On January 28, former Commonwealth lightweight champion Tommy ‘Boom Boom’ Coyle disclosed in an emotional interview his decision to retire from professional boxing.
He broke down as he explained his reasons for walking away from the sport that he considered his ‘best mate for the last 25 years’.
The life-changing decision to hang up the gloves is never one that can be taken lightly, as it’s the conclusion of a profession, a career that would have taken many years to develop and progress, in a demanding, dangerous sport that you have to sacrifice everything for.
British Boxing News spoke exclusively to former amateur and professional champion Chris Evangelou, who also had to go through the difficult process recently – late last year – and reluctantly admit his boxing career was at its end.
The Southern Area title contender very starkly laid bare the extraordinary range of feelings that he experienced when making one of the toughest choices of his life.
The 30-year-old from Enfield revealed, “It’s like handing in your badge, and I know it sounds extreme, but it’s a bit like being Superman and giving up your powers.
“When you retire from boxing, there’s a lot that gets taken away with that. When people know you’re a boxer, they automatically appreciate that you are headstrong, determined, hardworking; they know you’re tough, strong, dedicated, so you’re removing yourself from an elite category. It’s not an easy decision.”
Tommy Coyle was commended by many for stepping away at a sensible time without sustaining and unnecessary damage, like so many others in boxing that have gone on to have one fight too many.
Evangelou, known during his career as ‘The Flash’, gave an insight into why this occurs so frequently, “You could be bedbound for a year and you’ll tell yourself that you’re not retiring, that I’ll be back one day. You don’t want it to end.
“I’ve been doing it since my late teens and every decision I made was always about what’s best for my boxing career – when to go on holiday around fights, when you can go out, what to eat – every single thing you do is all about that boxing career.
“Boxing is not a normal job, it’s a way of life, so when you retire, you’re changing everything you know.
“You can feel lost when it’s gone because you need something to sail towards, if it’s not a fight date then it’s got be something else.
“I think I felt the most emotional when I was writing my retirement speech on the morning of my film premiere.”
Now a successful actor, Chris Evangelou starred in a feature film called ‘Shadow Boxer’ and decided his moment in the spotlight would be the ideal time to formerly announce his retirement.
“It was a passing of the torch from boxing to acting, so I chose that day to do it, but I had actually made the decision two weeks earlier and it was when I was writing it that the emotion hit me. I thought if I’m going out, then I’m going out my way.
“I read it to my girlfriend and as soon as I mentioned the support of my family and friends through the years, just before I said I’m retiring, that’s when it hit me hard.”
Tommy Coyle very frankly admitted that he had exceeded his potential in the sport, humbly acknowledging that he wasn’t a world champion boxer, and, as such, was completely content and happy with what he had accomplished in the sport.
For many others, like Nigel Benn to name a recent example, it’s not always that simple and conclusive and there can be a lot that gets left behind in that ring and leaving the sport with regrets can have hazardous consequences.
“You have to say to yourself that everything happens for a reason,” Evangelou advised.
“I personally feel I didn’t achieve what I should have achieved. I was a hot prospect signed to Matchroom Boxing, I was sparring at the Mayweather and Wild Card gym around people like Freddie Roach, I was wanted by American promoters, and in the amateurs I was beating everyone in front of me.”
Evangelou won 35 from 40 fights in the amateurs and collected six International gold medals, with one silver medal, and was crowned ABA champion in 2006.
As a professional, he went unbeaten until his 10th contest when he was shocked by unheralded challenger Danny Connor in a Southern Area super-lightweight title fight, which he controversially lost on points.
“I had to tell myself that, for whatever reason, it wasn’t meant to be, but it doesn’t mean I’ve failed. Stepping in the ring is giving your life for something you love; you went for it and there’s no shame in not reaching the goal.
“When we got in that ring, we went for it and we stepped out safely so it’s not failure, it’s achievement.
“Even though I didn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve, yes there were injuries and setbacks, but I have to say that it’s ok and learn from that career and put it all into your next move.”
The next move for the boxer-turned-actor has included playing lead roles in feature films, culminating in a part alongside Colin Farrell in director Guy Ritchie’s new movie, ‘The Gentleman’, which stars Hugh Grant and Matthew McConaughey.
Evangelou shared some wise words for other athletes to regard, “Give yourself a goal, something to motivate you to almost take the place of boxing, but mostly to give some form of direction, whether it’s a new career, a body fitness goal… us boxers are very competitive and very goal driven, so if there nothing to aim for then you can very quickly spiral, and unfortunately I did spiral myself.
“When I wasn’t training, it felt like a broken pearl necklace where all the pearls fall off and separate in different directions. You can feel lost and out of control. What I would say is to have something to drive your day forward or your overactive brain as a boxer will still be going out of control.”
Despite winning his last four fights and positioning himself in good stead for domestic honours in 2016, Chris was medically advised that a hand injury suffered during his clash with Croatian Zoran Cvek in 2014 at the York Hall would require immediate and extended attention.
The unwelcomed news forced the talented fighter to close the door on his boxing career but allowed him to open the door on another – his first love, acting.
He philosophically added, “Taking that time out of my boxing career was very difficult for me and I was very down, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been happier and I love what I’m doing with my life right now. It’s something I have always wanted to be a part of since I was a kid.”
Despite the uncertainty and sadness of having to leave an occupation, one which Evangelou referred to earlier as a lifestyle rather than a job, there is hope outside of those ropes.