After over a decade and a half in boxing, retired boxer Chris Evangelou (13-3) looks back on his career in philosophical mood.
Chris recently played ‘Primetime’ in Guy Ritchie’s ‘The Gentleman’ alongside Colin Farrell and has been lining up an increasing amount of acting work since his pugilistic days. As he looks ahead in his new profession on stage, it has given the 34-year-old a chance to reflect back on his past career in the ring when he was known as ‘The Flash’.
Chris listed 12 vital pieces of advice for any new professionals or boxers contemplating turning over:
“There are pros that don’t have an amateur background; some are just gifted, natural fighters. These exceptions are few, however.
If you want a plumber to come to your house, you want someone qualified and experienced, so they have to have done their apprenticeship first. If someone never swam before and they jump in at the deep end, not touching the floor, most will struggle and only some will be able to swim straight away.
If your turning pro, why would you give up the opportunity to take a few practise swings at it first? The amateurs is a chance to learn, practise and get ready in a safe environment. You can learn about making weight, testing yourself against different styles, fighting in front of audiences – all with less pressure than the pros.
Losing a few in the amateurs doesn’t matter like it does in the pros, so go and experience it, you’re given that right in the amateurs – to lose and learn from it.
Let’s say you’re 30, then you might not have time, so you might not be able to have 20 amateur fights first and you may have to turn pro and learn on the job. Personally, I think you need at least 10 fights to understand what the amateur game is all about.
So, my recommendation to anyone thinking of becoming professional is to have at least 10 amateur fights first, preferably more though. Do at least one tournament because it’s completely different to anything else. To fight someone, keep your weight down and energy up, going back into the ring in quick succession is really testing. I remember having three fights in three days in a tournament in Sweden, it asks a lot of you to fight on through soreness, pain and injuries, but you’ll have to be exceptionally good to keep going.
Now’s the best time to experience amateur boxing than ever before with three-minute rounds and no headguards for the seniors, so they’ve lessened the gap between amateur and pro now.”
“First thing to do is learn how to handle money, sell tickets and have good organisational skills. Make sure you organise the money intake and try to get help, if possible.
Get a trusted family member or a best friend and give them full responsibility for selling tickets because it is the biggest strain on a boxer in the pros. If you can find someone trustworthy and capable, then it’ll be one of the biggest headaches taken away from you to be able to concentrate on your training.”
“If you think you need to be fit for an amateur fight, you have to be super fit to be a pro! Three-minute rounds under those hot lights is hard, the adrenalin gets to you and get tired quickly.
Two things you should do more of as a pro is sparring and hill sprints. Do the sparring without getting hurt or damaged, so you shouldn’t be looking to have wars every time. Mix it up, so have technical spars to give your body a break, but always do more than your fights; so for a four rounder, do six rounds in sparring. Always do that little bit more of what your upcoming fight is asking of you.
Hill sprints are the difference between being springy or flat in fights. In the pro game, you have the benefit of knowing who you’re fighting, so you can see how aggressive the opposition are and see the level of intensity they’ll bring, so you can get sparring partners that match them.
As I said earlier, don’t have wars in sparring, but you need a good pace and intensity. If you’re swimming in the ocean with big crashing waves all around, you can’t practise for that exact scenario in the local pool, so you’ve got to get into that ocean.
Spar lots of different styles – taller, bigger, busier, southpaws, counter-punchers… so when you get into the ring you’re not having to adapt or think of what you’re up against. Be comfortable with all different styles so you’re not having to take time to adjust in that fight; you’ve got exactly one minute available to you to adapt and start dominating, especially at the start of your career in four-rounders. If you take any longer than a minute, then you’ve lost the first round and you’ve got to win every other round to avoid getting a draw or losing.”
“You need to learn everything there is about food and nutrition. You can’t starve yourself to make weight, absolutely not, especially in the most demanding sport in the world.
Formula one drivers, professional athletes, footballers… they all have nutritionists or food plans laid out for them as an integral part of their respective sports, but boxers are just left to their own devices. It’s weird really. So, it’s all down to you to learn how to make weight with the most energy.”
“Professional boxing is a business, so you have to be your own personal publicist and market yourself as the next best thing.
You need to learn marketing and social media. Teach yourself to how to edit promo videos. I used to edit my own videos and put my sponsors logos on them to keep them happy because you can get a lot of money from outside the ring if you do it right.
You could do something different like a unique ring walk and, with the power of social media, it could get published on LadBible and seen by millions.
Idris Virgo went on Love Island and now he’s got a huge following, then there’s Tommy Fury as well. Chisora wears a balaclava on his face and is eccentric and a bit unpredictable and people will always tune in to see his press conferences or weigh ins just to see what he might do or say.
