“I’m tired of it man, I just want it to go back to normal,” says Isaac Chamberlain, the 10-1 cruiserweight.
“It’s been hard and it’s messed everything up, but we have to keep moving and things have got to carry on.”
After almost a year and a half of being absent from the ring, ‘Chambo’, as he is affectionately known, was ready to leave a trail of destruction behind him, on his path to cruiserweight super-stardom. He was lined up to fight on March 28th in the first of a long-term multi-fight deal with veteran promoter Mick Hennessy, which includes the opportunity for mainstream exposure with all fights being free-to-air on Channel 5.
“I was feeling good for the 28th March and was in Miami knocking my sparring partners out and then this bullshit happens,” says the Brixton-based boxer, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.
It would be understandable if he was to express his disappointment by halting training and tearing through all the snacks in his kitchen cupboard but, despite this latest setback, Chamberlain, who is 25 years old, is mature and pragmatic, in his response to the unprecedented pandemic.
“It was disappointing but I also understand that this affects everyone, it’s beyond my control and I can’t be selfish.
“I’ve come from a training camp, so I’ve gone from being in lockdown in Miami, to being in lockdown at home.”
In February 2018 he topped the bill at the O2 Arena, in a clash promoted as ‘British Beef’, where he squared off against bitter rival Lawrence Okolie. The bout was a scrappy affair between the two prospects and following the loss, he split with his uncle-trainer, Ted Bami, who was found to have stolen £10,000 of Chamberlain’s earnings from the fight. Since then he has linked up with esteemed coaches Jorge Rubio and Angel Fernandez.
“That fight was probably a bit too soon for me, I was only 23 and fighting in front of 12,000 people but I learned a lot as a boxer and a person from that fight,” he declared. “I found out who was really there for me. I also learned that I needed to take control of what was going on (in my camp), rather than just trust what others were deciding for me.”
An introvert by nature, Chamberlain who was last seen in the ring soundly defeating Luke Watkins in October 2018, is self-reflective and determined to continue making improvements, which will allow him to achieve his ambitions, regardless of the restrictions imposed by the lockdown.
“I live boxing and love it 100%, it’s a habit for me [to train] and I have to keep the rhythm of routine. It’s the same as before, I train, chill at home and train again. Without it, things start to cloud my head.
“I bought an exercise bike, which I’ll use a couple of times a day and have also challenged myself to do 3500 sit ups a day.
“I go to a gym that my friend opens for me, shadow-box and work on a few things like being patient with my punches and I talk to my coach regularly to discuss my progress and how I can improve.”
Besides striving to make technical corrections to his game, Chamberlain is also using this time to study his favourite fighter, Joan Guzman. A former two-weight world champion whose slick skills, evasive movement and thudding power earned him the nickname ‘The Little Tyson,’ “I have been watching how he trains, his footwork, his rhythm, how he keeps his distance, sets traps, and catches and shoots,” he says with admiration of the Dominican fighter.
Chamberlain’s troubled past is well-documented. By the age of 11, when most children still have a semblance of innocence, Chamberlain had become exposed to the harsh realities of life in bleak and brutal circumstances. Raised in Brixton at a time when drugs and gang violence was rife, he found himself selling drugs at 11 years old and later had to cope with the tragic passing of his cousin who was a victim of knife-crime.
Soon after these indelible life-events, boxing presented itself as his salvation. A place where he could exert his energy in a positive way and to begin building a better life for himself and his family.
He’s now keen to help young people to turn away from a potential life of crime by collaborating with the charity, ‘Gloves Up, Knives Down’. They work closely with youths in London, giving them free boxing starter kits and increased access to boxing gyms, which they hope will be effective as preventative method to decrease knife crime. Chamberlain believes community-based initiatives are key to solving social problems.
“Thinking about where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through gives me motivation to become a world champion and I want to inspire kids who might be like me,” says the Londoner.
“I have kids message me on Instagram because they know I’ve been where they are. I tell them to get off the streets because there is nothing positive for them there. Life is much harder than boxing and I want them to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel if they can get themselves off the road and into a gym.”
The coronavirus pandemic is yet another obstacle for Chambo to overcome and serves as a test of his resolve, dedication and discipline.
However, Isaac Chamberlain is unquestionably a fighter at heart. Resilience, unwavering belief and ambition are the cornerstones that make up his uniquely strong character. In spite of every skirmish, tragedy and disappointment that he has been confronted with, he has managed to overcome them and return stronger, as he resolutely marches towards his dream of becoming a world champion.
“I know these hard times will pass, so until then I will keep my foot on the gas and keep working hard.
“I want to become WBC champion, like the legends Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather. They all went through times like what I’m going through but showed dedication, courage and hard work to become champions and that inspires me.”
Read more stories from 'The Boxing Fan Man' Anish Parekh HERE