The rain lashes off the window, posing an interference with its pitter-patter jabs. The wind continues to howl, leaving destruction in its path. Derailed trains; fallen trees; broken fences and road traffic accidents.
Although the world appears to be crumbling around me at the epicentre of ‘Storm Ali’, the words of Scunthorpe’s only boxing prospect, Dec Spelman (12-1, 7 KO’s), echoed, filling the room from the other end of the phone. Out of the corner of my eye, the sun started to make an appearance, altogether poignantly.
It’s been only 210 days since Spelman exited the ring after suffering his first defeat in the Doncaster Dome. With a loss on his record, ‘Kid Nytro’ had been faced with the task of rebuilding. It was a close contest, streamed on Boxing Social, with the victor becoming one of the sport’s saddest tales. Scott Westgarth (1986 – 2018), the loveable light-heavyweight from Hexham was taken ill after winning the fight, tragically passing away the following day.
“Everyday I think about it and I’ll probably think about it every day for the rest of my life – that’s just human to be like that.” Spelman opened up, “I’ve dedicated everything since [the fight] to Scott and I’ll carry on doing that. It’s helping me a bit, day-in and day-out, trying to shine a positive light on it. Everything I go on to achieve in boxing, he was capable of doing. That’s the way I am looking at it.”
Spelman was recently named as one of the eight fighters due to compete on UltimateBoxxer season two, the Prizefighter-type tournament with a prize fund that could change the course of his career. However, only a number of months ago, his continued involvement in the sport was heavily in doubt. The emotional weight of his contest with Westgarth and the subsequent passing of his opponent had jolted Spelman into considering his retirement.
“After the [Westgarth] fight happened, I met up with John, Scott’s Dad and Adam his brother maybe two weeks later. For about a week-and-a-half after the fight and after what happened, I didn’t come out of the house. I just didn’t know what to do. I didn’t think I could do right for doing wrong. I wanted to be respectful, I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t… (pauses).
You know, you’ve gone from being just an average Joe to being on the front of all the papers. It’s just this thing you don’t get trained to cope with – it was hard. After I met up with his Dad and his brother, they told me they wanted me to carry on. They said, ‘Just do it in the memory of him’ and that’s what I’m doing.”
On November 2nd, the domestic light-heavyweights will clash at the Indigo O2. The tournament model, now fronted by Ben Shalom and screened on 5/Spike, had garnered vast interest from the general boxing public. They had focused on creating an environment for casual fans, with rapper Big Narstie performing to a mixed reception.
This season involves a mixture of experience, with seemingly wildcard entries. The Scunthorpe challenger has the highest knockout ratio on the roster and looked favourably on one potential opponent. He explained, “Joel McIntyre [interests me], because I were meant to fight him for the English, when he had the English. Me and him were meant to get it on, but I actually had a rupture in my back and I ended up being out for a year. That fight fell through, it was one I was really looking forward to because he is an all-action fighter as well.”
Potential bouts with Goodwin Boxing fighters John McCallum, Darrel Church, Jordan Joseph or, from further North and separate management, the extremely tall Shakan Pitters were all waiting for Spelman, who told me he was delighted that he didn’t have to even consider doing the ten-round distance. With seven stoppages from twelve wins, the power he possessed seemed to suit the tournament’s format. Now aged only twenty-six, the young father-of-one was poised to seize the opportunity.
Dec’s entry into the sport was unlike most others. From an Irish mother, he was ahead of his time with regards to alternative styles of cross-training. “From a very young age – I was an Irish dancer! My Mum’s side is from County Mayo, so they’re Irish and the whole family did it really! I just followed in their footsteps, following most of my girl cousins, I think! I dunno how I got dragged into it (laughs). You see Lomachenko now [with Ukrainian dancing] and I think ten years ago you would get laughed at!”
Since losing his undefeated record, he had taken time to rebuild and reflect upon his relationship with one of boxing’s universally renowned ‘good guys’ – Carl Greaves. Greaves had put on his own promotions, managed fighters and guided his stable towards titles – most recently with Nina Bradley winning Commonwealth honours. Greaves had put his faith in Spelman, a young fighter who turned professional to ‘make a bit of cash on the road’.
“Carl took a bit of a punt on me, really. I just wanted to have a bit of fun and get a bit of money, really. But, I turned up and Carl said to me, ‘Look – you might be a bit wasted going on the road’. He asked if I could do tickets, I was just from a small town. You know? There wasn’t, and there still ain’t much happening in my town.
He said to me, ‘Just try and do sixty tickets and I’ll look after you on your purse’. I did struggle at the start. After about eight fights, I had shown him a bit of dedication and I think I done four-hundred-and-fifty tickets from my door to bring boxing back to Scunthorpe. I couldn’t have done that without Carl, really.
Obviously with the Scott [Westgarth] fight, we went through a lot then. That brought us very close, to be honest. I’ve been through a lot with him. He is a good friend and he’s always been there for me.”
One aspect of Dec’s career that Greaves was unable to help with, was the mixture of full-time employment with a dedicated schedule as a professional fighter. Spelman, his partner and his son, Rogan, had acclimatised, becoming close-to-comfortable with his commitments. The UltimateBoxxer prize fund would allow him the chance to train full-time, pushing himself physically and hunting juicy, domestic fights in a booming division.
He speculated on potential future opponents, “Say I win this, then I wanna be chasing the English. Obviously I want the British, I really want the British and I have a look around and I feel like I could definitely be competing at that level. You’ve got Callum Johnson moving on to world honours, you’ve got Jake Ball, Hosea Burton who’s still very dangerous, you have Lyndon Arthur coming through and [Joshua] Buatsi who looks like mustard. We still have Ricky Summers and [Frank] Buglioni kicking around, so that’s where I need to be! I wanna be challenging for the English, if not the British.”
As normality resumes here at home after the passing of the storm, neighbours collect their bins and clear their paths of fallen debris. Some are frustrated, complaining about something out-with their control. The world seems more balanced now. Calmer. The rain will come again, clouds will form, as they have before. Though in the distance, the sun seems to always rise.
Dec Spelman has battled through those darker days, deflecting the tumultuous memories of his last six months in the sport, with Scott Westgarth always in his thoughts. On November 2nd, he has a chance to win the UltimateBoxxer in Westgarth’s honour.
“[I promise] all-out excitement, heavy hands and action from the first bell. I really want this. I really wanna secure myself a better boxing future, you’re gonna see it all left in the ring.”
Article by: Craig Scott
Follow Craig on Twitter at: @craigscott209