Trainer Paul Stevenson reflects on July 31 fight night for three of his prospects - Nick Ball, Andrew Cain, Brad Strand

Trainer Paul Stevenson reflects on July 31 fight night for three of his prospects - Nick Ball, Andrew Cain, Brad Strand

Published On Monday, August 3, 2020By Tim Rickson

Nick Ball, Andrew Cain and Brad Strand all won their fights live on BT Sport on Friday 31

Everton Red Triangle gym’s head coach, Paul Stevenson, guided three of his professional boxing prospects towards another win to add to their perfect records on July 31 at the BT Sport studios in Stratford.

The trio were not only making their BT Sport debut, but also having their first ever fight under the Queensberry Promotions banner after signing contracts with Frank Warren in February. Their debut appearance was on the undercard of Lyndon Arthur's (17-0, 12KOs) successful Commonwealth light-heavyweight title defence to Dec Spelman (16-4, 8KOs).

Andrew Cain (6-0, 6KOs) kicked off the Queensberry Promotions show in style by scoring his sixth stoppage from six fights, while teammates Nick Ball (13-0, 6KOs) and Brad Strand (4-0, 1KO) prevailed on points.

Just days after the event, top trainer Paul Stevenson reflected on the memorable occasion, “The last couple of months, we’ve been back in full training and they’ve gone out there very determined to shine.

“They were good, it’s what they’ve always wanted. They’ve been learning the trade on small hall shows, making the mistakes and learning, and when it came to performing on the big stage I thought they were very good, all of them.”

The ERT gym in Liverpool work in association with Black Flash Promotions to stage shows in the local area, the last one was held at the Grand Central Hall in Liverpool on February 28.

All seven of Stevenson’s prospects fought on the show, shortly before lockdown began a month later in March. Despite the unwelcome break, the young septet of talent all continued to train separately at home and remained upbeat at managing to get in one fight this year already.

Stevenson said, “99 per cent of boxers are wondering when they’re going to box again, so getting that little call from Frank Warren’s office and getting them moving like that was brilliant.”

He talked through the events on the last day of July in chronological order, starting with the ferocious Andrew Cain – a five-time national amateur champion – who obliterated Ed Harrison in three rounds to continue his devastating streak of knocking out every single one of his opponents to date, none of them ever making past the third round with him. Knocked from pillar to post, Harrison’s corner wisely retired him at the end of the third round.

Stevenson recalled, “Andrew had a Spanish opponent originally, but a week before, Spain went into lockdown; luckily the matchmaker got someone else.

“We had to be in the hotel from Tuesday to Friday so was like being on lockdown really. Normally, Andrew boxes at bantam or super-bantam, but had to do super-featherweight instead because of the opponent.

“Andrew’s got a ton of talent, he can do a lot of different things, box a lot of different ways, and I think he just had a look at this opponent and thought ‘I just want to take him out’. After three rounds, the kid had enough and that was it. Very good from Andrew.”

Cain counts Mike Tyson as his boxing inspiration and you can see why. He has such a spiteful style, power in both hands, and a very awkward stance when he dips down low to close the gap and launches unremitting attacks on his foes.

“He is pretty relentless,” Paul continued. “He gets in your space and forces you into doing something, he doesn’t have to wait for you to help him by making openings, he’ll make them for you, and then he’ll attack. He’s a lovely lad outside of the ring but he’s very vicious inside of it, and he believes in what he’s doing, he knows it’s up to him to be getting rid of people. It’s that spite people want to see.”

After that explosive start, it fell to ABA Elites 2018 champion Brad Strand to perform in bout number two on the five-fight card in London. He won on points, 40-36, against seasoned journeyman, Brett ‘The Threat’ Fidoe (13-63-5).

Paul praised the man in the other corner to begin with, “When they offered me the fight – Brett Fidoe at two weeks notice – you’re careful, especially with a 3-0 prospect, because Brett is a good fighter and he’s turned over a lot of other good fighters as well. That’s the third time one of ours has boxed him and each time he’s been a proper handful. So, it was the perfect match for Brad, and he’s learnt from that fight already.

