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Frankie Gavin: British Boxing’s Renaissance Man

By Dan Wheeler: Eighteen months ago, it looked like Frankie Gavin was destined to become the biggest unfulfilled talent Britain had ever produced. Now he is the reigning British Champion. He has been on quite a journey.


Sitting on the work surface in the cosy kitchen at Hall Green Amateur Boxing Club in Birmingham, Gavin has not long finished his latest training session. There is a smile on his face; an energy in his eyes. He looks like he is buzzing.


Wind the clock back to Saturday 29 October 2011 and it is a very different picture.


With no warning, Gavin had just pulled out of his fight with Frank Haroche Horta and left his training camp. His promoter Frank Warren was rendered speechless and incensed. The boxing public were wondering whether Gavin, who had struggled to laboured wins in his previous two bouts against Young Mutley and Curtis Woodhouse, would ever be seen again.


Today, thankfully, Gavin is becoming more visible by the minute.


Since turning professional in 2009, Gavin has endured some difficult years. The man with a stellar amateur career, that brought gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2006 and an unprecedented world amateur title a year later (he is still the only Briton to ever do that) had more expectation on him most when he joined Frank Warren’s pro stable.


The time spent away in Manchester and then London allowed Gavin’s demons to have wreaked havoc with his head and, in desperation, Gavin returned home not long after the Horta debacle to seek solace in the tutelage of Tom Chaney, the man who coached him to that world amateur title in 2007.


“When I came back to Birmingham and to Tom, I started to believe in myself again,” Gavin reveals.


“When I first came back, I couldn’t even hit a pad. My confidence was shattered.


“But Tom got me back to basics with three and four round spars. It was like I was starting over again and I got the buzz back.”


Gavin’s self-belief and love for boxing had eroded to such a degree, it was in danger of disappearing forever. His detachment from family and friends had lead to an acute unhappiness, that Gavin later admitted felt like a form of depression. His security had been eaten away along with his motivation and passion. To his credit, Gavin knew he had to find a way out. He knew he needed to get back home.


“That’s the past now,” he says. “No one was really talking about my boxing, it was all my personal problems. Now I’m letting my boxing do the talking. I’m still undefeated.”


Gavin is right: people are talking about him. Under Chaney’s paternal and disciplined guidance, Gavin has looked a different fighter.


An emphatic win over Kevin McIntyre in his comeback bout in February 2012 and a slick dispatching of Laszlo Komjathi three months later showed the new version of Gavin meant business.


Six months later, in November 2012, Gavin got his chance at the British title against Junior Witter. The old Gavin would not have stood much of a chance against the canny former world champion, but this was not the old Gavin. The new man produced the best performance of his life to nullify Witter’s early intelligence to run out a dominant points winner across all the cards.


It really was Gavin at his purest as Witter was, first, neutralized, and then dismantled with a barrage of punches and combinations delivered with a brutal cleanliness, accuracy and frightening economy.


“In my eyes I was the favourite, but some expected me to get beat,” admits Gavin.


“But I won easily. The first four rounds were a bit awkward but I stepped it up and I won comfortably.”


Buckling the biggest prize in domestic boxing around his waist was a special moment for Gavin but was one that was quickly enjoyed and then filed away at the back of his mind. There would be no resting. No complacency.


“We never got asked for it back (the belt) so we kept it for a couple of months,” Gavin reveals with a grin.


“I reckon it was in every place in Birmingham after my first fight. The amount of pictures I’ve seen with people with the belt and I wasn’t even there!


“When I turned pro everyone said ‘He’s going to at least win a British title’ but when I left London and Manchester I thought ‘am I going to do that?’



“It was a big relief but it was always expected to be fair.


“The weird thing about the fight was that he (Tom) said that first few rounds will be tough but he’s (Witter) going to fall over and his game plan’s going to go.


“He said that weeks before the fight. It happened. He fell and it changed the game.”


Gavin was back in the ring barely 10 weeks later as the champion. The willing Jason Welborn had plenty of courage but could not bridge the class divide as Gavin pummeled him to defeat in the seventh.


“I’m back to moving and not getting hit.


“I was getting silly down in Manchester. I started fighting and getting caught and coming out bruised.


“Look at my last four fights. I could’ve got married the next day. There were no marks on me.”


Gavin is back adhering to the principles of his amateur days: punch and move; hit and don’t get hit. It’s the foundation block of the philosophy he now works to under Chaney, whom Gavin is always quick to ensure gets the appropriate amount of credit.


“I owe him a lot. I wouldn’t have won the World Amateur title without him. We’re the best of friends and he just wants me to be the best,” he says.


“I probably wouldn’t be in the game if it weren’t for Tom. I don’t think I would have been that good.


“Some (trainers) are waiting for their pay cheque. Tom’s not doing that. He’s waiting for me to be the best.”


The pair are obviously close. They have known each other since Gavin was at primary school and their relationship, now in the professional game, has never been stronger. There is a definite father-son vibe to them. Chaney clearly loves Gavin to bits but, like most well-balanced figures of authority, knows the times to indulge and protect and when to deliver the kick up the pants every pupil needs.


“Some days I walk in the gym and he’ll know it’s not my day and he’ll boost me up,” Gavin says.


“Some days I walk in buzzing and he’ll make it even harder!


“He pushes me to the limit but he knows how far to push me. He’ll push me until there’s no more there.”


In coversation, Chaney is straighter than one of Gavin’s southpaw jabs. He is very obviously an outstanding coach with his gym full of amateur champions right across the age ranges and competition levels. He has much to crow about, you would think, yet he would much rather make you a cup of tea and talk about other people’s achievements. There’s no flannel, no pretension, no fight for the limelight.


His meticulously-planned routine for Gavin has recently incorporated the permanent use of professional fitness coaches with Craig Gorgan honing the boxer’s strength and conditioning while athlete Heath Mason ensures Gavin pounds the tarmac for the necessary hours.


Gavin is now waiting for his next test, a warm-up on April 20, in preparation for a shot at the Commonwealth champion Denton Vassell later in the summer. Adding Vassell’s belt to the Lonsdale is the aim, before moving towards a potential European shot.


“He’s just had the biggest win of his career against Ronnie Heffron,” says Gavin.


“He’s got that Commonwealth belt. It’s something I want. He’s undefeated. I’m undefeated.


“He’s had one fight in 16 months. He did a good job on Ronnie but it’s nothing that I wouldn’t have done.


“He’s hot at the moment which is great because, when I beat him, everyone will be talking about me. I don’t think anyone domestically is going to touch me, Vassell included.”


Back in the bad old days Gavin’s performances undermined his confident words out of the ring. Now, you are not left in any doubt about their authenticity.


“Now I’m with Tom, I can get to the top.


“Tom wants the (Lonsdale) belt so I have to defend it once more after I beat Denton.


“For the first time I feel like a proper professional.”


Proper professional indeed. Proper fighter too, in every sense of the word.


April 15, 2013







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