Not saying you need to flip tables of or spit water in people’s faces, but you need to be interesting in order to stand out from all the other thousands of boxers, but at the end of the day you need to focus on your boxing. Floyd Mayweather played the villain for a lot of his career; Ricky Hatton was the likeable, funny, humble guy; Carl Froch was the hero in the first fight with George Groves, who played the villain, then they switched roles in the rematch. Look at Joe Calzaghe, undefeated, exciting, beat some of the best in the world, but he never really had a big personality, so some characters get more of a name than others. Chris Eubank Jr is continuing the arrogant trait his father made famous all those years before him. You should always have a defining attribute to set you apart from everyone else and run with it.”
“Do don’t let your fans, following, or the people around you pressure you into anything. You do your job and let your manager do his. Don’t listen to the rest of them because they can add unnecessary pressure, especially when they’re telling you to fight the British champion after just a couple of contests!
When I boxed at Alexandra Palace, I sold 1,000 tickets and knocked my opponent out in under a minute. Afterwards, everyone wants to see you boxing for titles and people are saying to you that you can beat the British champion and you think, ‘Yeah man, I want a title now!’
Your older self would always tell your younger self to calm down, get 15 fights under your belt against people that will build your record and experience up, then step up to those longer, tougher 10 and 12-round championship contests.
If Floyd Mayweather had fought everyone he was asked to, he wouldn’t have ended his career unbeaten or as rich, and he would have sustained much more punishment.”
“Your hands and entire body are your primary concern; you must look after yourself! Wrap those hands well, don’t do too much punching on the heavy bag, just always protect your knuckles.
Listen to your body and know your limits. As athletes, we all want to break through the barriers and constantly force your body further than ever, but if you’re running yourself into the ground, you have to stop, rest and recover.
Don’t do anything reckless. If you got a bad knee, then you can’t go running on the cobbles. Replace it with cycling or swimming instead.
My right hand was a thorn in my side during my entire professional career, you’ll see that I use my left a lot in most of my fights because I couldn’t throw power punches with my injured right. The injury was never allowed time to heal and eventually it retired me.
So, listen to your body, if you feel a sprain in your wrist or let’s say your knuckles hurt, just stop punching and let it recover. If your ankle hurts, stop running and do something else.”
“Stay positive and control the pressure placed on you. Always remember that it’s your career, no one else’s.
There’s going to be a pressure on you when you’re going into that ring. You have to have a strong mindset and positive outlook. I would tell myself I’ve done everything possible in my training to win this fight, I trust in my team that the fight is winnable if I do what I’ve practised to do and I’ve covered everything, no stone left unturned.
Listen to your team and your own instincts, not your friends or family. Focus on yourself, please yourself and not everyone else or you’ll wreck your own career.”
“With anything in life, you’ve got to set your goals. My first year I wanted five fights and five wins; second year, I wanted to close in on a title fight.
If you just take fights in any direction then it’s quite difficult to go towards anything, but you do need to be flexible with your goals, as they may alter. You need to have the goal set in place what you plan to do, but if you don’t achieve it, then you need to be adaptable and smart in this boxing game.
Take right now, for instance; fighters are having to change their plans drastically. Most plans have probably changed from fighting five times this year to getting at least one fight in this year! But it still gives you a goal; stay fit and ready during lockdown, then if an event comes up in September or October, you can get straight on it.”
“There can be better training sessions in 45 minutes than in two hours.
You also need to train smart according to your schedule. I was fortunate to be a full-time pro, but most aren’t, so if you’re working a 9-5, leaving the house before 8am and coming homme past 6pm, then two or three hours in the gym at night doesn’t make much sense and won’t leave time for anything else in your life. Make every session counts, and remember that it’s quality over quantity.”
“Rest and recovery is just as important as the boxing training itself.
I needed to switch off after three hours of boxing in the gym, I didn’t want to watch any boxing, I wanted to detach and rest because I’d done it all day and will be doing it all again the next day.
It is tricky though, when you’ve got a fight it’s the only thing you think about. If someone says to you in the school playground, ‘I’m having a fight with you after school’, that’s all you’ll think about all day long until it gets to 3pm! No different to having a fight date scheduled weeks or months in the future. Once I had a fight on a Friday evening after college and I couldn’t concentrate on my exam because it was all I could think about.
I used to switch off by watching a film, absolutely nothing to do with boxing, go to the cinema, be with friends or family, and then you’re not left with your thoughts. When you’re around people you’re able to stop thinking about your fight for a few hours and it will do you the world of good.”
“You do need to be a student of the game. Take from the best fighters in the world and implement into your game.
Why was his jab the best in the world? Find out by studying it and repeating the technique yourself. Oscar De La Hoya’s jab was like a right straight hand; Roy Jones Jr., his elusiveness and reaction speed was incredible; Floyd Mayweather for his defence… these were the fighters I was watching because boxers like Lomachenko weren’t around then. Those were my three top fighters. I watched everyone but focused on those around my weight because it was more relatable to me because the way you turn a truck will be different to way you turn a Ferrari.
Some gyms, will all sit down together and watch fights before a session starts while they’re all wrapping their hands and tying their laces. Take time to study the greats!”
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