23-year-old super-bantamweight talent Bradley Strand (3-0, 1KO), trained by Paul Stevenson at the thriving Everton Red Triangle Gym, spoke exclusively with BBN’s Editor Tim Rickson during lockdown from his Liverpool home.
On his professonal debut, Strand retired fellow debutant Lee Stevens with a badly swollen left eye in the second round of their four-rounder in March 2019; then he added two shutout points victories in September the same year and February this year to take his record to 3-0, which also led to signing promotional contracts with Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren.
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic as restricted life all over the country, Brad has had a lot of time on his hands, however the ABA Elites champion is staying positive despite “all the madness 2020 is throwing at us”, he said in his own words:
Have you been training still?
“I’ve still been running, but haven’t been able to do any punching because I haven’t got a bag up in my house. Still been thinking about boxing all the time, but just been in limbo. All I’ve been doing is walking the dog every day!”
How difficult is it to train without something to aim for?
“I’ve just been doing the same distance runs and sprints as well, just trying to beat my times. So I still set myself goals to aim for, got to have something.”
Do you count yourself lucky to have been one of few to have fought already this year?
“Yeah, at least we got a fight in before all this started, I know many haven’t, so got try to take positives out of it.”
Do you think boxing events will return differently after lockdown ends?
“I honestly couldn’t tell you. If they allowed sporting events, you wouldn’t get the ticket sales, small hall shows rely on the ticket sales, they’ll suffer the most. People are still weird about going to places, you can never be too careful at the moment. Frank Warren and other TV promoters will be safer because they have the TV backing behind them. But starting footy and boxing up again, I can’t see them having crowds at events for a while yet.”
You recently signed contracts with Frank Warren, along with teammates Nick Ball and Andrew Cain, will you be aiming to get on one of his shows this year and how would you feel about fighting behind closed doors?
“Yeah, as long as I’m fighting, I don’t care. Ask the majority of fighters and they’ll fight behind closed doors. I know they are planning shows behind closed doors, so I’d like to think they’ll allow that, and hope to get on one. With me only just signing with Frank [Warren], I’d probably be at back of the queue though.
We’ve never been in a situation like this ever before, so no one really knows how to handle it.”
If life returns to normal within the next month, what would your ideal plans be for the rest of this year?
“I’d hopefully like to be aiming to fight towards the end of the year. It’d be good to get one more in this year. I just have to carry on the way I’m going and hopefully get back into the boxing gym and better myself, that’s all you can do.”
Do you look at the boxers above in the rankings in your division to see how the landscape lies?
“I don’t really look at who’s at my weight, to be honest. Naoya Inoue, the Japanese world champion, I’ve watched a few times, but I don’t really look at anyone in my weight, my manager just sorts all that. I’m still young so I’ve got time on my side, but you probably wouldn’t think the same if you’re older.”
How has this extended layoff affected your motivation?
“It’s defo made me hungrier. I’m hungry to get back in there after all this sitting around and just having nothing to do. I’m normally always in the gym, and there’s always got something in your head to focus on, but having no dates ahead…
People are saying boxing might not return properly until next year, so it gets to your head. You’ve got to be mentally strong in boxing otherwise you won’t go anywhere.”
You are part of a tight team at the Everton Red Triangle Gym, have you all been keeping in touch?
“We’re all in a group chat together, so we all speak quite regularly. Paul [Stevenson] sent us few boxing videos to watch and study, and he’s always calling regularly.”
On the subject of the Everton Red Triangle Gym, it’s celebrating it’s centenary this year, it has seven unbeaten prospects, Olympian Peter McGrail training there – is it about to get the recognition it deserves?
“I think it’ll only take another few years before people realise how good the gym is, because we’re all still young, so that’s why people ain’t really looking at us yet, but in few years it will change.
When Peter [McGrail] turns professional, it’ll get more recognition, I believe, and his little brother Joe - he’s only 16 and he’s a killer as well!
Can you tell us a bit about the head coach, Paul Stevenson?
“He’s boss! Even just motivation-wise, all during lockdown he says ‘don’t forget you’re a boxer, don’t be sitting on the couch everyday’. It just takes time for Paul and the gym to get more recognition but it will one day.”
Everton Red Triangle Gym, in association with Black Flash Promotions, plan their entire year’s events ahead. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and subsequent ban on all boxing events under the jurisdiction of the BBBofC, May and July’s events were cancelled. The remaining planned dates are September 5 and November 14.
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