Chez Nihell, 31 from Aldershot, is one of the most exciting subjects for a Debut Corner interview that BBN have ever had!
The decorated amateur champion has won it all and is now ready to replicate the illustriousness in the paid ranks, eyeing his debut in early 2019.
What made you want to start boxing?
“So my dad was an amateur boxer, he was also a jockey and they had their own Box Championships for their own region called ‘Stable Lads’ and he boxed [WBU World lightweight champion] Colin Dunne as an amateur. He was a busy amateur as a kid and done a bit as a jockey, he was still training and keeping fit and he got me and my younger brother into the local boxing club at Newport Phoenix ABC on the Isle of Wight.”
Who was your boxing hero growing up and why?
“Lennox Lewis because, at the time, he was top contender at heavyweight.”
How old were you when you had your first fight and how did you do?
“I had first bout when I was 12 and won on points – a majority decision. It was quite a close fight, it was at Portchester Community Centre near Portsmouth.”
How well did you do in the amateurs?
“I won everything! The English ABA title at super-heavyweight; I won the English belt and defended it three times and unified two English belts; I won the Armed forces regional championships six years in a row; the Haringey Box Cup from 2015-2018, the first year was at heavyweight at 91kg, the last two years was at super-heavy – over 91kg.
I was tiny as a super-heavyweight but it made me a better boxer, I has 23 bouts over 91kg and only lost three – all split decisions for national titles. First was the ABA final, title series belt defending champ beat me on a split, I rematched him three months later and beat him, and the ABA quarter-finals I lost on split. My last 19 bouts, I only lost one, and won my last 12 bouts in amateur at Elite level.
In November this year I have been nominated as Army Sportsman of the Year 2018, which is a pretty big occasion at Sandhurst. Gabby Logan presents it and it has all the top-ranking officers in the British Army there with loads of celebs and high-profile guests like Olympians and sports personalities. So, I’m top three out of whole British army; there’s a shooter that won Bronze in the Commonwealth Games 2018 and a Scottish cyclist champion, as well as me in the runnings. I’m the first male in the last five years from the army to win the ABA’s so it’s quite a big deal. I’m just glad to be nominated. I won Infantry Sportsman of the Year, voted out of 20,000 soldiers, and was also Isle of Wight Sportsman of the Year 2017.”
What made you decide to turn pro?
“Domestically, I won everything, so the next step up in levels was to turn pro.
I boxed for England as an amateur, but the main goal for me was winning an ABA title, that was the holy grail that my dad always used to talk about and what I dreamed of as a kid. I had to go through two semis and two finals to win.
I had trials for Team GB and in the last six years, I’ve been full-time on the army boxing team. I’ll be dropping back down to cruiserweight in the pros.”
What team do you have around you?
“I’m back working with the army boxing team now as an assistant coach, my general day to day work in the army is boxing, which is great so still train and spar with the lads. My wife, Alanna, is part of the team because she just got her pro coaching licence, she’s the first ever female to captain the army boxing team. She’s a three-time ABA champion, Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, she lost to the overall winner Shelley Watts in 2014, and she had over 120 bouts and boxed for Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland over 50 times.
My head coach is Johnny Edwards from Guildford City Gym and Kazy Kindon, Lenny Fletcher and Terry Lamport are all coaches. Johnny Edwards is my manager and Ron Boddy will be helping guide my career.”
Are you full-time as a pro?
“So it’s on and off as I’m a soldier as well but the army allows me to fulfill work commitments and have a professional career at the same time, so I get to train three times a day.”
What sort of fighting style do you have?
“Tricky switch-hitter, good footwork and can adapt my style to anything. I now prefer to be a bit of a counter-puncher and like to switch.”
What ambitions do you have for your pro career?
“First ambition is to get my debut done, then Southern Area, then English and British. I want to replicate what I achieved as an amateur, winning all the domestic titles, then go from there.”
When is your first fight and who will be there in support?
“I just got my license and will be doing my medicals in December. I’m ready to fight in late January next year or early February.”