Absence makes the heart grow fonder, they say, and that’s certainly the case for Liverpool’s explosive talent, Andrew Cain (6-0, 6 KOs), currently enjoying a return to boxing after almost four years in the wilderness.
It wasn’t injury or suspension; it wasn’t issues with vices or brushes with the law. It was just about survival.
Speaking to Boxing Social, the complex and quiet fighter from Wavertree, Merseyside, spoke of that hiatus, and his return to boxing in May 2019. Despite a stellar amateur pedigree and marauding victories thus far as a professional, Cain prefers to keep himself to himself.
Liverpool has often been vaunted as Britain’s top fighting city, rich in working class culture and perfect for wandering teens, bereft of purpose and discipline. For Cain, it was difficult to bridge the gap between love and hate when discussing his city: “It was an estate we lived on, yeah. A fucking shithole.
“Have you seen it on the tele, where they’re selling the houses for £1? That’s where I grew up, down by there. Fucking shithole. Me’ ma’ and da’ are separated, and my da’s got two daughters – I’ve got a little sister off my mum as well. So, three sisters I’ve got in total.
“I don’t know what it was about boxing, it was just something that I’d always liked. And I got to about age 10, 11, I was just fighting all the time. So, me’ ma’ thought I’d be better off fighting towards something… putting my fighting energy towards something else instead of just fighting at school, or in the street all the time.
“I sort of looked at boxing different then,” Cain continued, reminiscing on his amateur career, when he was crowned a five-time national champion. “It was all just a big dream for me. There’s let-downs as a pro; you’re always waiting for a fight, you’re training hard, you don’t know when your next payday is going to be, stuff like that. Until you get to a certain level and you become known and start making money [it’s hard]. But I didn’t realise that, when I was 14 or 15; you don’t understand it’s all a dream, do you?”
Cain’s disillusion with the Team GB set-up is a testament to his introverted personality. He couldn’t settle, feeling uncomfortable with basing himself in Sheffield for training and struggling to forge a bond with their coaches at the English Institute of Sport. But he was selected – because he was talented enough to mix it with the best of them, and they knew it.
He explained that deep down, he just felt he was a better fighter when working with Paul Stevenson at the Red Triangle, as opposed to the “strangers” wearing navy blue tracksuits in Sheffield. But on reflection, Andrew agreed it may have hindered his transition to the paid ranks without a major tournament win under his belt.
That professional debut came five-and-a-half years ago, squaring off against Patrik Bartos in Liverpool’s Echo Arena. It was the night that Derry Matthews dared to dream, beating Tony Luis by unanimous decision to win the WBA’s interim lightweight world title. The bill also featured fellow Scouse fighters Liam Smith and Joe Selkirk; it seemed the perfect springboard for the young, talented debutant from Wavertree. One fight followed six months later and then Cain would disappear from boxing, without a trace.
“I was just sitting round for over 12 months,” Cain explained, touching on the reasons for his hiatus. “I was training after my last fight [versus Luke Fash] with no fights at all lined up. I’d just had a little baby at the time and I was thinking to myself, ‘I need money here, me.’ I’m not making any money. So, I got off and tried doing building work and whatever. And then I got to the point where I thought, ‘If I don’t go back into boxing now, it’s going to be too late.’
“To be honest, it done me good. I came back and it were like I’d started all over again, but it was good. Not like I’d started all over again learning or anything, it was like it was all brand new to me again and I was loving it. I was just living a normal life, mate. The normal life for three years. It was good, I enjoyed it to be honest. I was glad I done it.
“I’ve already come to the point where I’ve lost boxing before, so obviously I’ve missed it and I wanted to come back to it. But there’s no pressure on me now. And obviously it killed me, but I know I could get it back. Years ago, I thought, ‘This is it; I’ve got to do it or that’s it.’ But at the minute, I’m just not that arsed, mate. I’ll fight, get me a fight, I’m going to win the fight and then they’ve got to get me another one. I’ve got to make progress and my name’s got to be stated then, hasn’t it?”
Working his way up the domestic rankings continued when Cain stopped the durable Ed Harrison, featuring on one of his promoter Frank Warren’s lockdown shows held at the BT Sports Studios.
One thing became clear through conversation though, the 24-year old would fight champions and contenders at any weight. Boxing wasn’t about marketing, social media fame or sneaking towards vacant titles – it was for money and respect, and the chance to prove himself at the top level of the sport. This interview was a favour, on behalf of a friend of Cain’s – but he was jovial about his lack of presence on the country’s boxing outlets.
Within the super-featherweight division in the UK, Cain could face names such as Archie Sharp, Zelfa Barrett and Sam Bowen if he decides that’s his new home. He’s ready for all of them. But his future probably won’t be up at 135lbs, after initially returning at featherweight following his lengthy absence. Super-flyweight was the division in which he’d launched his professional career, but that was then and this is now.
He told Boxing Social: “If I got a phone call now to get in the ring tomorrow, I’d fight. I don’t really care. I’d fight at a heavier weight, no problem. If I was on the street and someone came over to me and say he was a heavyweight or a middleweight, and I was about to have a fight with him, I’m not going to say to him, ‘Wait there a minute, you’re a middleweight or you’re a heavyweight, I can’t fight ya.’ I see it as a fight and I’m coming prepared. We’ll see what’s going to happen. If I can make a few quid in the process then so be it.
Time away from boxing hasn’t dampened the Liverpool-man’s ambition, and he admitted still harbouring dreams of world titles. He waxed lyrical about the Red Triangle’s head coach Stevenson promising he “wouldn’t ever fight for anybody else”. Given his disappearing act from Team GB in favour of working with Paul closer to home, that vow carried weight.
Cain had been there since the beginning, working alongside future Olympian Peter McGrail, and he believes Stevenson is one of the best in the world: “He’s not recognised yet, but he most definitely is. Because you’ve only got to look; I know I’m not as recognised as the likes of Peter, but in our gym I am. In our gym we’ve always been the same, we’ve always brought each other on. In the public now, Peter’s getting recognised for what he is, and soon enough I’m going to be getting recognised for what I am,” he said.
“Paul’s the only coach that ever taught us boxing. And we’re sort of like Paul’s little protégés because other fighters came and they’ve left, and they’ve came from other gyms. And we’ve been there from babies and he sort of nurtured us, brought us on. And it’s proven now. It’s going to be getting proven in the next few years anyway, how good he is, put it that way. I definitely wouldn’t leave while it’s open and go somewhere else, not a chance, I’d rather not fight.”
Cain’s time away from boxing was about survival and there’s an argument to claim his return is for the same reason. Awaiting the confirmation of his next fight, he continues ticking over, working in the gym with Paul, Peter and stablemates Nick Ball and Brad Strand. Living with his young family in Liverpool is fine, but it’s not where he’d like to end up.
Cain was quite clear when describing his relationship with one of boxing’s famous cities, “It’s a great city and I love it, but I feel like our family is here because we’re trapped here, do you understand? Like if my great-great-great-grandad would have made loads of money, I don’t think we’d still be here,” he said.
“I could live here for the rest of my life, but it feels like I’m trapped here. If I had the choice I’d be living just outside – I wouldn’t be in Liverpool. You see it for what it really is, don’t you, when you live somewhere? If I get the chance, I’m taking it. Getting that chance is what the problem is. I’m fighting for the city because I’m a Scouser, and I’m always going to be a Scouser. You can’t take that away from me. But what I will say is, I’m fighting to get out of this city, for me and my family.”
Main image and all photos: Queensberry Promotions.