South Oxhey featherweight, Reece Bellotti, is 12-0 (11) and the Commonwealth champion. He went from playing youth football with nearby Watford native and heavyweight supremo, Anthony Joshua, to winning a pair of ABA titles and turning pro under trainer Jim McDonnell and promoter Matchroom. Here is how he got into boxing:
“My first fight was at 17, I had no junior fights or anything, I went to the South Oxhey club as a junior but I was just keeping fit. I was there about two years, all the time and one day they said, ‘Do you wanna fight?’ I said ‘Okay’, but I wasn’t really that interested. Now I pay little attention to football but then I was into football and just had a laugh at boxing. I weren’t thinking I was going to make something of myself or that I could become a professional. My first ABAs [in 2011] I got beat by Adam Whitfield in the semi-final, and I thought, to get that far, obviously I’m not that bad; it was the first time I had a bit of self-belief. I wanted to beat Whitfield the following year, I lost a close fight but the following year I won it; I didn’t meet him again though. That was at 54kg, I weren’t gonna go in at the same weight as I didn’t enjoy making weight but my amateur trainer said, ‘I know you’ll win if you do’, and I did. After that I said, ‘I’m not staying at 54, I’m going up a weight.’ I went up and that was probably my favourite year as an amateur because it was easy making weight and I was enjoying the fights. I went on a three or four-fight run of stopping people. My amateur record was 30-10, we were out to keep as busy as we could, I went two seasons unbeaten.
“The first time I won the ABAs I said ‘I’m definitely going for a second year as I knew I’d have more fun. In 2014, I got beat at 56kg, and I think at the time Joe Calzaghe was the only person to win at three weights. I thought I’d make 56 but killed myself and got beat by Lucien Reid in the semis. The GB system, for whatever reason I weren’t liked, they didn’t like my style or whatever, so I was like, ‘What am I gonna do now?’ My amateur trainer, Mick Courtney, said, ‘Why not have a go at turning pro?’ and I took his advice as I always did; he’s like a dad for me, he still takes me on the pads now and again, I visit him three days a week. He looked into turning pro with me, but I found out if you became pro back then you couldn’t train amateur anymore. I knew how much he loved it and I didn’t wanna take it away from him, putting all his eggs in one basket with me. One of the other trainers at my amateur club, John Sheppard, is related to Jim McDonnell and recommended him."
“As for football with AJ, I woulda been 13-14. I dabbled, but I wasn’t too serious. At the time I thought I was good, I used to play the year above myself, so everyone was older, but looking back, in the grand scheme of things, I was pretty horrible [laughs]. It weren’t like I was gonna be a professional footballer. Everyone hit puberty a year before I would have, they started shooting up into big men. I kept getting put on the bench, and I eventually faded out; I thought, ‘I’m not going every Sunday to sit on the bench.’ I recently played a little charity do, a little messabout, and it made me realise how terrible I am at football. I can run about all day long coz I’m fit from boxing.
“My dad works in the film industry, as an electrician. I’m fully qualified as well so I slot into that between training camps. My mum manages a pre-school. Mum has to been all my pro fights but only about five amateurs; she hates the whole thought of it. The first two or three I’d lose so she thought she was a bad omen. She’d say, ‘If you get to the finals I’ll come and watch you.’ I’d say, ‘I’ve been fighting for weeks on end, when I get to the final I’m tired and you should ask how I feel about my chances and I’ll be honest, then base your decision of whether you wanna come or not on my answer.’ Even now she says, ‘Shall I come to this one, Reece?’ And I’m like, ‘Trust me, I’ll smash it.’”