There was a real life ‘Rocky’ feel about Shane McPhilbin’s thrilling last round ‘come from behind’ British title win over Leon Williams last January.
And in an interview last week, the grounded Bulwell cruiserweight told boxing writer Glynn Evans how he intends to prolong his Hollywood tale when he faces off against hammer-fisted former WBO World Champion Enzo Maccarinelli on Friday.
Tell us about your hometown of Bulwell.
It’s a rundown estate with a bad reputation that isn’t justified. There are a lot of very nice people and I love it.
You’re from a boxing family. Was the sport a major part of your life growing up?
It was massive. I knew no other sport. Me late dad had over 300 amateur fights plus a dozen as a pro middleweight and me three older brothers all boxed. They were my heroes. My hunger to fight came from watching them. I loved it.
What do you recall of your amateur career.
Starting at 10, I had 46 amateur bouts and I won 30. Me Dad coached me and, when he retired when I was 15, I gave it up for three years to fight beer and girls!
When me daughter was born, when I was 18, I came back, more to help young ‘uns than to box meself. When I was 18 I passed an ABA coaching course and that helped me adapt to the different techniques needed for the computer scoring. I still loved a scrap but the coaching taught me the importance of pick your punches and throwing straight shots.
The club coach when I came back, Paul Singleton, was like a father figure to me. I frustrated the hell out of him but he adapted to my lifestyle and helped me to see boxing in a different light. Cos I was devoted to the young ‘uns, I seldom trained meself and usually took fights on the day, no notice, all over the country. I was like an amateur journeyman, an 18stone super-heavyweight.
I was an ABA Novice finalist and won two Midland Counties titles. I beat (2009 English heavyweight champion)Chris Keane but not many of my opponents went on to become pros. It’s surprising I did as well as I did really.
It dawned I needed to either coach or fight so, for a final season, I joined my cousin Dale at the Bilborough club and I got to the ABA semi finals where I was stopped in round four by Tyson Fury, easily the biggest name I fought. Altogether, Tyson beat me three times, the other two went to points. After that, I realised I still had the time and ability to make a go of it as a pro.
After debuting back in May 2009, you lost two of your first five gigs. At that stage were you just boxing for the money?
Not really. I’m a pretty grounded person but I had ambitions of fighting for a Midland Area title. I still thought I won my second fight against Andy Ingram but I’m not going to scream about it cos me and Andy are good mates. Then, losing to Michael Sprott on points over three rounds (in a Prizefighter semi) weren’t a heart breaking loss. He was one of the best in Europe at the time. I took a lot of confidence from that. After signing with Carl Greaves, I’ve just gone up and up and up. I’ve won my last five straight.
You started your career as a heavyweight. What fashioned your decision to drop down to cruiser?
It’s my natural weight. I could possibly even get down to light heavy with a push. I’d rather fight up at heavy but the average heavies are around 161/2 to 19 stone and were just too big, had too many advantages. If I weigh in around 16 stone you can see the fat hanging off me. Carl convinced me that if I was to be a winner, it had to be at cruiserweight where my natural strength would pay off.
You received just three weeks notice for your British title challenge to Leon Williams. What kind of shape were you in?
It was just before Christmas and I was actually in the pub when I took the call. I put down the drink and got in the gym the next day. I had to accept because you never know when the next title call will come, if ever.
We trained really hard for a fortnight then had a week ‘wind down’. Win or lose, we didn’t expect the fight to go beyond six rounds.
You’re quite a character. Where did the ‘Mr Block’ nickname originate?
Come on! I’ve got a massive square head ain’t I? Always had it and, at school, everyone called me ‘Blockhead’. Now, everyone knows me as ‘Block’. If I introduce myself I say my name’s ‘Block’, not Shane. I’ve even got it tattooed on me!
What was with the shades and pork pie hat ring entrance?
It all started as a bit of a joke when I fought Rhys Davies for the Midland Area title. I came into ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ just as a bit of fun, to relax me. It took a hell of a lot of effort for me to get myself down from over 19 stone so I thought that was a fitting occasion to do it and it’s all built from there. I’ve always really wanted the ‘Blobby’ song!
How badly hurt were you when Williams decked you late in round one?
I must have been pretty stunned because I honestly didn’t remember getting dropped! I vaguely remember the ref counting in my face and walking to the corner but I don’t remember being hurt as such. I was only stopped twice as an amateur and that’s the only time I’ve been over as a pro. I came back to win rounds two, three and possibly four so I can’t have been hurt that bad.
