience but I have watched Open University and I’ve watched to see how they operate to remove a tumour” – would you feel confident putting your life in their hands?”
The analogy may seem far removed from a boxing ring but it makes sense.  Text books and understanding will only get you so far before experience is essential.  Spencer goes on:
“With boxing trainers can they explain in layman’s terms the articulated facts of the sport, why are fighters doing certain things?  People don’t realise that boxing is a martial art form, that’s what it is.  They don’t understand this because everything is upright, be first, throw the jab.  That’s not boxing.  When you go back to the 40’s and you look at fighters like Freddie Mills, he fought a guy called Lloyd Marshall.  Lloyd Marshall came over here and it was sold out at Earl’s Court and he toyed with Freddie Mills, but who gets the world title shot against Lesnevich?  Freddie Mills.  There’s so many fighters at that time –that’s the difference between the fish and chips guys and the guys that can cook the cordon bleu kind of food.  When I look at this, and if I’m not a master chef but I know the things I can do and I can instil passion and knowledge inside of fighters then I want people to learn boxing.  It means so much to me when I then hear people say that nobody can break down a fight like Spencer.  Seriously.”

One fighter Fearon does admire for his studious approach is the man who retired at the weekend:
“You go to Floyd Mayweather – he’s a master.  Why?  Because when you’re around Floyd you’ll see within him that he is a man who has studied the greats.  A couple of my friends have been around to his house and when they were around there Floyd was like “I studied the greats until I became great”.  That is what is lacking in the sport today.  Trainers are insecure, especially in this country.  What happens to them is they get experience through being around the game.  If I had the energy I could go out and train fighters, but I haven’t got the energy.  I don’t want to train fighters, but I will drop knowledge on them.”
For a man who is referred to based upon the reams of boxing data he is able to store, I am interested to know who he turns to for his boxing views and information.  Are there others out there that give him alternative viewpoints or values that he can appreciate as a boxing pundit?
“I listen to everyone who talks boxing.  I don’t have to agree with you, but I like to pick things up.  One person whose opinion can sway me, even though it’s similar to mine, is Ed Robinson.  Sometimes I like Max Kellerman on certain things.  Sometimes I like Dan Rafael for his opinions – although he can’t call a fight.  I like Paulie Malignaggi, I properly love Bernard Hopkins when he talks boxing.”
Father, pundit, businessman, Knowledge, former fighter.  You wouldn’t wish to pigeon hole Fearon to any of these as it is clear that he fits in a realm of his own with a unique passion for what he talks about as well as the information to back it up.  Is there a day where he would look to consolidate his different functions or is he looking to even expand upon them?
“Well we’re launching something really big in a few months time which is more to do with political values.  There’s a guy called Danny Jermaine who I’m working with, we have the funding for it.  I do a lot of motivational speaking up and down the country – if there’s anything, even more than boxing, that is the most important thing then it’s speaking engagements.  This will take motivational speaking to a higher platform.  If I can make a difference in anybody’s life irrespective of background, sexuality, skintone – if I can make a difference then it means a lot to me.  I’m a big believer in having to replace ‘I want’ with ‘I have’ because you’ve already got it.  I did a talk for college kids last week at Sky and I’m going to be doing that weekly now.  That’s a real touch for me.  They get kids come in to the studios and I’m one of the guest speakers now.  One of the security guards with them sees me and tell the kids to fire questions at me as I know everything – I don’t know everything!  We had a good little talk.  I send out positive messages every day on Twitter – they might sound corny but I don’t give a damn, I give them out every single day.”
As it happens listening back to the call allowed me to reflect again upon what I had discussed.  Yes Fearon carries a brashness about him, but lest we forget he was employed in the world of big egos and high opinions.  But what he is not is egotistical.  His achievements are long, listed and to be continued – what he is in the present is a person who is able to inspire others and takes his own pride from passing on ‘The Knowledge’ and being able to help people from any background, colour or creed.  We should appreciate his input to boxing as many fighters and coaches do.  Like Floyd Mayweather, the man he praises for his attention to history and details, there may not be another Spencer Fearon for a long time.  While he has the platform, boxing fans should take advantage and gather a little bit of The Knowledge for themselves.