Luton’s lightweight prospect, Michael Devine (11-1-1) will be entering into the illustrious Prizefighter Tournament televised live on Sky Sports on December 6th at London’s York Hall.
Previous Prizefighter winner, Gary Buckland (28-5-2) and former European super-featherweight champion, Stephen Foster Jnr. (33-5-1) lead the line-up for the Prizefighter Lightweights III, as well as a former Prizefighter finalist in Danny ‘Cassius’ Connor, making the 34th instalment of the successful series possibly the most talent-packed and competitive of the tournaments yet.
The 25-year-old, nicknamed ‘Chunky’, took some time out from his busy training schedule to talk about the boxing that runs in his blood, competing with his older brother, and the harsh learning curves endured so far in his five years in the pro ranks.
Tell us about how you first got into boxing? “Basically, my granddad and dad were both boxers. My granddad was the Irish army champ at multiple weights and then my dad boxed as an amateur. When I was 10 I went along to my local club, Farleigh ABC and met my trainer, Noel McIvor who boxed WBC world lightweight champion, Jim Watt. I did judo at a young age, I was always very talented and well ahead of everyone at that age, and my brother was four years older so I was always trying to compete with him. I liked the judo and everything else but I just needed that something else and boxing was the one. I was always the best at everything I done – football, rugby, ran for the county at cross country, I just excelled at all sports.”
How did you do in the amateurs? “I had 12 bouts as a junior, I was decent and had good lads at the club that I was in and I was ready to push on but I got into a bit of bother and missed sessions. I was always in and out of the gym from about the age of 10 – 15. I had a break and when I was 19, I got back in the gym and was going to go into the ABA’s but went pro instead. I was training with James Paisley at the time and Graham Earl was my manager.”
You won your debut fight with a third round stoppage win over Michael Harvey in front of your home support at Liquid Envy nightclub in Luton, what do you remember of that special night? “Basically it was one of the worst performances of my life! The nerves got the better of me, the crowd was massive, atmosphere was electric, but I made it a war. A couple of judges and doctors said to me after that it was the best four round fight they’d ever seen. I got put down by a punch in the third round and I was down but I got a count and then with the next punch I stopped him. I was shocked when I went down and looked straight up at my corner in disbelief because it never happened to me before. I was a little weight drained that fight but it was a good punch from Harvey, to be fair.”
I bet your trainer told you afterwards, ‘that is not how it’s meant to be done?!’ “Haha! Yeah, after the fight he knew exactly how good I was and we took the return fight in Belfast and I boxed perfectly. I stuck to my boxing and I had him over and I finished him in the second round. I boxed a week later in Watford and had him down twice in the second and my trainer said to me in the corner, “you can’t be knocking everyone out,” so I settled down and boxed more.”
Your fourth pro fight against Mark Alexander 11(2)-6(2)-0 gave you your first and only defeat in the pro’s – talk us through what happened that night? “I knew a lot about him, how he’d trained with Emmanuel Steward, and because I thought I could knock him out and just walk through all the lightweights, I lunged in and got clipped straight away. I was over-eager and was down in the first 20 seconds. I did take some big shots but I honestly still thought I could win that fight and whenever I got put down, I was back up again straight away. In the last knockdown I was coming on strong and I hurt him so I went in for the kill but he caught me again and, even though I was still fine then to continue, the ref stopped it. I tried to get the return fight but we couldn’t get it.”
How hard was it to come back from that defeat? “Honestly, I was so competitive and I literally cried my eyes out, and the occasion got to me that night. It was my 21st birthday that night and I shouldn’t have been in there with him so early on in just my fourth fight but I let the occasion get to me. I left Graham Earl as a manager after that so I had to go back and basics and get my license back from the board after a break from it.”
Since then your KO’s have not been evident as much? “That fight really settled me down and made me focus on boxing. I fought Sid Razak and he made me work and James (Paisley) knew I wouldn’t stop him to get the rounds in. Dochev was good as well, they have all been good learning fights; even Dan Naylor, he’s a tough, great fighter. Dan Carr gave me a few headbutts in our fight and, back in the day, I would have lunged at that but I’ve learnt a lot since then. If you get beaten then learn from it, there’s nothing wrong with losing if you learn from it. I’ve learnt how to box differently now, I’ve got the power to hurt them, I can box on the back-foot, I can be aggressive, can fight inside – I’ve learnt a lot.”
Next stop – Prizefighter! How did that come about? “We tried to get in a few times, actually. If you go on to win the show then it’ll be great for your career. I’ve set myself a goal and if I don’t reach that final, I’ll be very upset. I honestly think that me and Danny (Connor) are gonna be matched at the first round, but I honestly don’t mind who I get. You need to win that first round but you can’t be erratic, you’ve got to be controlled and box clever.”
You’ve got two former Prizefighter winners in the tournament with previous Prizefighter winner, Gary Buckland and former European super-featherweight champion, Stephen Foster Jnr. and your last opponent, Danny Connor is a former finalist of the competition – is it the toughest line-up yet? “There’s a few good lads in there, obviously Gary Buckland and Stephen Foster but there’s some hungry young fighters in there and myself too. Dan Connor, obviously he’s a warrior, and Floyd Moore too, he’s a tough lad. Everyone’s different but for the young fighter that wants to get to the top, not taking anything away from Buckland or Foster, but they’ve been there and done it.”
How is your style going to win the tournament and who are you looking forward to meeting in there the most? “There’s loads of styles and ways to win but I’m going to be pushing the pace, this suits me down to a tee, I can have a war and control the pace. I think that I can beat anyone, but the most entertaining would be me and Gary Buckland – it’ll be centre of the ring, non-stop action.”
How you feeling right now? “I’ve had a few niggles this time round but I’m ok and feeling the fittest and strongest I’ve ever felt!”
Thanks Michael, any message for the fans? “Just want to say thanks for coming, there’s over 200 going up, I know it’s close to Christmas so thanks for spending your hard-earned money on me.”
To follow Michael ‘Chunky’ Devine on Twitter click here @chunkydevine Michael would like to thank his sponsors, Hills Physical Development, DMC Groundworks, M and S Water Services, The Fresh Prints Ltd., Boxfit UK, Sharpak, Adam ‘the Skin Carver’ Carrick, Impact Personal Training and PR Manager, Tim Rickson