Hosea Burton is many people’s clear favourite to clinch #GoldenContract light-heavyweight glory.
The towering Lancastrian (25-1, 11 KOs) felled and outpointed Bob Ajisafe in the quarter-finals back in December to secure safe passage to the semi-finals at York Hall on March 20
We’ve seen glimpses of a sharp wit and playful character from ‘The Hammer’, so #MTKInsideAccess caught up with him to get the lowdown ahead of a potentially career-defining period in his career…
#MTKInsideAccess: Your official name is Hosea but most people close to you call you Otheay. Why is that?
Burton: "My Grandfather was called Hosea but was known as Otheay Burton. My Grandad and his younger brother, Uriah Burton – aka ‘Big Just’ – put us on the map in the first place. My Grandad was Uriah’s older brother and he was the first fighting man in our family. The two of them went around the country taking on all-comers.
"They were by no means bullies. They’d simply go somewhere and ask if anybody liked to fight; saying they were the best men in the country. They’d either get taken up on the offer or they’d have a good old sing-song and a dance! My Grandad was a brilliant tap-dancer as well as being a fighting man so it’s worn off on the likes of me and my cousin, Tyson Fury. We’re big men who are light on our fight. I think Tyson gets his light footwork from the Burton side of the family."
So basically, fighting was in your blood and there was never any doubt about what you were going to become in life?
"As most young lads grow up, one of their first presents would be a football. One of my first presents was a little pair of boxing gloves. They were from the Post Office and they were rock hard. They’d knock your head off!
"We’d heard so many stories about our Grandad – not just from our own family but from other people. Burtons are fighting men. We were brought up with that and it was always sort of written out for us. Nothing was ever forced on us though, and a lot of my family have no interest in boxing or fight, really. We can all just handle ourselves because it was instilled into us. As far back as I can remember, we were fighting. Dad would show us off by getting us to punch his hand when I was about four years old. Elbows in, chin down. The basics."
What other valuable lessons were you taught as a youngster?
"I went to primary school. My Dad told us that all we’d learn in secondary school were bad habits. He used to say there were two things we could never do; smoking and lying. If he caught us doing either, we’d get a good hiding. He said we’d learn dishonesty at secondary school and all you really needed was to be able to read, add and subtract. We knew that if we didn’t box, we’d work building or roofing. We were jacks of all trades – I went to work with him and learned the trades on the job.
"In our culture, your word is your bond. If it means nothing, you’re not worth very much. I’ve got four children of my own now and they aren’t allowed to tell lies. If they’ve done something wrong and admit it, I won’t go mad at them. My little boy is seven and a southpaw. He’s going to be good. He’s got talent and can move. You only have to tell him something once and he picks it up. I’ll give them the same choice my Dad gave me. If I wasn’t boxing, I’d be an every day man dedicated to work.
"I don’t know a lot of these fancy words. I’m not very intelligent when it comes to that but when it comes to working something out and how to get a job done, I can do that. There are a lot of graduates who can’t dig a hole, fix a roof or change a wheel. They’ve never had to do it. Intelligence comes in many different forms."
You mentioned your cousin Tyson earlier. Were you two competitive with each other growing up?
"Tyson and I grew up on the same campsite for most of our early lives. Tyson’s mother is my aunt and he was there every single day. It was me, Tyson and our other cousin Justin. Justin wasn’t really interested in boxing but still, we were the three amigos; wherever one went, the other two went as well. There was competition like running races but there was never any rivalry between me and Tyson. To be honest, Justin was probably the best out of the three of us but he was someone who dedicated himself to work.
"We were always taught the art of fighting is to hit and not get hit. My Dad said that any bully can stand in front of you and take punches. Not everyone can get out of the way. Years ago, in bareknuckle fights, you could only take a few shots before you lost. You were either knocked out or busted up so the art of winning a fight is being clever. I think that’s a Traveller thing – anyone who is involved in bareknuckle fighting knows it doesn’t take much."
You and your trainer, Joe Gallagher, seem to be a very close unit. Tell us about how the relationship was built.
"I used to train at a gym called Fail West. Ricky Hatton was one of the good fighters they produced. He took us down one day to Manchester to sparring with Bob Shannon. Joe Gallagher was training the amateurs and my Dad spoke to Joe. My Dad is good at reading somebody and he weighed Joe up within 15 minutes. From that day, we moved to Shannon’s gym. We liked the way it was set up. I was 11 years old so I’ve been with Joe for 20 years now.
"Not many men can shout at me properly and Joe has shouted at me. He’s brought me to tears many times. I have more than a lot of respect for him. I can go to him and ask him anything. He can ask me too. We’ve been around each other for so long. He has a massive influence on my boxing. He knows which way my Dad wanted his sons to box. My brother Chase could really punch and Zach was a great all-rounder. What I know, Joe knows.
"He’s been there through the tough times. There was the period where I lost to Frank Buglioni. There was a part in my life I became a bit ignorant to things. I’ve got more skills than 95% of the people I’ve come across and when I was fighting as a youngster, I was naturally better than everyone. I didn’t think I had to train like Anthony Crolla, Scott Quigg or The Smith brothers. I felt I was naturally better than them because I was being so stupid. I refused to do six or eight-mile runs. I’d only do four miles and I’d insist gypsy legs were made to stand and fight – not run! I actually believed that and I had a knee injury too. When I lost to Frank, I was only fit for six rounds and I was goosed after that. I’ve never been so tired in my life. It was my most painful experience but a major blessing in disguise. Afterwards, me and my Dad shared an ambulance to the hospital with Frank and his Dad. They’re lovely people and true sportsmen. They told me I’d gain a lot and be 30% better after that fight. They’re right. These days, I have a strength and nutritionist and a conditioning coach. Most importantly, I know how losing feels. I probably need to thank Frank one day!"
Thanks for your time, Otheay lad!