By Danny Winterbottom
The domestic middleweight scene has a trio of twenty-something southpaws with the potential to provide some thrilling nights of fistic entertainment in the years to come.
23-year-old hot prospect and current commonwealth ruler Billy Joe Saunders looks to be headed for stardom beyond the boundaries of these shores, and Islington’s John Ryder, known as “The Gorilla”, has thrilled fans up and down the country as he builds on the unbeaten start to his professional career under the guidance of Matchroom sport.
At 21, Dudley’s former amateur standout Ryan Aston is the youngest of the “Three Lions” and he has quietly impressed those that have witnessed the all action stylist in full flow racking up a 7-0 slate. So much so that he was asked to aid in the preparations of Carl Froch for his breath taking win over Lucien Bute last month. An experience the youngster says he will remember for ever sparring the three time world champion over four days, doing eight rounds on each occasion.
“Carl is a fantastic fighter. Just to be asked to help him in some way was an honour” said Aston when speaking to Secondsout.com “He makes you think for every second that you are in the ring with him. I was asked to box a certain way to try and imitate Bute but that is how I fight anyway, I like to attack the body and of course I’m a southpaw.”
Aston, affectionately known as “Tank”, had an assignment of his own in Nottingham when he faced veteran Welshman Paul Samuels, continuing his ring education against a man almost 20 years his senior. Aston may not be old enough to remember Samuels in his prime but had heard enough about him to remain respectful of his noted punching power in the early stages of the contest before stepping on the gas to inflict his fourth straight loss with a barrage of punches sealing the deal in round five.
“Maybe it’s his age now but I didn’t really feel his shots at all” said Aston surprisingly. “I knew he had a reputation as a puncher but I had no issues with his power. Perhaps his timing isn’t quite what it used to be, I don’t know. To be honest I didn’t think he would last that long he was just another step up towards me getting into title class. Once we got past round three I put it on him and he couldn’t handle the pressure.”
Now fighting with the juggernaut that is Matchroom Sport behind him, the four time national champion and Team GB rep gets his first shot at a professional title when he contests the soon to be vacant Midland Area middleweight strap on the undercard of Kell Brook-Carson Jones in July, and Ryan says he loves being part of the ever growing stable under boss Eddie Hearn.
“Matchroom is the best outfit to be with in Britain at the moment. It’s thriving with champions and prospects and I couldn’t ask for better promotion. Eddie really loves his boxing and it shines through. He makes sure we are busy and he has set me up with some fantastic sparring with the likes of Froch, Frankie Gavin, Max Maxwell, and I went over to Poland to work with Proksa before he fought Kerry Hope.”
With Matchroom on promotional duties for both Aston and Ryder it is conceivable to think the pair could clash in the near future if a title of note was on the line, something the Dudley man would relish.
“I don’t fear any middleweight in Britain. If Eddie sets up a fight I’m happy to go along with it. Ryder is a good fighter and one of the Matchroom team but in boxing friendships sometimes have to be put to one side when its business.”
After turning pro in 2011 under the now defunct Hayemaker promotional outfit, Aston has already had the invaluable experience of fighting on the undercard of a world heavyweight title fight in only his second outing, and having to deal with a cut in his third, but he says sparring is the key to developing as a young fighter under the watchful eye of trainer Paul Gough.
“Sparring should be harder than the actual fights early in your career. If you have to deal with something in a fight hopefully you have already experienced it in training. Obviously you’re not going to get cut with the protective head gear on but I dealt with it and moved on. It’s all about adapting and making sure you are ready for the pro game.”
He added “I was surprised how much punishment some of these guys can take without head guards. The likes of Lee Noble have lost a lot of fights but if you’re not on it they will take it to you and try and win, as John Dignum (ABA champion) found out at the weekend. I had to really take it to Noble when we fought just to make sure I was on top.” (Aston took a points decision from the tough Noble in his Sixth fight)
The Dudley youngster has seen the progression of Billy Joe Saunders into championship class and hopes to be knocking on the door of more prestigious titles by the end of 2012.
“I’m only 21 so I’ve got bags of time on my hands; there is no need to rush. I would hope to fight for the English title after I have won this Area belt. I will take each fight as it comes, I don’t mind who the opponent is.”
Certainly from his amateur credentials and the invaluable experience he is picking up sparring some of the best men around, Ryan Aston is a name to keep a watchful eye on for the rest of 2012 and beyond.