“I thought he boxed well, boxed smooth, thought he did enough to win every round. Been out for six months, his first televised fight, so I was really happy with Brad.”

After two from two, it was all down to Nick Ball in the penultimate fight to complete the hat-trick. Ball was up against a fellow unbeaten fighter in Londoner Jerome Campbell (6-1, 1KO). Despite six of his last fights finishing early, Ball was taken the eight-round distance for the first time in his career, winning 79-72 points. ‘Stay Ready’ Campbell was given a standing count in the seventh round and somehow made it to the final bell, against the odds.

“Nick Ball, there’s no malice in him, he just loves to fight,” said Paul. “He’s one of the most energetic persons I’ve ever met. He’s naturally a featherweight, but that fight was made at super-featherweight.

“He’s clever, he’s got his own way, and what you perceive as disadvantages in height actually works for him, it’s an advantage for him. Nick’s Nick and he’s never struggled with it. He’s strong and doesn’t stop.

“It was great performance from Nick, to take on an unbeaten kid like that, most people would knock it back, but in this day and age you can’t afford to, you’ve got to go for it and he did, and I thought he was dead exciting and won the fight very clear.

“I was made up with him, I thought he done brilliant, he coped with the pressure well. His natural weight is feather, he’s an absolute beast at featherweight.

“He’s old school, if you told him it’s a 15 round fight he’d just do the 15 rounds, that’s just how he is and probably at that pace. The commentary team were a bit surprised because I remember them saying ‘There’s no way he’s keeping this pace up!’ and I’m just laughing because I know he can keep that pace up.

“He doesn’t struggle with size, I have him sparring feather and super-bantams in the  gym, he’s very strong with them and I’ll put him in with the welter and middleweights and he’s giving it to them as well. Great prospect!”

The talented trio announced their selves on the big stage excellently and can be proud of their performances, which would have gained many new fans and interest in their careers.

“The feedback was dead positive,” Paul confirmed. “Francis Warren was made up with the lads, the way they performed, and the way they conducted themselves all week, and said there’s plenty more work for you lads so we’ll have more talks and I hope to give them another date real soon. Because they’re in the gym and the momentum is there now.”

Mentioned earlier, Stevenson has four other unbeaten professionals in the century-old Everton Red Triangle gym, all working hard to win fights and land a similar deal with Frank Warren.

Paul expanded on his group, “There’s the three who boxed at the weekend, then I’ve got four other pros in the gym – Harry Woods, who’s 3-0; Jonathan Walsh, who’s 4-0; Jack McKinlay, he’s big banger, he’s 2-0; Connor Butler, who’s very exciting, he boxed Brett Fidoe on our last show; and I’ve got Peter McGrail who’s going to the next Olympics; also his brother Joe McGrail, who’s a European silver medalist and national champion and outstanding boxer.

“All those pros will all be knocking on the door for titles in the next 12-18 months, and at that time Peter, and possibly Joe, will have turned over as well. We’ll have a squad of over eight real-deal, top fighters and it’ll be a great time for the gym.”

To most fight fans, the names of Nick Ball, Andrew Cain and Brad Strand are likely to be unheard of, even more so for the other four prospects who are unsigned, but the talented team have been working away in the background, Paul explained, “We’ve been doing it quietly, getting on and putting things in place; been a lot of work getting it moving, but now it’s going I’d like to see it flow now.”

Paul Stevenson has been a coach at ERT for over 20 years now, previously guiding Kevin Satchell (16-0, 3KOs) to British, Commonwealth and European flyweight titles during 2012-2014.

His track record for guiding boxers to amateur and professional titles is proven and extensive, and there’s much more success to come.

“It’s one of the things I sort of pride myself on, in a way, that all our boxers have got their own style and I’m able to get the best out of whatever style or person is in front of me. They’ve all got different characters and temperaments, and I do my best as a trainer to understand what’s working for them and why.”

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