By Danny Winterbottom
When Carl Froch makes his long awaited home coming against Lucien Bute on May 26 at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham he won’t be the only home town fighter looking to make a lasting impression on the assembled thousands.
A.A Lowe, the current British Masters light middleweight champion from nearby Newark gets an opportunity to step out of the shadow of small hall obscurity and announce himself on the domestic scene when he challenges English champion Eric Ochieng on the bumper Matchroom show.
32-year-old Lowe is part of the Carl Greaves stable of fighters currently enjoying an unexpected upturn in fortunes that has seen Shane McPhilbin win a surprise British title at cruiserweight and only last weekend Journeyman Ryan Clark pull off a shock to claim a Masters belt at super middleweight.
As a budding pugilist Lowe first laced on the gloves at 15 and took part in just 17 amateur bouts, winning the Class D novice ABA’s in 1998 before leaving boxing behind to enlist in the Royal Marines and as the Newark man explains his road to the professional prize ring has seen many twists and turns.
“When I came out of the Marines back in 2003 I had no interest in turning pro. I dabbled in some kickboxing for a while and then Carl rang me to say he had got his pro trainers licence and did I fancy giving it a go professionally. I’ve known Carl for years, he is a family friend, and I used to keep fit in his gym but at 26 I was late coming to the game.”
On September 30, 2006, Lowe made his debut in the paid ranks at the Kings Hall, Stoke-on-Trent. In the opposite corner that night was fellow debutant Jonny Musgrave who emerged victorious on points over 6x3’s. A loss he would avenge two years later.
“I was initially fighting at welterweight but in hindsight I was in the wrong division” said Lowe explaining how squeezing his 5ft 11ins frame into the 10st 7lb division was killing his body.
“Carl was constantly asking me if I was ok at the weight but I said I was when in reality I felt sluggish and lacking in energy in a lot of my early fights.”
After suffering his second loss as a pro in June 2008 to Mark Lloyd for the vacant Masters welterweight title, and coinciding with his then girlfriend falling pregnant, Lowe walked away from the sport for a second time.
“I had two years out. I didn’t put on a pair of gloves for the whole of that time but after working out for a while with my best mate I started to get the urge back and I contacted Carl and told him I fancied having another go. Carl took me on the pads and we did some boxing and he told me I looked good and to try and get my licence back. I felt fresh and reinvigorated.”
As was the case on his debut, Lowe’s return to the ring after a two year hiatus got off to a less than stellar start losing to tough journeyman Harry Matthews on points in the first of what became a trilogy of contests between the pair. The series currently stands at one fight each with the other a draw over 10 rounds for the vacant Masters title Lowe eventually won in their third meeting in December last year.
“I had a few bouts on the road to get me back into things” he said. “I will be honest the main reason for me coming back initially was for the money, to be a journeyman. I lost to Jamie Ball (KO8 body shot) but I was going through a break up with my girlfriend at the time and my head just wasn’t in it. The loss to Pat McAleese (in his next fight) was a close decision that I thought I had done enough to win but the Steve O’Meara defeat (his third in a row) I will admit I wasn’t bothered about.
Lowe readily acknowledges that he was beginning to slip firmly into the role of “opponent” after the loss to O’Meara, but the promise of a Masters Title chance in his next fight saw something “switch” on inside his mind.
“The chance to fight Harry Matthews for the second time for the vacant Masters light middleweight belt really changed my outlook on boxing. I got the bit between my teeth for the fight and it coincided with the best form of my career. We fought to a draw but I won the rematch in December and then defended against Terry Maughan (TKO4) in April.”
Sometimes, chances such as the one presented to Lowe to perform on the biggest stage arrive almost by accident. In Lowe’s case it was very much “If you don’t ask you don’t get”.
“Carl was at the presser for Froch-Bute when he bumped into Eddie Hearn and asked him if there was a chance he could get some of his lads on the show seeing as it was in Nottingham. Eddie questioned Carl about my fight with Maughan for the Masters belt and did he think I would come through it. Carl said he believed I would and Eddies reply was if I did I could fight Ochieng for the English title but to keep it under wraps for the moment. I had this fight lined up a few weeks back as long as I beat Maughan which I did. It is a massive, massive chance for me and being only 20 minutes down the road from where I live I’m hoping the crowd will get behind me as, fingers crossed, I think I could be the first live fight on Sky.”
Having never come close to fighting on a card as big as the one on May 26 Lowe is bound to feel a little nervous, but he believes he has nothing to lose.
“I’ve never fought on a stage like this so I wouldn’t be right if I didn’t have some nerves but I will embrace it, definitely.”
Ochieng won the title with a thrilling win over Liverpudlian Nick Quigley when the youngster’s dad pulled him out after nine energy sapping rounds, in which Quigley took the fight to “The Eagle”, but was picked off by sharp counters off the ropes by the man from Stoke Newington, London. Eventually young Quigley paid the price for his incredible excursion of energy resulting in Ochieng walking away with the English strap.
“I think Quigley went about it the wrong way” said Lowe in his analysis of the fight. “Ochieng likes to lure you in and pick those sneaky counters. I’m the taller man so I will take my time and not rush in. I don’t want to be caught with any wild swings he likes to throw. If you have seen me fight I tend to come forward but I will need to pick my punches a bit more in this one just because he wants you to try and take the fight to him.”
Juggling his boxing career with a full time day job as an electrical engineer sees Lowe, like many fighters holding down regular jobs, train at times around his day to day commitments ensuring it is a gruelling regime of train, work, train and finally sleep that has whipped him into the condition of his life for the biggest fight of his life.
“I like my job. I have the occasional bad day but starting late in boxing means that unless something dramatic happens I will be doing both for the duration of my time boxing. I don’t have the luxury of having a sponsor, but to be honest I accepted a while ago that wasn’t going to happen so packing in work with a little girl to look after isn’t an option. In my opinion having to work that bit harder to achieve things makes you hungry as a fighter. It makes you work harder in the gym and dig that bit deeper in fights. When you have done a full day at work then a full training session afterwards it gives you the ability to dig deep.”
He added “Before work I do a six miler then Monday night I box. On Tuesday’s before work I do a cardio session in the gym and then have the night off as I have my little girl staying overnight. Wednesday morning I have off before a boxing session after work followed by hill sprints on Thursday morning and a strength session in the evening. I have Friday morning off then Carl and I have a one on one then I finish the week with a 10 or 11 mile run on Saturday.”
You can guarantee that Lowe will be in the shape of his life come the first bell and in the condition to test the championship credentials of Ochieng. Weather that will be enough remains to be seen but the likeable Newark man will have given his all.