Nevertheless, you were well behind by the close. Given the short notice, was there ever a stage when you felt like turning it in?
Not especially. Like I say, I didn’t expect it to go beyond round six so, when it got to round ten I was really proud of myself and all of a sudden a second, third, fourth, and fifth wind kicked in at the same time! At the end of round ten Carl said : ‘Just two more. Let’s have a go’.
I knew I’d hurt Leon towards the end of round 11. Going out for round 12, I felt as fresh as the first round. Perhaps it was adrenalin, I don’t know. But I knew it might be the last time I was ever in this position so I just went for it and ‘Bingo’! When he went down I just saw red. I was screaming at Leon: ‘Go down!’ Once I wobble ‘em , I’ve always been a good finisher. When I land flush, nine out of 10 cruisers can’t handle it.
You’re a renowned party animal. How did the victory celebrations go?
Well I had to miss out on Christmas and the New Year to prepare and it was my birthday on January 11th (two days before the fight) so, add all that to winning the British title, and I had an awful lot of catching up to do. I don’t remember too much of it but was getting ‘flashbacks’ for a couple of weeks after!
How did your daughter react to your British title win?
Demi’s nine now and she absolutely loves it. She’s so proud of her dad and his belt. No one’s allowed to see it without her permission. She’s been to some of my fights but watched the Williams match on TV. She’s my biggest fan.
Both the Tricolour and St George’s flag were represented on your shorts. Keeping your options open?!
Yeh. Both me grandad’s are Irish and I’m so proud of that heritage. There was talk of a scrap with Declan Timblin (whom Shane stopped in two rounds in their Prizefighter quarter-final) for the Irish heavyweight title and I’d love that belt. Hopefully, we can get it on one day. It would mean a lot to my whole family.
Has winning the British title changed your philosophy to the sport, altered your life style, enhanced your self-belief?
Definitely. I’m thinking more seriously now. It’s made me realise I could actually do something. When I turned pro, I never considered challenging for a British title. My goal was to fight for a Midland title, not win one, fight for one! Having the Lonsdale Belt around my waist means so much. Mate, it’s changed me life.
What do you perceive are your key attributes as a fighter?
Heart and determination. I’ll fight anyone and I’m scared of no one. I’m more than just a brawler. In the gym I can be a far better boxer than I’ve shown but it just ends up that I always get into a tear up. My power is my main asset. That’s what’s working for me at the moment.
Your manager Carl Greaves has long been one of the hardest grafters in the game and he’s finally getting some success which is nice. What makes him tick?
His attitude to boxing. He takes it so seriously and always puts his best into every lad. Though he’s still a relatively young manager and promoter he’s got ambitions; really wants to win titles and become ‘The Man’.
He’s also a real mate. He’s done wonders for me. He knows exactly how to get inside my head both in the gym and when he’s working my corner. He makes it fun.
You open your defence of the title as a 9-1 underdog in a voluntary (!) defence against Swansea’s Enzo Maccarinelli. You could easily have swerved the challenge. Why didn’t you?
To be the best I can be, I’ve got to box the best opponents available. Along with Muhammad Ali, Enzo Maccarinelli is one of my all time heroes. To fight with him for the British title is a massive honour for me. I’ve so much respect for the way Enzo goes about his business. He’s a very respectable guy. Since the fight was proposed, he’s not slated me once. In fact, he’s praised my performance against Williams.
The chance to actually beat him would be absolutely amazing. He’s still one of the best in the world.
You’ve fought at heavyweight, whereas Enzo has campaigned at light-heavy recently. You’re naturally bigger and effectively fighting on home turf at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. Could those factors be key?
Hope so. I do have to come down a bit to make weight so I should be physically stronger and no one’s really seen the punches I’m capable of throwing yet.
I’ve had a good six weeks to prepare and condition wise, I’ll be spot on. My power’s really coming on and I’ve had plenty of time to practise everything I need to practice.
Wolverhampton isn’t Nottingham but all the Midlands stick together and I’m hoping we’ll have a good crowd. I can’t see why it weren’t Nottingham but I’ve only fought there once as a pro. I’m used to travelling. You’ll certainly hear all the Bulwellians!
I’m expecting Enzo to try and box me. He’s in the Last Chance Saloon and if he doesn’t make it he’ll probably retire so he’s got a point to prove. He’ll want to blow me out early so he can force the fight with (Nathan) Cleverly.
Eventually I see us mid ring having all out ‘war’. Hopefully, it’ll be my bombs that succeed!